Cracking Down on Mortgage Fraud

The New York Times is reporting that in several cities officials can’t keep up on mortgage fraud investigation cases.

The number of mortgage fraud cases has grown so fast that government agencies that investigate and prosecute them cannot keep up, lenders and law enforcement officials have said.

“I don’t think any law enforcement agency can keep up with mortgage fraud, because it’s such a growth industry,” said Chuck Cross, vice president of mortgage regulatory policy for the conference of state bank supervisors, an organization of regulators and bankers. “There’s too many cases, not enough agents.”

Mortgage fraud covers crimes like false statements on mortgage applications and elaborate “flipping” schemes that involve multiple properties and corrupt appraisers, title companies and straw buyers.

In one common flipping plot, someone buys a house, has it appraised for more than its true value and sells it to a straw buyer for the inflated price, pocketing the difference. The straw buyer lets the house fall into foreclosure, leaving the bank with the loss.

Why wouldn’t banks go after any money from the straw buyer? If the laws are written so you can simply walk away from a house without having to pay anything back, then we’re likely to see more and more fraud schemes revealed.

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