Mortgage Fraud Defense Lawyer
Under federal law, Mortgage Fraud is punishable by imprisonment of up to 30 years or $ 1,000,000 in fines or both.
While buying a home can be an incredibly rewarding experience, it is also a time when you need to be extremely careful about what you say and do. Lenders and the federal government have been cracking down on mortgage fraud, and as a result many more unsuspecting individuals are finding themselves facing serious federal charges. The criminal defense lawyers at the Oberheiden & McMurrey, LLP represent clients charged with mortgage fraud nationwide.
Mortgage Fraud Explained
When it was enacted in 2009, the Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act (FERA) extended the reach of previously-enacted fraud statutes to specifically cover frauds perpetrated against mortgage lenders. Prior to FERA, fraud statutes covered “financial institutions,” but this term excluded non-depository institutions such as mortgage lenders. Following the mortgage crisis and the rise of mortgage fraud in the 2000s, the federal government used FERA as an opportunity to crack down on fraudulent mortgage practices and scams.
As a result, individuals and businesses accused of mortgage fraud can now face criminal liability under a host of federal statutes that did not apply prior to 2009. For example, the federal bank fraud statute, which makes it a crime to “defraud a financial institution,” now specifically applies to all instances of mortgage fraud. This is true regardless of whether you borrowed from a bank or a mortgage-specific lender. Other statutes, such as those outlawing mail fraud and wire fraud, may apply as well.
Defending Against Mortgage Fraud Charges
At Oberheiden & McMurrey, LLP, we fight vigorously to protect our clients from unjust punishment. When you hire us, we will do everything in our power to have your charges dropped prior to trial.
Penalties for Mortgage Fraud Crimes
The federal government aggressively pursues mortgage fraud charges against borrowers who make false representations when attempting to purchase a home. Federal investigators and prosecutors focus on three main forms of mortgage fraud: appraisal fraud, income fraud, and fraudulent disclosures:
- Appraisal Fraud. There are two forms of appraisal fraud. The first involves intentionally obtaining an appraisal that overstates the value of a property in order to allow a buyer to cash out of their home. The second involves seeking an under-appraisal in order to obtain a reduced purchase price.
- Income Fraud. Mortgage lenders base their lending decisions on complex formulas that take into account detailed information relating to applicant finances. They have strict regulatory and internal guidelines for determining who is or isn’t a safe borrower. Income fraud involves overstating an applicant’s income or borrowing money from a friend or family member in order to falsely inflate an applicant’s apparent financial stability.
- Fraudulent Disclosures. Aside from income and assets, you will be required to make a number of other detailed disclosures on your mortgage application as well. If you misstate your employment status, existing liabilities, or any other material information, this may constitute a fraudulent disclosure.
It is important to note that even if the errors on your loan application were unintentional, you may still find yourself charged with mortgage fraud.
Other Forms of Mortgage Fraud
Of course, borrowers are not the only ones who can face criminal charges for mortgage fraud. Prosecutors have also been ambitiously seeking convictions against various players in the mortgage industry, such as loan officers, appraisers, and title companies. Some recent examples of activities that have resulted in mortgage fraud charges are:
- Illegal “flipping” schemes that cause lenders to suffer losses
- Making false statements in connection with short sales
- Using identity theft to drain home equity line of credit
- Engaging straw buyers
- Offering bribes and kickbacks to loan officers in exchange for participating in a fraudulent scheme
In these and other situations, everyone involved faces the possibility of going to jail for mortgage fraud. For example, it is not just the borrower who offers a bribe that can face charges, but the loan officer who accepts the bribe as well. Remember how we said the government is taking mortgage fraud extremely seriously? Possible penalties for mortgage fraud include up to $1 million in fines and 30 years in federal prison.
Speak with a Mortgage Fraud Defense Attorney Today
Our experienced criminal defense lawyers and former federal prosecutors use their experience to fight for individuals and businesses charged with serious federal crimes. If you have been charged with mortgage fraud, you need an experienced and aggressive advocate on your side. To speak with an attorney at Oberheiden & McMurrey, LLP, call (888) 727-0472 or request your free case evaluation today.