Queens DA Applauds New Mortgage Fraud Initiative
Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown is joining forces with prosecutors throughout the city in a digital war against mortgage fraud.
Brown joined fellow prosecutors at a February 2 press conference where Mayor Michael Bloomberg introduced new, digital fingerprint and e-mail systems, designed for use in city real estate transactions, that will help cops assigned to the city Financial Crime Task Force tackle the shocking rise in mortgage fraud cases.
Most recent mortgage fraud occurred in Queens, leading to the borough’s high foreclosure rate, Bloomberg said. “Our Financial Crime Task Force, with the help of our district attorneys, has developed a system to alert law enforcement and property owners to irregularities in real estate transactions.
“These leads will give law enforcement a powerful assist in rooting out and preventing mortgage fraud in our neighborhoods.”
The digital fingerprint system utilizes data from mortgage fraud cases in other states to link common traits to develop a search methodology. Fraud indicators include homes that changed owners multiple times in a short period of time, transfers of title at prices far below market rate and properties sold at prices that fall just below thresholds for mandatory reporting or tax filings.
Armed with this information, members of the Task Force will compile an “Unusual Property Activity Report” for use by law enforcement.
The information, also available through the city Department of Finance, will allow property owners to receive notification via e-mail, text or U.S. mail of any transaction involving their home or property. The systems are also designed to alert home and property owners and law enforcement, when scammers steal identities to obtain confidential information.
Brown praised Bloomberg for taking positive steps to tackle mortgage fraud—a problem that often plagues neighborhoods in Southeast Queens.
The communities of Springfield Gardens and St. Albans lead New York state in the number of foreclosed properties, Brown said. Many of those foreclosures were the result of fraudulent home loans made to unsuspecting buyers. “Mortgage fraud and related complaints to my office have quadrupled over the last five years and that is only the tip of the iceberg,” Brown said.
“Many of these frauds are directed at the county’s elderly, immigrant and economically disadvantaged populations who are often less aware of the ever-increasing variety of scams that can befall them.”