Destroying the American Dream

17 people in Texas, including some in the Houston area, are charged with mortgage fraud as part of a nationwide crackdown by the Justice Department. Federal investigators have made nearly 500 arrests since March. It is the largest collective enforcement effort aimed at confronting the problem of mortgage fraud. Pat Hernandez has the story.

It is called “Operation Stolen Dream,” the nationwide effort to investigate and prosecute mortgage fraud. The announcement came on the same day the FBI reported a dramatic rise in the number of mortgage fraud cases. Over 1200 defendants across the country are accused in over 2 billion dollars in losses.

Jose Angel Moreno is U.S. Attorney for the southern district. He says locally, 11 people were indicted, 4 have pleaded guilty and 2 have been sentenced and must pay over 4 million dollars in restitution.

“All were allegedly involved in a variety of mortgage fraud schemes including loan origination, equity skimming, real estate investment and builder bail out schemes. The alleged roles of those charged and convicted included straw purchasers, loan processors, home builders, settlement attorneys, title company employees, real estate agents, loan officers and straw purchaser recruiters.”

Moreno says the fraud had victims, investors who offered their good credit.

“These things range from, sometimes people who are convinced that they’re actually participating in an investment scheme when there really isn’t, and so their credit and their personal liability suffers from it so it affects everybody, really.”

He adds its unfortunate that victims of this mortgage fraud were convinced that they were getting in on a great opportunity.

“I guess the best one is that line there: if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

So far, the operation has resulted in the recovery of more than 147-million dollars. If convicted, defendants face anywhere from 5 years for wire fraud to 20-years for mortgage fraud.

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