Straw purchases, house flipping schemes, equity skims and inflated appraisals are all examples of mortgage fraud, a federal crime committed by some homebuyers, real estate attorneys, mortgage brokers, appraisers, and real estate professionals to defraud the lending system. Allegations of mortgage fraud and bank fraud are being aggressively investigated and prosecuted by the federal government, especially in the aftermath of the recent economic downturn and housing crisis, and if you are accused of committing mortgage fraud in violation of federal law, you could be charged with a federal offense and face harsh criminal penalties. If you or someone you love is facing mortgage fraud charges in federal court, you will need the best defense possible in order to avoid a criminal conviction. Contact our mortgage fraud defense lawyers at Federal Criminal Defense Pro as soon as possible to discuss the facts of your case and find out how you can protect your rights.
Seasoned Mortgage Fraud Defense Lawyers
Federal Criminal Defense Pro is a top-rated criminal defense firm and our seasoned attorneys are trained to handle all manner of federal mortgage, appraisal, real estate, and bank fraud cases throughout the United States. Successfully navigating the federal criminal process and understanding the criminal charges that have been brought against you can be confusing and stressful, especially if you are innocent of the crime in question, and that is where our attorneys come in. Daniel R. Perlman and his team of respected federal criminal defense attorneys have extensive experience dealing with federal judges and prosecutors and know what it takes to win a federal mortgage fraud case. Our lawyers can assist you at any stage of your criminal case and we will stand by your side every step of the way, until the conclusion of your case.
At Federal Criminal Defense Pro, we understand how stressful and frightening it can be to face federal criminal charges for an offense like mortgage fraud and we will do everything in our power to ensure that you receive a fair outcome in your criminal case. It is our top priority to protect your rights and represent your best interests and that includes building a strong case on your behalf that improves your chances of getting the charges dismissed or obtaining an acquittal at trial, and when you hire our firm to represent your mortgage fraud case at the federal level, you can expect to receive personalized attention and professional, knowledgeable service. Contact Federal Criminal Defense Pro today to have our trial-tested criminal defense lawyers review your case in a no-cost consultation.
What is Mortgage Fraud?
Mortgage fraud, also known as bank fraud, is a broad legal term that covers a wide variety of unlawful acts involving any situation where a person or company uses false or inaccurate information on a mortgage document for personal gain. For the purposes of pursuing criminal charges for fraud related to mortgages and bank loans, the federal government recognizes two types of mortgage fraud offenses:
- Fraud for housing – A borrower submits inaccurate or incomplete information in order to qualify for a mortgage loan or to obtain more favorable loan terms.
- Fraud for profit – A mortgage broker, appraiser or some other real estate professional commits fraud in order to profit from a property or transaction.
The crime of mortgage fraud can be carried out by any party involved in the mortgage or lending process, including the homebuyer, mortgage broker, appraiser or any other real estate professional. The following are some common types of mortgage fraud that may be prosecuted by the federal government:
- Property flipping – A property is purchased, fraudulently appraised at a falsely inflated value and then quickly resold
- Fraudulent supporting loan documentation – An individual applying for a mortgage loan submits fraudulent supporting documentation, such as forged or altered paycheck stubs
- Straw buyers – A mortgage loan is obtained using the name and credit history of a “nominee,” in order to conceal the borrower’s identity
- Stolen identity – A borrower uses another person’s identity on a mortgage loan application without that person’s knowledge
- Equity skimming – An investor uses a straw buyer, false income documents and false credit reports to obtain a mortgage loan in the straw buyer’s name. The property is signed over to the investor after closing and the investor rents the property until it is foreclosed, making no payments on the mortgage loan
- Inflated appraisal – In collusion with the mortgage broker and/or loan officer, an appraiser provides a falsely inflated appraisal value in order to match the buyer’s offer and close the deal
- Silent second – A buyer takes out a second mortgage to cover the down payment on the initial mortgage loan without the original lender’s knowledge
Statute of Limitations for Mortgage Fraud Offenses
The statute of limitations for federal mortgage fraud and bank fraud cases in the United States is 10 years, which means the federal government has 10 years from the time the alleged crime occurred to file an indictment against the individual or business suspected of committing the crime. The 10-year statute of limitations for mortgage fraud was established by the Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act (FERA) of 2009, before which the statute of limitations was the same as other fraud crimes – five years.
Penalties Associated with Mortgage Fraud
State and federal laws prohibit all forms of mortgage fraud and the federal sentences for this criminal offense tend to be severe. FERA was enacted to “improve enforcement of mortgage fraud, securities fraud, financial institution fraud, and other frauds related to federal assistance and relief programs,” and this law gives the federal government a great deal of power when it comes to investigating, charging and prosecuting acts of mortgage fraud. Under federal law, the crime known as “mortgage fraud” is not a specific federal charge, so acts of mortgage fraud are instead prosecuted as bank fraud, wire fraud, conspiracy or some other type of fraud, depending on the circumstances of the case. The following are some of the federal statutes that can be used to prosecute mortgage fraud and their associated statutory maximum sentences.
- Mail fraud (18 U.S.C. § 1341) – 20-year statutory maximum sentence
- Wire fraud (18 U.S.C. § 1343) – 20-year statutory maximum sentence
- Bank fraud (18 U.S.C. § 1344) – 30-year statutory maximum sentence
- Interstate transportation of funds obtained by fraud (18 U.S.C. § 2314) – 10-year statutory maximum sentence
- Money laundering (18 U.S.C. §§ 1956–1957) – 20- or 10-year statutory maximum sentence, respectively
- Conspiracy (18 U.S.C. § 371) – 20- or 30-year statutory maximum sentence
Mortgage fraud is a federal criminal offense that has been aggressively prosecuted in recent years, especially since the housing crash in 2008, and the criminal penalties you could face for a single count of mortgage fraud include up to 30 years in federal prison and fines of up to $1 million. Furthermore, an investigation into accusations of mortgage fraud may lead to additional charges for tax fraud, bankruptcy fraud or other types of fraud or criminal acts, which can result in increased criminal penalties upon conviction.
Civil Liability for Mortgage Fraud
In addition to facing harsh criminal penalties, those accused of committing mortgage fraud can also be held liable for any monetary damages the lender sustains as a result of the fraud. Civil lawsuits involving allegations of mortgage fraud are typically based on claims of misrepresentation, deceit, contractual theories, breach of trust, or conspiracy to defraud the lender, and any party involved in the alleged fraudulent transaction can be held liable for damages, including mortgage brokers or appraisers.
Mortgage Fraud Defense
As a homebuyer, you can be charged with mortgage fraud or bank fraud in federal court even if the lender accusing you of committing fraud knew you were making false statements on your mortgage application and/or encouraged you to misrepresent the facts, or even if your mortgage loan application was denied. As a mortgage broker, appraiser, bank officer or other real estate professional, you could also be targeted by a federal mortgage fraud investigation and be charged with a federal crime if the government believes you played a role in a mortgage fraud scheme. Still, the burden of proof in a mortgage fraud case lies with the prosecution, and in order to convict you of the crime of mortgage fraud under the bank fraud statute, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you executed or attempted to execute a scheme:
- To defraud a financial institution; or
- To obtain any of the funds, securities or other property owned by, or under the control or custody of, a financial institution, by way of false or fraudulent pretenses, promises or representations.
Possible Defense Strategies for Mortgage Fraud Charges
Mortgage fraud is a serious criminal offense and the consequences of a mortgage fraud conviction can be devastating for you and your loved ones. With so much at stake, you need to hire an attorney who knows the various defense strategies for mortgage fraud charges and can present the strongest defense possible based on your specific situation. The following are some possible defense strategies for federal mortgage fraud charges:
- You acted in good faith and did not intend to break the law
- The statements you provided on your loan application were true, correct and accurate
- You were an unknowing participant in a mortgage fraud scheme
- The prosecution doesn’t have enough evidence to prove the crime beyond a reasonable doubt
- You have been falsely accused of mortgage fraud
Why Hire a Mortgage Fraud Defense Attorney?
When it comes down to it, the most effective strategy for mortgage fraud defense is contingent on the specific facts of the case, which is why you should always enlist the help of a skilled federal defense attorney when facing mortgage fraud charges in federal court. Federal Criminal Defense Pro is based in Los Angeles, California and we represent clients in a wide range of criminal cases at both the state level in California and at the federal level in courts across the country. When you hire Federal Criminal Defense Pro, our legal team will thoroughly review the facts of your case, investigate the circumstances of your mortgage fraud charges, deal with the federal authorities on your behalf, and aggressively represent you in court. Whatever the circumstances of your mortgage fraud case, our defense attorneys will go the extra mile to ensure that you receive the highest-quality legal representation.
Mortgage fraud is a specialized area of prosecution and putting forth a strong defense in a mortgage fraud case requires the expertise of a qualified federal criminal defense attorney. In order to competently defend you against mortgage fraud charges, your defense attorney must have considerable knowledge of federal criminal law and the federal criminal process, as well as experience handling mortgage and bank fraud cases in federal court. As a former prosecutor, Daniel R. Perlman offers a unique take on the criminal justice system, and with his extensive trial experience and effective negotiation skills and the personal approach he takes to each and every case he encounters, you can’t ask for a better attorney representing your defense. At Federal Criminal Defense Pro, we believe that every defendant in a federal criminal case has the right to a skillful and affordable defense. Let us put our legal expertise to work for you in your federal mortgage fraud case; contact Federal Criminal Defense Pro today.
Contact Our Federal Criminal Defense Lawyers for Help
Intentionally overstating your income on a mortgage loan application, understating your debts, providing false identifying information on mortgage documents, inflating a property’s value in order to complete a real estate deal or colluding with another investor to purchase real estate are all forms of mortgage fraud that are investigated and prosecuted by the federal government. And while corrupt real estate attorneys, mortgage brokers, appraisers, and other real estate professionals are typically the main targets of mortgage fraud investigations, homebuyers are sometimes arrested for providing false information during the mortgage process. If you or someone you love is facing criminal charges for mortgage fraud, the best way for you to protect your rights and avoid a criminal conviction is to hire an experienced federal criminal defense lawyer to represent your case. Federal Criminal Defense Pro offers a free initial consultation and case evaluation for individuals and businesses accused of federal mortgage fraud, so don’t hesitate to call.