FLORIDA'S STATEWIDE HOPE COUNCIL AND MORTGAGE FRAUD TASK FORCE
In 2007, Florida ranked second in the United States in foreclosures filed. There were 279,325 foreclosures filed in Florida. This was an increase of 124% from 2006 and 129% from 2005. In Florida two out of every 100 households filed foreclosures. MARI estimates that 70-80% of all foreclosures contain some type of mortgage fraud.
For the second consecutive year, Florida is ranked first in the country for mortgage loans that contained alleged fraud against the lenders, according to the Mortgage Asset Research Institute (MARI). MARI ranked the Miami-Dade Metropolitan area fourth in the United States only behind New York, Los Angeles and Atlanta in instances of Mortgage Fraud.
In 2007, Governor Crist signed the Mortgage Fraud Statute F.S. 817.545 that made mortgage fraud a 3rd degree felony. This new law enabled state, county, and local law enforcement agencies to arrest for violations of mortgage fraud, a crime traditionally investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). However, with the exception of
Miami-Dade County many law enforcement agencies are not trained and equipped to handle the laborious task of investigating a mortgage fraud case.
Today, it is clear that a concerted statewide effort to combat mortgage fraud should be undertaken. It is recommended that through an Executive Order from Governor Crist a statewide Mortgage Fraud Council and task Force be created to combat mortgage fraud throughout Florida. The Council and Task Force can use a multi-faceted response for
solving the state's mortgage fraud problem.
The statewide Council, chaired by the Lieutenant Governor, would provide guidance and recommendations to the Governor for new legislation, education/prevention efforts, regulation, and responsible business practices. The Council will consist of appointees from the Governor, Speaker of the House, President of the Senate, in addition to the Attorney
General, Chief Financial Officer, Secretary of the DBPR and Commissioner of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE). Members should include a representative of banking/lending industry, and HUD approved mortgage loan consumer advocacy/counseling organization (such as ACORN).
The statewide task force should consist of the same seven (7) regions as the domestic security task force. Each region will be comprised of law enforcement from the region's Sheriff's Departments, Police Departments and FDLE. Additionally, each region should have a statewide prosecutor from the Attorney General's Office to assist region State Attorney Offices to assist in prosecution of the cases.
Funding for the Council and Task Force will be provided by the private sector. The Banking, Title Insurance, Mortgage, and Real Estate industries have expressed a willingness to support and fund the initiative.