27 Accused of Mortgage Fraud in Miami, South Florida

In four separate indictments unsealed recently, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Miami is accusing 27 people in mortgage schemes against banks and South Florida homeowners, The Miami Herald reports. The charges range from mail fraud to insurance fraud to arson.

Mortgage fraud in Miami is a hot-button topic these days, with the media constantly reporting on the struggles of the real estate market in Miami and throughout the state. And seeing that coverage, law enforcement sometimes ramps up its efforts in order to make headlines of their own.

It’s possible in these allegations of mortgage fraud that prosecutors and agents misinterpret legitimate business transactions and strategies. And that’s why hiring an experienced Miami Mortgage Fraud Defense Attorney is a critical first step. Reviewing pages of records and transactions as well as examining the government’s case can take time, so the sooner a defendant gets sound legal advise, the better.

In these cases, the defendants are accused of offering more than $30 million in bad loans. Two of the cases, the newspaper reports, are common mortgage fraud schemes, with straw buyers using falsified applications for loans to buy houses at inflated prices. Truth of the matter is that virtually every banker in America approved questionable loans during the boom years — it’s what caused the bust. Defending yourself is vital if you have been singled out for prosecution.

In another case, a real estate agent is accused of falling behind on payments for a Doral townhouse and conspiring with two others to burn down the house and collect insurance money. He is accused of a fraudulent short sale of the property, wherein a friend bought it for about a quarter of its value and then transferred the property to a company controlled by the agent.

In a fourth case, an attorney is accused of misappropriating more than $1 million in client funds while closing on real estate transactions. Instead of using refinance proceeds to pay off a mortgage, the attorney is accused of keeping the money for himself.

If convicted, the 27 defendants could face 20 years in prison. Florida leads the nation in mortgage fraud in the last five years, the newspaper reports. South Florida ranks as the most active metropolitan area in the state. The Mortgage Fraud Task Force, launched in 2007, has prosecuted more than 600 defendants in the last four years, the newspaper reports.

That is an awful lot of prosecutions, though it’s unclear how many of those prosecutions ended in convictions. While the public loves to hear about people being arrested or indicted, these court events are not proof of a crime, but simply the initial step in a long and complex proceeding.

White collar crime in Miami is notoriously grueling because of all the paperwork involved, the typical inclusion of business affairs and multiple bank accounts. In real estate fraud cases, there are loan applications, title companies, real estate agents and appraisers and all facts must be taken into consideration.

Because these cases are so complex, hiring an experienced lawyer, one with years handling white collar crimes, is crucial. Mortgage fraud is typically charged in the federal court system rather than in the state system, which is even more of a challenge for the defendant. The feds have many officers at their disposal and the time to investigate. That’s why an aggressive defense is needed.