I received a letter from the FBI, indicating they would like to speak with me about my mortgage. What should I do?
You should first contact a competent, experienced Federal criminal defense attorney. Have the letter handy, as the attorney will want to know the exact wording.
It is usually not in your best interest to speak with the government without an attorney by your side. If you have not yet had time to consult with an attorney, and the government contacts you by phone, simply tell them that you would like to speak with them with your attorney present, and that you are in the process of hiring one.
Why is the government investigating me?
Unfortunately, some real estate agents, mortgage brokers, and investors took advantage of the real estate boom in the early 2000’s. This led to fast and easy lending, multiple loans, and overextension of many owners’ finances. Although most people applied for mortgages completely and truthfully, some individuals were mislead by unscrupulous brokers. Some brokers falsified paperwork in order to expedite the loan approval.
On November 4th, 2009, the US Attorney’s Office charged over 100 people with various charges under the common term ‘Mortgage Fraud.’ Those charged range from multiple borrowers to real estate and title agents, investors, and the owners and brokers of mortgage companies.
U.S. Attorney A. Brian Albritton called Florida ‘ground zero’ for mortgage fraud in the US. He released details of an “investigative surge” in May (of 2009), saying the goal was to restore confidence in the real estate market and send a message that “mortgage fraud won’t be tolerated.”
In Tampa, the surge netted 30 defendants who authorities claim were responsible for $103 million in bad mortgages on 313 properties. Albritton further cautioned, “This is by no means the end of vigorous mortgage fraud prosecution in the Middle District of Florida.”
“At closing, I signed so many papers I didn’t really know what I was signing and didn’t read each page carefully…”
You are not alone. We are hearing the same story from many clients. While it is the responsibility of each mortgage applicant to fully read and understand each page that they sign, it is becoming evident that unscrupulous parties may have taken advantage of the situation and falsified documents without the applicants’ knowledge. They then slipped these pages into the sizeable stack of paperwork. Many innocent mortgage applicants simply trusted their real estate agents and mortgage brokers at closing, and signed where they were told to sign.
What are the penalties for Mortgage Fraud?
The penalties vary widely, according to the defendants role in the case, the number of properties involved, and the dollar amount of the loss.