Federal mortgage fraud task force holds inaugural meeting in Miami

The high numbers of mortgage fraud cases in Miami prompted the federal government to hold the first in a serious of Mortgage Fraud Summits here last week.

Representatives of the Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force, an arm of government formed by President Obama in November to investigate and prosecute financial crimes, is composed of representatives from a wide range of federal agencies and regulatory authorities, as well as state of local law enforcement.

While questions will remain for years about who was minding the store during South Florida’s unprecedented real estate boom, there is no question that authorities are attempting to make up for lost time with the zealous prosecution of mortgage fraud cases in Miami and throughout South Florida.

According to the task force, the Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach metro area is ranked first in the nation for Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) filed by financial institutions that suspect mortgage fraud.

Florida routinely ranks second in the nation, behind only California, for suspected cases of mortgage fraud. In fact, Fannie Mae, the government housing lender, ranked Florida No. 1 in the nation in loan-origination fraud in 2008 and 2009, according to the Miami Herald.

“The mortgage fraud crisis cannot be ignored — nowhere is the problem more serious than here in Florida,” said U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida Jeffrey H. Sloman. “Mortgage fraud puts lenders at risk, and forces homeowners to confront the real possibility of foreclosures, or worse, the loss of their homes.”

Since September 2007, federal prosecutors in Southern Florida have charged 282 defendants with mortgage-related fraud charges involving more than $343 million in fraudulent mortgage loans.

As an example, the Herald used the case of 10 Miami-Dade County residents who were indicted in late January on South Florida mortgage fraud charges accusing them of defrauding three banks out of more than $24 million in loan proceeds.