Real Estate Fraud Attorneys in Orlando
the Law Offices of Horwitz & Citro, P.A.
After the fall in the real estate market, many significant mortgage fraud cases involved inflated appraisals of property that was bought and sold several times, always at a higher price. Appraisers have been accused of appraisal fraud and conspiracy in what is referred to as property "flipping."
Lenders and federal authorities look for real estate appraiser fraud as part of loan fraud investigations. The charges against real estate appraisers typically involve kickbacks, overcharges, and appraisers assisting with fraudulent purchases by straw buyers. The primary criminal charge is usually conspiracy to commit wire fraud or bank fraud.
At the Law Offices of Horwitz & Citro, P.A., our Orlando criminal defense lawyers stand willing to represent real estate appraisers suspected of committing or conspiring with others to commit mortgage fraud throughout central Florida, statewide, and nationwide.
If you have been approached by state or federal investigators, or have been subpoenaed to appear at a grand jury investigation, contact our law office immediately. As industry insiders, real estate appraisers can face criminal penalties if found guilty of profiting from fraudulent transactions. Early representation is important in real estate appraisal fraud cases.+
We Represent Clients Against Real Estate Fraud Allegations
Just because you are under investigation does not mean the allegations are correct. Many guilty buyers, when faced with criminal charges of fraud, will try to point the finger at others in the transaction, including the real estate appraiser. By blaming others, they hope to limit their own punishment.
False allegations are always possible and they need to be confronted quickly before suspicion falls on you, and your reputation in the community is damaged.
If you have been summoned to appear before a grand jury, do not take any action until you have spoken with an Orlando white-collar criminal lawyer. Failing to answer a subpoena, destroying records, or lying under oath present a risk that you will be charged with not only real estate appraisal fraud, but also with obstruction of justice (a much easier charge to prove).
Real Estate Broker Fraud
As industry insiders with a good understanding of the real estate market, mortgage approval practices and appraisal methods, real estate brokers and agents are in a unique position to participate in activities that could be construed as fraud.
- If a real estate broker is motivated to make a sale, they may knowingly help gather false information for a loan application or advise a client to complete a loan application in a manner that is more likely to get approval
- A real estate agent may assist a client in obtaining a loan even though they know the client is a straw buyer and someone else is involved in the purchase of the property
On the other hand, investigators often wrongly attribute criminal intent to common industry practices, such as relying exclusively on a certain appraiser. This is common for a real estate broker who has a long-standing relationship with an appraiser and it need not be a sign of wrong-doing.
As a real estate broker or agent, you are particularly vulnerable to charges of conspiracy. As a professional, allegations of fraud or criminal conduct can result in a criminal investigation or charge even if the accusers are lying.
Heading off an Indictment for Broker Fraud
To obtain a conviction for mortgage fraud, authorities must prove criminal intent. We understand the mortgage industry and can provide reasonable explanations for things that appear to investigators as red flags for real estate broker fraud, such as fees and commissions that are higher than usual.
Talk with our defense team so you understand your rights, your obligations, and the actions you can take to protect yourself. We will immediately begin to develop a defense strategy for your case.
A friend or family member wishes to buy a home. Their credit is not perfect, so in today's housing market, the buyer finds himself shut out by mortgage lenders. Or, perhaps, the prospective buyer already owns a number of investment properties and they want to add another property to their holdings, but they don't qualify for a beneficial mortgage loan program.
In each of these cases, the buyer may have turned to a friend or family member to make the home purchase for them. They may have used the credit information and credit rating of that friend or family member. They may have provided the earnest money for the purchase, without that being disclosed in the loan documentation. They may have encouraged the person who signed their name on the loan documents (called a straw buyer because they are not the real buyer) to lie about their income and assets.
Each of these actions can be called bank fraud. When it is discovered, both the true buyer and the straw buyer can be held responsible for loan application fraud, as well as face conspiracy charges.
To obtain a conviction for straw buyer fraud, authorities must prove criminal intent. The issue your defense attorney will need to prove when preparing your defense is that you had no knowledge of illegal activity or no intent to take part in a conspiracy to commit bank fraud.
- Did you rely on a real estate professional to handle your loan application correctly, only to find out later he or she was involved in illegal activity?
- Were you duped into filling out forms or making false statements?
- Did you mistakenly make a false statement?
- Did you suffer identity theft in which someone else used your credit to apply for a mortgage?
These factors play a role in many straw buyer cases, and any of them can have a significant impact on the outcome of your case.
Builders & Developers
Our law firm also provides veteran defense for contractors, developers, bank officials, businesses, and others accused of fraud in commercial lending.
Investigators use a variety of techniques to uncover possible fraud, but in many instances, they jump the gun and ascribe criminal intent where only honest mistakes were involved.
Our law firm represents building contractors and commercial real estate developers, as well as loan officers, commercial property brokers, or appraisers involving allegations of:
- False representation of assets and debts on financial statements
- Submitting false documents to help a buyer obtain financing
- Misrepresentations about pre-sales or pre-leases for strip malls, office buildings, condominiums, or other commercial buildings
False financial statements or overstated lease commitments can be considered criminal, resulting in major penalties if convicted of felony charges of bank fraud, or wire fraud or mail fraud. The builder, buyer, or bank is then also exposed to potential civil RICO litigation for massive monetary damages.
When our builder fraud defense lawyers are brought in early, we strive to convince investigators not to press charges. For example, we represented the owner of a self-storage business. Delays in construction necessitated several loan extensions. Each extension required new loan documentation. Three of the applications mentioned certain assets and two did not. The FBI got involved when the builder could not repay the loan. This is an example of what kind of statements can lead to a criminal investigation for fraud.
If your builder fraud or real estate fraud case goes to trial, we are prepared to mount an aggressive defense or to work out a favorable plea agreement and penalties. Our top priority is always to avoid the very real possibility of prison time.
Contact Our Law Office
If you have been accused of real estate fraud, protect your rights and your freedom. Contact the Law Offices of Horwitz & Citro, P.A., by calling (407) 901-5852. The sooner we become involved in your case, the more opportunities we will have to reduce or eliminate the consequences you may face.
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