FBI Mortgage Fraud Task Force – Implications for Real Estate Property Appraisers in Florida

The FBI provided insight into the breadth and depth of mortgage fraud crimes perpetrated against the United States and its citizens, Florida being first and foremost on the list. Current mortgage fraud projections, issues, and hot spots in the troubled U.S. economy have enormous implications to the banking industry and real estate property appraisers in particular.

[b]Mid-State Appraisals founder Paul Davis is a trusted and reputable property appraiser[/b] frequently called upon by Central Florida’s banks, homeowners, and real estate investors to assess property values. A builder for over 20 years and also a real estate broker, Paul Davis brings a wealth of knowledge to the table as an appraiser.

http://www.midstateappraisals.org

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A combined effort between banks and real estate property appraisers is needed to adequately identify, prevent, report, and thwart mortgage fraud activity. The FBI’s Financial Crimes Criminal Investigative Division (CID) and Financial Crimes Intelligence Unit are aggressively and cooperatively reporting the latest developments and pertinent data to empower the nationwide mortgage fraud task force.

As mortgage fraud crimes escalate, the burden on federal law enforcement increases. With the anticipated upsurge in mortgage fraud cases, the FBI employed additional strategies to proactively address the crime problem. The FBI works with the Department of Justice (DOJ)-Mortgage Fraud Working Group on a number of mortgage fraud related issues, including the creation and finalization of standard loss valuation criteria associated with mortgage fraud violations, and assisting the banking industry with the construction of a centralized repository of mortgage-related documentation.

The valuation criteria and mortgage related documentation is where real estate property appraisers and their appraisals provided lenders are going to increasingly be monitored and regulated in the near future.

Currently the FBI has mortgage fraud working groups or task forces in 32 field divisions across the country. The FBI divisions stationed in Florida are based out of Miami and Tampa. Moreoever the FBI continues to encourage the use of undercover operations as an effective technique to address mortgage fraud.

The recent stock market crashes across global markets have strongly affirmed, mortgage fraud if not dealt with has the potential to cripple the American economy and all foreign economies closely connected to it. Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) from financial institutions indicate an increase in mortgage fraud. SARs increased 31-percent to 46,717 during Fiscal Year (FY) 2007. The total dollar loss attributed to mortgage fraud is unknown. However, 7 percent of SARs filed during FY 2007 indicated a specific dollar loss, which totaled more than $813 million.

Subprime mortgage issues remain a key factor in influencing mortgage fraud directly and indirectly. The subprime share of outstanding loans has more than a doubled since 2003 putting a greater share of loans at higher risk of failure. Additionally, during 2007 there were more than 2.2 million foreclosure filings reported on approximately 1.29 million properties nationally, up 75 percent from 2006. The declining housing market affects many in the mortgage industry who are paid by commission. The FBI says during declining markets, mortgage fraud perpetrators may take advantage of industry personnel attempting to generate loans to maintain current standards of living.

Many of the key industry personnel often involved are real estate property appraisers valuing the homes and properties prior to bankers signing off on loans.

Data from law enforcement and industry sources identify the states most affected by mortgage fraud during 2007 and indicated that the top 10 mortgage fraud states for 2007 were Florida, Georgia, Michigan, California, Illinois, Ohio, Texas, New York, Colorado, and Minnesota.

The downward trend in the housing market provides an ideal climate for mortgage fraud perpetrators to employ a myriad of schemes suitable to a down market. Several of these schemes have emerged with the potential to spread as the recent rise in foreclosures, depressed housing prices, and decreased demand place pressure on lenders, builders, and home sellers. Emerging and re-emerging schemes for 2007 included builder-bailouts, seller assistance, short sales, foreclosure rescue, and identity thefts exploiting home equity lines of credit.

Fraudulent practices have become dreadfully systemic within the mortgage industry, as unrestrained mortgage fraud has bankrupted some of the best and longtime solid financial institutions. If the FBI fails to quickly regulate, enforce, and imprison fraudulent professionals within the banking and real estate industry, expect to see the dollar tank along with the U.S. economy. After which consumers will only be able to buy gold, Euros, or China’s Yuan to protect their life savings and investments.

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Real estate property appraisers therefore may be the last line of defense to maintain accountability and accuracy before straw buyers succeed in excessively borrowing beyond the market value of a property’s worth and thereby jeopardize the security of loans throughout the banking industry.

Real estate property appraisers must like never before show due diligence when representing their fiduciaries the banks and report to legal authorities any manipulative and coercive attempts by lenders and borrowers to adjust property valuations they sign off on in their appraisal reports.

[b]Mid-State Appraisals founder Paul Davis is a trusted and reputable property appraiser frequently called upon by Central Florida’s banks, homeowners, and real estate investors to assess property values. A builder for over 20 years and also a real estate broker, Paul Davis brings a wealth of knowledge to the table as an appraiser.[/b]

http://www.midstateappraisals.org

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