Mortgage fraud and other fraud offenses, including real estate transactions are crimes under both Florida and federal law. Generally described as “mortgage fraud,” this offense generally applies to anyone who makes any false statement regarding income, assets, debt, property value, matters of identification, or any other material information in connection with a loan and credit application for the purpose of influencing in any way a financial institution contracted to lend money for the purchase, transfer or refinancing of the property. Mortgage fraud offenses typically involve applicants, real estate agents/brokers, appraisers, bankers, developers lawyers, or any combination of them, if they are found to be working together to defraud a lender related to a property transaction.
Under federal law, a conviction for any mortgage fraud is a felony and may be punishable by a fine not to exceed $1,000,000 and/or a term of imprisonment not to exceed 30 years.
Federal law even allows for a criminal charge of “Continuing Financial Crimes Enterprise” for mortgage fraud. As such, one who organizes, manages, or supervises a continuing financial crimes enterprise and receives $5,000,000 or more in gross receipts from such enterprise during any 24-month period has committed a felony crime of continuing a financial crimes enterprise. Conviction of this offense is punishable by a fine not to exceed $10,000,000, if an individual, or $20,000,000, if an organization, and/or a term of imprisonment of no less than 10 years up to LIFE.
Under Florida law, a conviction for mortgage fraud is a third-degree felony and is punishable by a fine not to exceed $5,000 and/or a term of imprisonment not to exceed five years.
However, if the loan value stated on the documents used in the mortgage lending process exceeds $100,000, the violator has committed a felony of the second degree. Conviction of this offense is punishable by a fine not to exceed $10,000 and/or a term of imprisonment not to exceed 15 years. It is also important to note that any real estate or mortgage fraud that is a continuing scheme may be charged as a scheme to defraud under Florida’s “Communication Fraud Act.” Penalties for a conviction under this Act are much more severe.
Attorney Paul Petruzzi has over 25 years of experience defending those charged with a mortgage and/or real estate fraud offenses and he has represented many clients charged with, or under investigation for, these offenses. It is important to hire an experienced attorney when faced with this type of charge.