Tackling mortgage fraud

By Tupac Hunter
According to the 2009 FBI Mortgage Fraud report, Michigan was among the top 10 states in terms of mortgage fraud activity, a problem that hurts our homeowners, neighbors and local communities.

Unfortunately, Michigan does not have specific laws in place to combat mortgage fraud, making it far more difficult for prosecutors to effectively fight this very serious crime. Since 2005, the Wayne County Deed and Mortgage Fraud Task Force has been forced to initiate hundreds of deed and mortgage fraud prosecutions using our existing inadequate laws that often result in a person convicted of mortgage fraud ending up with only probation and fines, even when defrauding a family or a senior citizen out of their homes.

I was proud to work on a bi-partisan package of legislation recently passed by the Michigan Senate that will update our laws and give local prosecutors the tools they need to prosecute cases of mortgage fraud and deter those who would seek to prey upon homeowners looking for help.

Senate Bills 43 and 44 make residential mortgage fraud a felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison and fines of up to $500,000. These bills define specific types of fraudulent activity that could be prosecuted under this act including inflating valuations of the property, overstating earnings, or making false statements about employment status.

The Prosecuting Attorney’s Association of Michigan, Wayne County Prosecuting Attorney Kim Worthy, and the Wayne County Deed and Mortgage Fraud Task Force all participated in the development of this legislation as they recognized the critical need for the protections this legislation would provide, especially as Michigan fights to recover from this economic recession and attract new businesses and homeowners to our communities.

It is now time for the state House of Representatives to take action on these bills and allow Michigan to join the 20 other states that have mortgage fraud laws on the books. Doing so will finally allow us to aggressively prosecute residential mortgage fraud and send a clear message that we are serious about protecting our homeowners and ending these practices once and for all.

Sen. Hunter is the Senate Democratic Floor Leader and represents the 5th district, which is comprised of Northwest Detroit, Dearborn Heights and Inkster. He is the Minority Vice Chair of the Senate Committees on Banking and Financial Institutions, and the Senate Committee on Economic Development, and he is a member of the Senate Committee on Government Operations.