There is a major news story out today around the state about a prominent Ft. Pierce attorney and his wife who have been arrested on racketeering and conspiracy-related charges as part of a mortgage fraud scheme. Transactions occurred in St. Lucie, Martin, Marion, Lake, Columbia and Alachua counties. Seven other people were also arrested from around the state. According to DBPR records, one of them was an active real estate agent and Appraiser, another was a licensed real estate agent, and another was a licensed General Contractor.
This story is an excellent example of why Real Estate professionals and the public must be on their toes and stay on top of what is going on. We have recently had several attempts from "buyers" wanting to "Stop Foreclosure" by having the seller sign over their warranty deed as well as sign a Power of Attorney before they close on the house. We're seeing lots of buyers wanting to present offers on more than one property and then "see" which one gets accepted first. It's a crazy market and people are wanting to do crazy things.
According to the news article, in this particular case the couple acted as Straw Buyers and signed documents for loans that they never intended to make good on. It doesn't mention whether or not the other parties arrested were aware there was possible fraud going on or not, but it's easy to see that sales agents could get caught up unknowingly, especially if they are dealing with a respected and well known business person.
We should all think long and hard when we have a buyer or seller that seems to good to be true or if anything raises a red flag in our deals. Bring it to your broker's or manager's attention so they can look at all the facts and determine if it is suspect or not. If you're a seller talk to your Realtor. Don't be afraid to ask questions if something doesn't sound right to you. Better to be a little cautious now and maybe forgo and deal than get involved in something that could jeopardize or your career and your life.
Read the full story here: http://tcpalm.com/news/2009/jun/09/prominent-lawyer-russell-rusty-akins-arrested/