The FBI report draws attention to one type of fraud that has grown considerably since the bubble burst: borrowers on the brink of foreclosure who hope to avail themselves of financial assistance related to federal stimulus legislation. 
 
October 14, 2010 /24-7PressRelease/ — Once the dust had cleared from the recent economic collapse, the media focused a great deal of blame on one group: financial professionals involved in real property transactions who were accused of fudging documents, lying to buyers, falsifying appraisals and other illegal activities. New data from one federal agency reveals a growing interest in investigating all types of mortgage fraud and helping the Department of Justice pursue convictions.
 
The latest annual mortgage fraud report from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) reveals that the agency has taken a greater interest in crimes involving financing of homes and other real estate. From 2008 to 2009, investigations rose over 70 percent. The stakes are high: two-thirds of pending investigations during 2009 involved losses totaling more than $1 million.
 
When the real estate bubble was swelling at double-digit rates, some industry professionals padded profits by encouraging borrowers to maximize their debt load by entering into unsustainable adjustable rate mortgages (ARMs). The FBI report draws attention to one type of fraud that has grown considerably since the bubble burst: borrowers on the brink of foreclosure who hope to avail themselves of financial assistance related to federal stimulus legislation. "Vulnerabilities associated with these and similar programs include the lack of transparency, accountability, oversight and enforcement that predisposes them to fraud and abuse," the FBI stated in its report.
 
The FBI indicated five states with the worst mortgage fraud problems: California, Florida, Illinois, Michigan and Arizona. In light of journalistic investigations revealing that a significant number of ex-criminals had received mortgage licenses, Florida state regulators have responded with a variety of measures to minimize risks, including annual criminal background checks for brokers and lenders.
 
Assembling Straw Buyers for Profit
 
Financial institutions are not the only parties who may be accused of making material misstatements, misrepresentations or omissions during the mortgage application process. One typical scheme perpetrated against banks and other lenders is the use of "straw buyer" scams, which involve using a stand-in to purchase property. Straw buyers can be used to obtain mortgage approval for an otherwise unattractive borrower, or to eliminate a paper trail on fraudulent investments and other scams.
 
One such situation recently investigated by the Tampa office of the FBI involved Mark J. Moncher, an Orlando man who posed out-of-state family members as buyers to channel mortgage funds to his business, Dream Home Management. Moncher was recently sentenced to 57 months in federal prison after pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud as part of a larger mortgage fraud scheme. His cadre of straw buyers all defaulted after obtaining more than $3.7 million in loans from various financial institutions. In addition to several years of incarceration, Moncher must pay nearly $2 million in restitution.
 
As this case reveals, the basic accusation behind a mortgage fraud case can be surprisingly simple: falsifying a borrower’s identity, income, employment, assets or other information can lead a mortgage lender to approve an application that would otherwise be denied. While lenders have become much more wary since the mortgage meltdown, there is still ample room for dishonest hustlers to game the system. At the same time, simple misunderstandings, honest mistakes and creative accounting can lead to baseless accusations of criminal intent and protracted legal struggles.
 
Protecting Your Interests by Avoiding Mortgage Fraud Accusations
 
Criminal allegations can arise at any stage of a real estate transaction. For example, appraisers can be suspected of mortgage fraud on behalf of either the seller or the lender by inflating the value of the property. Lenders or brokers can be accused of changing details in the paperwork, amending contracts after they are signed or failing to disclose pertinent information. Entrepreneurial buyers who quickly fix and sell homes can face allegations of illegal property flipping.
 
Federal and state authorities will continue to aggressively investigate and prosecute mortgage fraud involving everything from loan origination, builder bailouts, and offshore transactions to equity skimming, short sales, reverse mortgages and loan modifications. But the facts surrounding even the most basic property transaction are complex, and parties who suspect that they may be under investigation should act swiftly to protect their interests and head off a prosecution before it gets off the ground.
 
The FBI, DOJ and other federal and state government agencies have tremendous resources to draw from to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. A defense attorney who has experience in federal white collar criminal cases can assess your situation, explain your rights, represent you in an investigation and defend your rights in the event that federal criminal charges are filed.
 
Article provided by Law Offices of Mark L. Horwitz, P.A.
 
For more: http://bit.ly/cuwFpf
 
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 When most people think of mortgage fraud, they think of a clever borrower conning an unwitting banker into extending him a loan he cannot afford. But this isn’t really how fraud usually works in the mortgage business. According to the FBI, 80% of mortgage fraud is committed by lenders.

 

There are two types of financial outrages: acts that are outrageously illegal, and acts that are, outrageously, legal. Yesterday’s Senate hearing on the rise and fall of Washington Mutual was a rare examination of the former outrage, documenting the pervasive practice of fraud at every level of the now-defunct bank’s business.

All of Washington Mutual’s sketchy practices can be traced back to rampant fraud in its mortgage lending offices. The company repeatedly performed internal audits of its lending practices, and discovered multiple times that enormous proportions of the loans it was issuing were based on fraudulent documents. At some offices, the fraud rate was on new mortgages over 70%, and at yesterday’s hearing, the company’s former Chief Risk Officer James Vanasek described its mortgage fraud as "systemic."

When most people think of mortgage fraud, they think of a clever borrower conning an unwitting banker into extending him a loan he cannot afford.

But this isn’t really how fraud usually works in the mortgage business.

According to the FBI, 80% of mortgage fraud is committed by the lender, so it shouldn’t be surprising that WaMu’s internal audits concluded that its widespread fraud was being "willfully" perpetrated by its own employees. The company also engaged in textbook predatory lending across all of its mortgage lending activities–issuing loans based on the value of the property, while ignoring the borrower’s ability to repay the loan.

These findings alone are pretty bad stuff in the world of white-collar crime. For several years, WaMu was engaged in fraudulent lending, WaMu managers knew it was engaged in fraudulent lending, and didn’t stop it. The company was setting up thousands, if not millions of borrowers for foreclosure, while booking illusory short-term profits and paying out giant bonuses for its employees and executives. During the housing boom, WaMu Chairman and CEO Kerry Killinger took home between $11 million and $20 million every single year, much of it "earned" on outright fraud.

But the WaMu scandal gets much worse. WaMu is routinely referred to as a pure mortgage lender, one whose simple business model can be contrasted with the complex wheelings and dealings of Wall Street titans like Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns. That characterization is grossly inaccurate. WaMu was very heavily engaged in the business of packaging mortgages into securities and marketing them to investors. This is a core investment banking function, something ordinary mortgage banks like WaMu were legally barred from engaging in until 1999, when Congress repealed the Glass-Steagall Act, a critical Depression-era reform.

Securitization is immensely profitable, and under the right circumstances, it allows banks to dump risky mortgages off their books at a profit. That’s exactly what WaMu did. Even after internal audits flagged specific loans as fraudulent, WaMu’s securitization shop still went ahead and packaged those exact same loans into securities, and sold them to investors. Knowingly peddling fraudulent securities is a straightforward act of securities fraud, one made all the more severe by the fact that WaMu never told its investors it had sold them securities full of fraudulent loans. The only question now is whether anyone will be personally held accountable for the act.

So far, we’ve got fraud on fraud– but wait!

The WaMu saga actually gets worse still.

When the mortgage market started falling apart, WaMu ordered a study on the likelihood that one if its riskiest mortgage products, the option-ARM loan, would begin defaulting en masse.

The report concluded that, indeed, option-ARMs were about to default like crazy, within a matter of months.

Option-ARMs feature a low introductory monthly payment for a few years, often so low that borrowers actually end up going deeper into debt, despite making their regular payments. After a few years, the monthly payment increases dramatically–sometimes by as much as 400 percent. Suddenly this cheap loan is outrageously unaffordable, and if home prices decline, borrowers are immediately headed for foreclosure.

Now, most would-be homeowners are not very interested in this kind of loan. It seems dangerous, because it is dangerous. So WaMu actively coached its loan officers to persuade skeptical borrowers into accepting this predatory garbage instead of an ordinary mortgage.

This assault on its own borrowers is only half of WaMu’s option-ARM hustle.

For a while, Wall Street investors really liked option-ARMs. They were inherently risky, which meant they were much more profitable, if you ignored the risk that they might someday default, and Wall Street was all too happy to engage in this kind of creative accounting.

But when WaMu conducted its study on looming option-ARM defaults, the prospect of heavy, imminent losses did not convince the company to abandon the business. Instead, WaMu began issuing as many option-ARMs as it could. The idea was to jam as many of these loans into its securitization machine as it could before investors decided to stop buying option-ARM securities altogether.

That means WaMu was knowingly setting up both borrowers and investors for a fall. The company was actually trying to extend loans that it knew would be disastrous for its borrowers–and then selling them to investors that it knew would end up taking heavy losses. Whether or not this constitutes illegal fraud will depend on some technicalities, but it is clearly an act of outrageous deception.

When the securitization markets finally froze up, WaMu got stuck with billions in terrible, terrible loans it had issued, and the company failed spectacularly. One of the few good calls the U.S. government made during the financial crisis was the decision not to extend bailout funds to WaMu, not to save the jobs of its executives, and allow the company to fail. It was seized by the FDIC in late September 2008, and immediately sold to J.P. Morgan Chase, at no cost to taxpayers.

But WaMu’s story is nevertheless rife with implications here for Wall Street reform.

First, regulation matters.

Everything WaMu did could have been stopped not only by an engaged regulator who worried about the company’s bottom line, but by a regulator who cared about consumer protection in any degree whatsoever. WaMu’s regulator, the Office of Thrift Supervision, didn’t care about either, but it was particularly uninterested in consumer protection rules, because those often conflict with bank profitability.

If we establish a new regulator that is charged only with writing and enforcing consumer protection rules, it won’t worry about how profitable consumer predation might be, it will simply crack down on it. In the process, it could actually protect the company’s bottom line (Salon’s Andrew Leonard has been emphasizing this point for some time).

Second, at yesterday’s hearing, former WaMu Chief Risk Officer James Vanasek acknowledged that his bank would not have been able to wreak so much economic destruction without the repeal of Glass-Steagall, which barred any mixing between complex Wall Street securities dealings and ordinary, plain-vanilla banking. He even went so far as to offer a tepid endorsement for reinstating the law.

A lot of predatory mortgage firms didn’t run their own securitization shops–they sold their loans directly to Wall Street firms, which handled the securitization on their own. So proponents of the Glass-Steagall repeal (most of them employed at one point or another by a major banking conglomerate) argue that the crisis would have occurred with our without the repeal. That argument is basically a distraction, as the WaMu case reveals. Over the course of just a few years, WaMu’s entire mortgage banking operation transformed from a boring, profitable, plain-vanilla enterprise, into a feeding trough for its risky securitization activities. There is simply no way that transformation could have occurred without the lure of easy in-house securitization profits. It is possible to conceive of a mortgage crisis taking place without the repeal of Glass-Steagall, but it is utterly impossible to imagine a mortgage crisis as severe as the one we are still living through.

It will be very surprising if criminal charges are not soon filed against some of WaMu’s former executives. But WaMu isn’t the only bad actor from the financial crisis. This is basically how the entire U.S. mortgage market operated for at least five years. Dozens of lenders who are still active, many of them saved by generous taxpayer bailouts, were engaged in similar activities. There’s only one way to churn out billions of dollars worth of lousy mortgages for several years, and it involves a prolonged campaign of fraud and deception.

 

 Wells Fargo will not join BofA in foreclosure suspension

Wells Fargo will not suspend foreclosures and stands by the accuracy of its affidavits, Jason Menke, a spokesman for the San Francisco-based bank, told HousingWire.

 

For more: http://bit.ly/dfmOL5

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
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from Tom Kennedy… thank you Tom

 See How Responsible Tax Payers Get Another Door SLAMMED In Their Face

 
Here is some food for thought.
 
There has been a lot of focus on borrowers are behind on payments and those who are facing foreclosure. But what about the responsible borrower who are being responsible living up to their financial obligations?
 
The credit scoring machine has really kicked into high gear and lenders are actually relying on credit scores like never before. 
 
With all of the "Re-Focus" and "tightening up" of lender’s qualifying standards, this has literally slammed the door shut on millions of borrowers who are current on their home loans.
 
Many borrowers who are current have been affected by this screwed up economy. Just imagine all of the variables affecting credit scores. 
 
Combine these variables with lenders having raised the bar (your credit score) to perhaps the highest since they have been lending, and you will see exactly what this involves.
 
Another Door SLAMMED in the face of responsible tax payers struggling to do the right thing.
 
Right now, the interest rates are the lowest on record. 30 year fixed rates at 4% and this is just the ballpark.
 
But what good is it, if you can not qualify for a re-finance, or a purchase?
 
Interesting food for thought.

What Do You Think?
 
 
Please Share Your Comments
 

 

 

Bill Rafter submitted this article. Add your comments below.

Also, this morning on the Fox News, one of their reporters claimed an article in the Wall Street Journal stated if homeowners were having a hard time making their house payments, now might be a good time to stop making payments to save up some cash. Interesting… Stay Tuned!

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by DAN FITZPATRICK, DAMIAN PALETTA And ROBIN SIDEL

 
 
Bank of America Corp. imposed a nationwide moratorium on foreclosures and the sale of foreclosed homes after it came under intense pressure from a government-run housing-finance giant worried about documentation problems, people familiar with the situation said.
 
The bank called the halt as concern mounted from legislators and state prosecutors about procedures used by lenders to foreclose on homes. Many banks use so-called robo signers, employees who sign hundreds of documents a day, without carefully reviewing their contents, when foreclosing on homes. Critics say that could result in improper foreclosures.
 
Freddie Mac, the government-run mortgage-finance company that along with Fannie Mae owns many of the mortgages serviced by banks, pressed Bank of America to expand its search for problems with the foreclosure documentation process, said the people familiar with the situation.
 
On a call Thursday with several banks that included Bank of America, a Freddie official said the mortgage company wanted the institutions to look at foreclosure documentation across all 50 states, and asked them to consider putting a stop to the entire foreclosure process, say people familiar with the call.
 
 
Bank of America has decided to halt all foreclosure sales. So will other banks follow BofA’s lead and what impact will the move have on the housing market? Rick Brooks and Brett Arends discuss. Plus, the Dow tops 11,000 and the $2.8 million car.
 
More
 
Delays Could Stall Recovery, Analysts Say
U.S. Steps Lightly Into Foreclosure Controversy
Heard: Banks Boxed In on Foreclosures
Foreclosure Bill Is Blocked
Heard on the Street: The Fed’s 30-Year Warp
Mortgage Investors Are Set for More Pain
Foreclosure? Not So Fast
SmartMoney: Signs the Mortgage Market Has Hit Bottom
Real Time Econ: Which Cities Face Biggest Housing Risks?
Many in the banking industry fear that the widening paperwork problem could cause further delay on foreclosures and threaten an already weak housing market, which in turn is stalling the broader U.S. economic recovery. On the other hand, it could provide a brief financial respite to people who have defaulted on their mortgages and are still occupying their homes.
 
As of August, there were more than 4.4 million home loans that were either in the foreclosure process or 90 days past due, according to mortgage research firm LPS Analytics. Since 2006, about 6.4 million homes have been lost through the foreclosure process.
 
Edward DeMarco, who heads the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which regulates Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, said in an interview that officials were working to find a "tailored" response to the foreclosure problem that won’t cause broader problems for the fragile housing market. "We are trying to be quick but measured in the approach and the response taken," he said. "We’re concerned about the whole housing market, and we’re concerned about what this means for taxpayers and other market participants."
 
More
 
Memo: President’s Disapproval of H.R. 3808
Letter: HUD letter on the foreclosure process
Release: N.C. attorney general launches inquiry of foreclosure practices
Last week Bank of America, J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. and Ally Financial Inc. agreed to more closely examine documents used in 23 states where a court’s approval is required to foreclose on a home. J.P. Morgan said its review suspended nearly 56,000 foreclosures.
 
In conversations with Bank of America, Freddie said financial penalties or litigation could result if the bank did not take additional steps, said a person familiar with the conversations. Bank of America told Freddie that an audit of procedures in the 23 states uncovered no errors, this person said.
 
But Freddie said the work didn’t go far enough and asked for a review in all 50 states, as well a stop to any foreclosure sales, said people familiar with the situation. Freddie Mac declined to comment.
 
Bank of America Chief Executive Brian Moynihan said Friday that the bank hasn’t found problems in its foreclosure process, but opted to temporarily halt all foreclosures to "clear the air." He said the bank wants to "go back and check our work one more time."
 
Its decision is expected to stop "a couple of thousand" foreclosure sales scheduled for the next week, according to one person familiar with the matter said. The bank declined to specify how many homes it has in the foreclosure pipeline.
 
So far, Bank of America is the only lender to expand its foreclosure freeze, but others may be forced to begin or broaden a review, banking executives say. Wells Fargo & Co., one of the nation’s largest mortgage lenders, says it hasn’t stopped foreclosing on any properties.
 
At this point, J.P. Morgan isn’t expanding its foreclosure moratorium, but is widening its document review beyond the 23 states where it has frozen foreclosures, according to a person close to the bank.
 
 
Bank of America services 14 million mortgages, or one out of every five in the U.S., and its loan-servicing portfolio exceeds $2.1 trillion in size. Of its mortgages, 10 million came from its 2008 acquisition of troubled California lender Countrywide Financial Corp. More than 80% of its delinquent loans were acquired through Countrywide.
 
A push over the last week from politicians and law-enforcement officials troubled by reports of foreclosure problems only intensified the pressure on Bank of America, which has been working to improve its relations in Washington. It concluded that reviews in just 23 states wouldn’t cut it with elected officials in the other states, a person close to the bank said.
 
"In this intense political season we are in, it didn’t play well to say do it in some states but not your state," this person said.
 
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.), whose state has been hit hard by foreclosures, and House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Edolphus Towns (D., N.Y.), both said Friday they welcomed Bank of America’s move and called on other banks to follow.
 
Cassandra Toroian, chief investment officer at Bell Rock Capital LLC, a money-management firm, says the additional reviews are unlikely to significantly impact the outcome for homeowners who are facing foreclosure. "It’s just delaying the inevitable," she says.
 
—Robbie Whelan contributed to this article.
 
The Article

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 Harry and Mike:

 
Here is some additional foreclosure information.
 
Bill
 
Subject: U.S. Bank v. Ibanez – AMICUS BRIEF EXPOSES FORECLOSURE FRAUD
 
Dear Friends & Family,
 
I have just filed an Amicus Brief on Friday, October 1, 2010 with the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court in the landmark cases that are presently on appeal from the Massachusetts Land Court styled:  U.S. Bank v. Ibanez and its companion case, Wells Fargo Bank v. LaRace. 
 
My brief reveals groundbreaking evidence that Antonio Ibanez’s loan was most likely securitized twice – a hidden fact unknown until now. 
 
Moreover, the Assignment of Mortgage allegedly conveying the Ibanez loan to U.S. Bank, executed by “robo-signer” Linda Green, violated the Pooling and Servicing Agreement and other Trust documents. 
 
Finally I expose the fact that U.S. Bank, who bought the Ibanez property at foreclosure for $94,350, sold it on December 15, 2008 for $0.00.  That’s right, they foreclosed on Ibanez’s property so that they could give it away!
 
With respect to Mark and Tammy LaRace, I am happy to report that through the efforts of Attorney Glenn F. Russell, Jr. and myself, the LaRaces moved back into their home in January of this year, two and a half years post-foreclosure! 
 
My Amicus Brief reveals that Wells Fargo Bank’s own documents prove that they did not have the authority to foreclose on the LaRaces.  Therefore, the Assignment of Mortgage, Power of Attorney, Affidavit, and Foreclosure Deed executed by “robo-signer” Cindi Ellis were all unauthorized.
 
Wells Fargo Bank’s recent statement that it does not have the same “document” problem that GMAC, JPMorgan Chase, and Bank of America have admitted to is simply not true.  I have audited many, many foreclosure files where Wells Fargo Bank employees and their agents have manufactured false documents to prosecute wrongful foreclosures such as in the LaRaces’ case.
 
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Breaking News Alert: Sen. Reid calls on major lenders to halt foreclosures in all 50 states 
October 8, 2010 12:56:49 PM
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Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) called on major lenders to halt foreclosures in all 50 states Friday following Bank of America’s announcement it was stopping proceedings until it finishes reviewing possible paperwork problems.

Reid, who had sent a letter to major banks asking them to suspend foreclosures in Nevada, extended his concern to include all 50 states. 

“I thank Bank of America for doing the right thing by suspending actions on foreclosures while this investigation runs its course," said Reid. "I urge other major mortgage servicers to consider expanding the area where they have halted foreclosures to all 50 states as well."

He emphasized, "My primary focus is to protect Nevada homeowners who have been hardest hit by foreclosures in the most recent economic downturn."

 

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Bank of America said Friday it is halting all foreclosure sales and foreclosure proceedings nationwide while it reviews the documents being used to justify homeowner evictions.
 
It is the first bank to put a moratorium on foreclosures in all 50 states. Previously, Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase and others were only pausing foreclosures in states where a court has to participate in foreclosure proceedings.
 
"Bank of America has extended our review of foreclosure documents to all fifty states," the bank said in a statement. "We will stop foreclosure sales until our assessment has been satisfactorily completed. Our ongoing assessment shows the basis for foreclosure decisions are accurate. We continue to serve the interests of our customers, investors and communities. Providing solutions for distressed homeowners remains our primary focus." 
 
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