Finding a Virginia federal mortgage fraud lawyer experienced in the federal courts of Virginia is important to achieving a positive outcome for anyone indicted on federal mortgage fraud charges. Since the mortgage crisis began in 2006 and 2007, with a number of subprime lenders declaring bankruptcy and a dramatic increase in home foreclosures, mortgage fraud has been continually in the news. Mortgage fraud may be investigated by the FBI and other federal agencies, and these cases are prosecuted by United States Attorneys in federal courthouses. In Virginia, mortgage fraud cases are handled by the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia or for the Western District of Virginia.
Federal courthouses for the Eastern District are located in Alexandria, Newport News, Norfolk, and Richmond. Western District federal courthouses are located in Abingdon, Big Stone Gap, Charlottesville, Danville, Harrisonburg, Lynchburg and Roanoke.
Mortgage fraud can take many forms. It may be perpetrated by a buyer “for housing,” or it may be a “fraud for profit” scheme conducted by industry professionals who use fraud and deception to secure cash from loans in excess of the value of the property involved.
Although there is no dedicated “mortgage fraud” statute in federal law, the tools and deception used to commit mortgage fraud are typically violations of one or more other federal laws. It may be prosecuted under the general federal fraud statute (18 U.S.C. Section 1341) or as mail/wire fraud (18 U.S.C. Section 1343) or bank fraud (18 U.S.C. Section 1344).
Often, a person or persons accused of mortgage fraud will also face conspiracy charges in addition to any underlying fraud charges. Conspiracy or attempt to commit fraud (18 U.S.C. Section 1349) carries the same criminal penalties as the related fraud offense, even if the scheme is unsuccessful in fraudulently obtaining a loan. A Virginia federal mortgage fraud lawyer can help if you are facing one or more of these charges or allegations.
Penalties for mortgage fraud are severe and depend upon the specific fraud offense or offenses of which a defendant is convicted. For example, bank fraud, under which mortgage fraud is commonly charged, is punishable by a maximum of 30 years in prison and a $1,000,000 fine. The hefty fines and potential prison time may seem daunting, but a federal mortgage fraud attorney in Virginia can provide further detail on U.S. federal sentencing and how the guidelines may apply to your case.
Typically, “for housing” mortgage fraud is committed by a buyer who falsifies, conceals, or provides misleading information in order to secure a home loan that is greater than the amount the buyer would qualify for if he or she was honest in completing the loan application. This can include inflating income and concealing debts and liabilities. Generally, a buyer in such a situation fully intends to repay the loan. A buyer may even be encouraged to commit mortgage fraud by an industry professional who will profit from the sale of the property; however, making false declarations on a mortgage application is a crime. A Virginia federal mortgage fraud lawyer can explain what kinds of actions and statements may give rise to liability.
Mortgage fraud committed for profit is typically committed by industry professionals who use their knowledge of the industry to manipulate loans and sales in an effort to profit from weaknesses in the mortgage process.
One example of mortgage fraud for profit is illegal flipping of a property. In general, real estate “flipping” involves purchasing a home or property at a low price, renovating it, and then reselling it at a higher price. Illegal property flipping occurs when a purchaser buys a home and subsequently has the home or property appraised at a substantially higher value than the home actually has. The home is then resold at the higher, fraudulent appraised value. In many instances, the federal government believes a person is involved in one of these “schemes,” when in fact, the individual is acting fully within the law. In such situations, it is beneficial to have a Virginia federal mortgage fraud attorney by your side to help build a strong defense and present your case to the court.
Other types of mortgage fraud include:
Any person involved in the sale, purchase, or financing of a home may be a perpetrator of mortgage fraud, and in many cases, fraud is a “conspiracy” between multiple parties. This may include collaboration between buyers, sellers, realtors, investors, appraisers, property brokers, loan brokers, and title company employees.
If you are investigated for involvement in mortgage fraud, it is important to secure legal representation as quickly as possible. Often, buyers and sellers who do not fully understand the processes involved in buying or selling property may be talked into unethical and illegal behaviors by industry professionals who know better. Even industry professionals can be coerced into unethical acts when they see similar acts of fraud as commonplace.
By statute, bank fraud is an act of fraud that is committed “knowingly.” In other words, the government must prove intent to defraud in order to obtain a conviction. For help determining the optimal strategies for your defense, call for a free consultation with an experienced Virginia federal mortgage fraud defense lawyer.