Mortgage Fraud in Miami-Dade County
Authors & Project Staff
    Dr. Craig D. Uchida
    Shellie E. Solomon
    Christine Connor
    Kathryn Hollingshead
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Abstract

Targeting and Reducing Mortgage Fraud Through A Data-Driven Approach.

JSS is the Research Partner for the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Mortgage Fraud Unit.

In January 2010 the Miami Dade State Attorney’s Office formed the Mortgage Fraud Unit. Through funding from the Bureau of Justice Assistance, five Assistant State Attorneys (ASAs), a network administrator, a forensic accountant, two legal secretaries, and two paralegals focus specifically on mortgage fraud issues and cases.

Increasing prosecutions and adjudications. By consolidating ASAs into one unit, more mortgage fraud investigations have been opened (n=110), closed (n=44), and adjudicated (n=15) than ever before. Thirteen defendants have pled guilty and two have been found guilty at trial. These have resulted in 190.5 months in prison, 132 years of probation, 11,750 hours of community service, over $4 M in restitution, and nearly $122,000 in recovered investigation and prosecutorial costs.

Further, the Unit has prevented and intervened in situations that otherwise would not have occurred in previous years.

Using data analysis. JSS works closely with the Mortgage Fraud Unit to proactively identify and target areas which may be impacted by mortgage fraud. Relying on the research by the Mortgage Asset Research Institute suggesting that mortgage fraud is responsible for 80 to 85 percent of foreclosures, JSS conducts spatial analysis of foreclosure data on a monthly basis. JSS staff downloads foreclosure updates from a proprietary data source. Information has been gathered on over 28,000 foreclosed properties within Miami-Dade County from June 1, 2010 to June 30, 2011. JSS staff uses GIS technology to map the foreclosures and to determine the hotspot locations where foreclosures are concentrated and mortgage fraud may be occurring.

Increasing efficiency. The unit created electronic forms for detectives to obtain subpoenas and to write and obtain search warrants. These forms are used to obtain critical information from lenders, mortgage brokers, loan modifiers, realtors, title agents, appraisers, buyers, and sellers during the investigation of cases of mortgage fraud. For example, the updated forms allow Miami-Dade County Task Force detectives to populate the search warrant form correctly by answering a series of questions about the case. The information is also transferred to populate supporting documentation, without requiring the detectives to retype the information. Implementation of these forms is resulting in more accurate, complete and comprehensive search warrant forms as well as saving the ASAs and detectives time and energy. It is also improving the outcomes of the search warrants and subpoenas.

Since January 2010, the unit has assisted with 608 subpoenas, 11 search warrants, and 22 arrest warrants.

Training. The Unit and JSS have provided training to the Miami-Dade Police Department’s Mortgage Fraud Task Force in search warrant preparation, alternative crimes scenes, and Florida law for complex mortgage fraud schemes. The Unit has also participated in and attended a 5-day course in software use — iBase and Analyst Notebook — tools that assist the unit in analyzing data and in creating visuals of the various networks that are involved in mortgage fraud.

Prevention, Education, and Presentations. In January 2011, JSS and members of the Mortgage Fraud Unit presented information at the Wells Fargo Corporate Security-Mortgage Summit. This event was attended by over 50 people working for Bank of America and Wells Fargo as loan officers, fraud investigators, and other positions held at these financial institutions. The Mortgage Fraud Unit provided presentations on mortgage fraud statutes, trends, and methods of collecting evidence for investigating mortgage fraud cases.