41 People Charged in Mortgage Rip-Offs

By Jonathan Dienst
|  Thursday, Oct 15, 2009  |  Updated 9:50 PM EDT
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Mortgage Fraud Probe Nets 41 People

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The dismal housing market isn't helped by fraudsters

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Mortgage Fraud Probe Nets 41 People

Dozens of suspected mortgage scammers were busted by the FBI Thursday in a large dragnet that sweep across New York.
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Dozens of suspected mortgage scammers were busted by the FBI Thursday in a large dragnet that sweep across New York City and stretched as far away as Ithaca.

The suspects are charged in eight separate cases and involve numerous alleged scams that ripped off banks and individual homeowners.

Bank fraud, loan application falsification, equity stripping and appraisal inflation are among the acts investigators say the suspects committed. And officials said 110 properties worth $64 million were affected by the alleged scammers.

FBI and federal prosecutors detailed the charges in a news conference on Thursday afternoon, where they said six lawyers, seven loan officers and three mortgage brokers were involved in the schemes. 

Among those led away in handcuffs by FBI agents were attorney Ravi Persaud, Joseph Evans, Cheddi Goberghan and Jerry Calogne. For a full list of the defendants and charges read the pdf here.

Those arrested "corrupted the mortgage market to enrich themselves, "said US Attorney Preet Bharara.

 Investigators said the scammers used bogus documents to set up straw buyers and quick flips of houses. Some of the mortgage scams allegedly included using fake documents to inflate the value of a property and steal the difference.

They said homeowners facing foreclosure were also ripped-off by some of those charged when they promised financial relief on their mortgages in exchange for high fees. But after the fees were paid, no help was given.

In other cases, the FBI said homeowners were duped into signing documents which they unknowingly turned over ownership of their homes to the suspects who would then take out mortgages to enrich themselves.

These arrests come amid the ongoing housing crisis where one in every 36 homes nationwide is currently in or at risk of foreclosure.

"Combating mortgage fraud is a priority because mortgage lending and the housing market have such an impact on the nation's economy," said FBI assistant director Joe Demarest.

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