Saturday, March 31, 2007

Canada Cities Fight Identity Theft With "Community Shredding Day"

Local police and the Better Business Bureau in Vancouver, British Columbia marked the end of Fraud Prevention Month with "Community Shredding Day" as a way to encourage the shredding of personal documents to combat identity theft, as reported on the website of CKNW-AM Radio 980. For more, see Beat identity theft by shredding.

The Guardian (Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Canada) reports:
  • "To mark the end of Fraud Prevention Month, Capital One and Shred-it have teamed up to sponsor the National Canadian Community Shred. This was the second year the two companies have joined forces."
  • "The event was held Saturday in more than 20 cities across Canada. Citizens could bring all of their unwanted personal documents to the event to be shredded."
  • "In Charlottetown, there was a Shred-it truck parked in the Wal-Mart parking lot."

For more, see Identify theft a growing problem.

(revised 4-1-07; 11:22 am)


Four Nailed In Alleged Central Florida Mortgage Fraud, Identity Theft

An Orange County, Florida family of four has been arrested and accused of engaging in a combined identity theft and mortgage fraud scheme by allegedly taking personal information from unsuspecting homebuyers and using it to illegally obtain loans, according to a report appearing on the WFTV Channel 9 Orlando website.

Victor Ortiz-Rivera, his wife Minerva Rolon-Garcia, and daughters Nixalis Gotary, who allegedly acted as the mortgage broker, and Nydia Ortiz, who allegedly notarized the documents, were all accused with helping families obtain home loans and then using the victims' personal information to immediately get a second loan without the victim's knowledge. Investigators have yet to determine how many people were victimized. So far, at least six victims have come forward; the investigation is ongoing.

To read more, see Homebuyers Used As Pawns In Mortgage Fraud Scheme.

Florida, Texas, North Carolina Lawmakers Considering Mortgage Fraud Legislation

The Florida legislature is considering a bill in the state House of Representatives, HB 359, that will make mortgage fraud a criminal offense, according to an Associated Press article reported on the Florida Association of Realtors website, at The pending law reportedly focuses on the act of mortgage fraud in real estate closings. To read more, see Mortgage fraud problem targeted.

The Texas legislature also is considering a bill, HB 716 introduced by Rep. Burt Solomons, which would impose specific criminal penalties on individuals convicted of perpetrating mortgage fraud, according to an article in the East Texas Review. To read more, see Solomons targets mortgage fraud schemes.

The North Carolina legislature has two bills pending, N.C. House Bill 817 and N.C. House Bill 313, which propose measures to make it easier to prosecute real estate professionals for mortgage fraud, make mortgage fraud a felony, and require inclusion on the recorded mortgage document the name of the mortgage broker or loan originator. See Proposed Legislation (Efforts to curb foreclosures) (Charlotte Observer)

Friday, March 30, 2007

Tips On Dealing With Foreclosure

A recent article on has suggestions on how to deal with falling behind on your mortgage payments. For more, see How to fend off a foreclosure (Homeowners behind in their mortgage payments can get help from lenders eager to get bad loans off the books)

Additional Mortgage Fraud Charges Against Public Servants, Attorney

A northwest Indiana federal grand jury has tacked on eight more charges and a second real estate scam to the pending mortgage fraud indictments of Lake County Councilman Will Smith, former county tax collector Roosevelt Powell, and politically connected Gary, Indiana attorney Willie Harris. They have been accused of fleecing the Gary Urban Enterprise Association. To read more, see Charges emerge in second GUEA real estate scam, at

Connecticut Attorney Sentencing Postponed To Today

The sentencing of former Connecticut attorney John Claydon, guilty of fleecing some of his clients of at least $2.8 million from 33 people around the State of Connecticut, was postponed on Wednesday until today, according to The Connecticut Post Online. However, his former clients/victims testified Wednesday as to the effect his thefts of their life savings have had on their lives. To read more, see Ex-clients lash out at crooked lawyer.

Go here for other posts on John Claydon.

Commentary On Homebuilder Beazer Homes USA

For commentary from the folks at The Motley Fool on the potential problems at Beazer Homes USA, see:'s (and of MSNBC) Jim Cramer also chimes in on Beazer with If Beazer Bamboozled.


Thursday, March 29, 2007

FBI, Observer Investigate Homebuilder Beazer Homes USA reports:
  • The FBI and the U.S. Attorney's office in Charlotte, N.C., along with the Internal Revenue Service and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, launched an investigation of Beazer Homes last week, FBI agent Ken Lucas said Tuesday. Lucas, a spokesman for the FBI's Charlotte field office, said the inquiry involves "fraud in general," and more specifically is related to corporate, mortgage and investment issues.
For more, see Mortgage Fraud Probe Targets Beazer.

The Charlotte Observer has recently done a four part investigative report on North Carolina homebuilder Beazer Homes USA. The report, appearing in The Observer over a four day period earlier this month, points out a number of glaring points that give rise to questions about how Beazer conducted business.

For example, the report states that :
  • "Beazer built about 2,900 homes in Mecklenburg [County, North Carolina] between 1997 and 2006. At least 388 have foreclosed. That is a rate above 13 percent, the highest among the county's 10 most prolific builders during that period ..."
  • "The Beazer foreclosures are concentrated in 10 developments, each of which has a foreclosure rate of 20 percent or higher. Together they contain about 1,150 homes and at least 280 foreclosures."
  • "The Federal Housing Administration, which insured most of the mortgage loans, failed to address the problems. The government has paid more than $5 million to cover defaulted loans in [one neighborhood]. It continues to insure new Beazer loans."
  • "The FHA loans that Beazer Mortgage arranged often were aggressive. The company provided down payments for most of its borrowers, leaving them with little stake in the homes. It also arranged loans with monthly payments that started low but rose sharply after the first and second years, a feature known as a buydown."
Parts of the report, with such titles as:
only begin to give a reader a taste of what The Observer's revelations contained. To read more, including links to the entire four part report, see Sold a Nightmare (Concord subdivision proves lucrative for builder and costly for 1st-time owners).

Video: Chris and Amy Wood's financial struggle
Video: Lea and Mark Tingley's problems

Four Tactics Predatory Mortgage Servicing Companies Use To Squeeze Homeowners

A recent article in Realty Times describes four tactics used by predatory mortgage servicing companies to squeeze money out of vulnerable homeowners and describes these servicers as "[n]othing more than shakedown artists operating in a largely unregulated arena, who have figured out a way to wring millions of dollars out of nervous consumers." The article also points out, as others have, that the focus on predatory practices in the home mortgage financing industry appears to be on the predatory lenders; and not the predatory mortgage servicers, who appear to be getting a free ride from lawmakers. To read more, see The Subprime Servicing Scam: Beware.

Go here , go here , and go here for posts on questionable mortgage servicing practices. questionable mortgage servicing practices tactics zebra

Texas Mobile Home Dealer Pleads Guilty Of Theft

William Alt, aka Billy Alt, owner of the now-defunct mobile home dealer Pleasant Homes of Texas, pleaded guilty to stealing nearly $300,000 in payments made by home buyers, according to a story in the Tyler Morning Telegraph. His firm was given mobile homes by mobile home builders to be sold by him on consignment. He failed to remit to them money paid to him by his customers.

Alt pleaded guilty to two felony counts of theft and two felony counts of misapplication of fiduciary property. For more, see Ex-Owner Of Mobile Home Firm Pleads Guilty To Theft.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Observations On Today's Identity Theft Posts

For those of you who read today's posts, it should be obvious to you that today was Identity Theft Day here at The Home Equity Theft Reporter. I want to conclude the day with a few observations based on these posts that I hope you will give me your indulgence on.

We have learned (or have had confirmed) that if you are about to go on an out-of-town trip, you can't check into a hotel or motel without the risk of an employee there swiping your I.D. information. If you travel abroad, you might have to wonder why the clerk at the passport office is smiling at you. Since we are currently in income tax season and you want to get your taxes done before leaving on your trip, maybe you should think twice about have them done by your friendly accountant or tax preparer. If you decide to do them yourself and you need to make copies of your documents, would it be wise to go to your local neighborhood Copy Center and risk having the photocopier pilfer your I.D. information? If you've been recently wronged by someone and want to take legal action, will the attorney you hire check to see that you have good credit before he/she takes your case?

If all these things stress you out to the point that it gives you a heart attack and you need to be rushed to the hospital, remember one thing. As you are being wheeled into the emergency room, be sure and ask if the intake clerk or nurse's assistants are "bonded and insured." And if you survive the hospital, make it home to recuperate (assuming no one has stolen your home yet), and are looking for something to pass the time, you can always open, read, and shred all that junk mail that you allowed to pile up at home (assuming you haven't dumped it all in the garbage unopened, in which case you might want to rush out and buy yourself an identity theft insurance policy before the dumpster divers get a hold of all that unopened, unshredded mail).

As a concluding note, financial experts often advise that you should check your credit periodically, just to make sure your identity hasn't been stolen. It may be a good idea to also check your local county property records office periodically, just to make sure your house hasn't been stolen, either!

Discarded Unopended Junk Mail Poses An Identity Theft Risk

For this post, see my March 23, 2007 post, or for the online news article, see Junk mail ID theft warning.

Identity Theft Insurance A Good Idea?

Nursing Assistant, Others Plead Guilty In Identity Theft

This post is a rerun of my February 1, 2007 post. It involved an I.D. theft in connection with a theft of hospital patients' personal identity information that the accused then used to fraudulently obtain mortgage loan proceeds. To see the full article, see Four Sentenced for Bank Fraud and Aggravated Identity Theft, Reports U.S. Attorney.

Disbarred Attorney Arrested For Identity Theft

Former Rockford attorney Lisa Anne Leitter has been charged with 17 counts of identity theft for allegedly running up credit card debts on accounts she opened up in her secretary's name, according to an article in the Rockford Register Star at

She was also the subject of an administrative investigation as a result of a complaint filed by the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission in 2006 based on similar allegations. She had also been alleged by the Commission to have (1) stolen her former partner's identity and (2) bilked clients out of money as well. That investigation ended with her disbarment as an attorney. To read more, see Former attorney faces identity theft charges.

Dateline NBC Going After Identity Theft

NBC's Dateline program, which has recently garnered much attention recently for its To Catch A Predator investigation, has launched a new investigation, To Catch An I.D. Thief, which premiered last night. NBC's investigative reporter/super sleuth Chris Hansen is at it again in this year-long investigation; this time (at least in part 1 of the series) masquerading as a delivery man in his attempt to infiltrate identity theft networks, using such devices as "bait cards", an undercover "online store" (, and a "delivery service" (CH Delivery) in his quest to nail the bad guys (with the help from the folks at

Go here for the Preview Video on NBC's Today Show (5:56).

For the full episode, go here To Catch An I.D. Thief - Part 1 for links to the following program segments:
  1. ‘To Catch an ID Thief’ (4:24)
  2. Underground den of thieves (8:58)
  3. 'Hansen Discount Electronics' (3:51)
  4. CH Delivery (10:53)
  5. Where's Wendy (8:07)
  6. Harsh Truth (4:19)

Go here for the program Transcript: On the hunt for ID thieves.

Go here for the Dateline: To Catch An I.D. Thief webpage.

Part 2 is scheduled to air next Tuesday, April 3 at 8:00 p.m. EST (as they often say: "check your local listings").

Culprit Copiers Pose Identity Theft Risk

Expert are warning that the modern photocopier could pose a risk in identity theft, according to an Associated Press article published on the WRTV Channel 6 (Indianapolis, Indiana) website. According to the report:
  • That's because most digital copiers manufactured in the past five years have disk drives -- the same kind of data-storage mechanism found in computers -- to reproduce documents. As a result, the seemingly innocuous machines that are commonly used to spit out copies of tax returns for millions of Americans can retain the data being scanned.
Add the modern public photocopier to the list of people, places and things one must approach with suspicion. To read more, see Hard Drives In Copiers May Keep Your Papers (Photocopiers Use Hard Drives To Store Scans)

Emergency Room Clerk Arrested For Identity Theft

This story was originally posted last Saturday. For the origional post, see Alleged Identity Theft Scam Targets The Dead. For the media story, see Identity theft targeted the dead (Three arrested; more than 100 names stolen)

Tax Preparation Employees Arrested For Identity Theft

I posted a story on this case this past Sunday. I'm mentionong it again to keep all these I.D. theft stories together. Go here for my 3-25-07 post; or see Pair accused of using Latinos' tax preparation information to steal identities (Pair worked at Latino services business in 2006) for the link to the story.

Pennsylvania Passport Clerk Charged With Identity Theft

Postal worker Kim McKnight Jimenez of Exeter Township, Pennsylvania was charged with unlawfully obtaining 18 credit cards by using postal customers’ names and Social Security numbers, according to a recent story in the Reading Eagle, at The names on the cards Jimenez obtained matched those of people whose passport applications she handled. Authorities say that in addition to the 18 victims they know about, there could be other victims who have yet to discover that their identities have been compromised. For more, see Postal worker faces charges in identity theft.

Motel Employee Charged With Identity Theft

Oklahoma woman and motel employee Shaniak Nikole Walker was charged with committing identity theft, according to The Sun. She is accused of using the credit card of a Motel 6 guest to pay a $65.02 bill owed to Aaron Rents in Midwest City, Oklahoma. Credit goes to the Midwest City Police Department for investigating a case that others might not have bothered with. (It's close to the point where you can't use your credit card anymore.) To read more, see Woman charged with identity theft.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Strong Arm Homeowner Association Collection Tactics Suspected

AHRC News Services has issued a March 21, 2007 Press Release from the California law firm Gottschalk & Associates that reports:
  • The Law Offices of Gottschalk & Associates announced today that it is launching a RICO investigation of attorneys and management companies for homeowners associations in California.

The issue involved appears to be the alleged, excessive padding of legal and collection fees (and other costs of rules enforcement) by the management companies and homeowner association-hired attorneys when they attempt to (a) collect association maintenance fees from those unit owners who have fallen behind on their payments, and (b) otherwise enforce the association rules and regulations. In effect, it appears that the association-hired attorneys and management companies are being accused of using the threat of the possible loss of the equity in a property owner's home as leverage against the homeowner in collecting excessive fees and charges.

(A similar tactic is used by predatory mortgage servicing companies in attempting to improperly squeeze money out of a homeowner - click here for posts on predatory mortgage servicing).

Reportedly, there is an existing complaint in the Orange County, California Superior Court under the RICO Act (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) and other claims that is set for trial in July 2007 against the law firm of Swedelson & Gottlieb, David Swedelson and Sandra Gottlieb individually, Association Lien Services and others.

The Press Release further requests that:

  • Homeowners who currently live or formerly lived in homeowners' associations that have information of potential claims against Swedelson & Gottlieb and Peters & Freedman are requested to forward debt collection letters, bills for excessive fees not due and copies of their complaints and lawsuits and to advise whether you wish to be considered as a Plaintiff Class Representative in a class action. Homeowners who already are represented by an attorney are requested to have their attorneys contact Gottschalk and Associates with the information.

To read more, see the March 21 AHRC Press Release.

For another report on foreclosure lawsuits filed by homeowners associations and their attorneys, see the Houston Chronicle, A growing housing trend (Foreclosure suits filed by homeowners groups add up)
The American Homeowners Resource Center ("AHRC") is described in their website as a public interest interactive website for homeowners who live in homeowners associations which is intended to help these homeowners protect themselves from, what in effect is, the abusive, overreaching, and egregious conduct engaged in by some of those who run the associations (ie. the association directors and officers), and the management companies, attorneys and others who are hired by them.


Is Your Mortgage Interest Rate Fixed Or Adjustable? 1 In 3 Have No Clue, Says Poll!

34 percent of homeowners recently polled by a firm commissioned by do not know what type of mortgage they own, according to a recent article reported by the Florida Association of Realtors. To read more, including other key findings from the poll, see ARM or FRM? 34% of homeowners don’t know.

To view the complete poll results, go to Mortgage Poll.

Cash Back And Other Incentive Deals Available From Builders/Developers

For those of you who follow sales incentive programs being offered by builders/developers in their attempts at unloading their inventory, I came across a few this past weekend from South Florida that caught my eye (pages may be slow-loading):


Monday, March 26, 2007

South Florida Homeowner Victimized By Foreclosure Rescue Operator

A suburban Miami woman who was victimized by a foreclosure rescue operator is featured today in a story published by Reuters and appearing in the San Diego Union Tribune. Reportedly, she was solicited in June by a "door to door foreclosure rescue operator" who offered her financial help on an $89,000 mortgage on her home. According to the article:
  • Nine months later, her $89,000 mortgage has ballooned into a $234,000 loan, her monthly payments have doubled and she faces foreclosure on a house she no longer owns.
For the rest of the story, see U.S. sub-prime crisis exposes mortgage scams.


Editor's Note:

Hopefully, an experienced, competent South Florida real estate attorney (someone who also knows his/her away around a courtroom and knows how to make legal arguments in front of a judge and jury) will come forward and help the victimized homeowner in this story. Such an attorney will be aware of the fact that just because she signed away her home, it doesn't mean she can't get it back.

Quoting from Guest v. Claycomb, 932 So. 2d 567 (Fla. App. Ct. 5th Dist. 2006), which, in turn, quotes from the Florida Supreme Court decision in Williams v. Grogan, 100 So.2d 407, 410 (Fla. 1958), a Florida appeals court stated:
  • "The rule is well established in Florida and elsewhere to the effect that when a person acquires title to property through the influence of a confidential relationship or otherwise obtains an advantage which he should not in good conscience be permitted to retain, a court of equity will prevent the abuse of the confidence and grant relief on the broad principle that one should not be permitted to be unjustly enriched under such circumstances at the expense of another." (quoting from Williams v. Grogan, 100 So.2d 407, 410 (Fla. 1958))
  • "The Court proceeded to explain that the court of equity will grant relief in such instances by imposing a constructive trust "which is created by operation of law" and "is not within the statute of frauds and may be proved by parol evidence." Id."
Further, if the financially strapped homeowner who signs away their home never relinquishes possession of the property, Florida law (and the law of many other states as well) is that actual possession of the property serves as notice to subsequent purchasers and encumbrancers of all rights and equities that the person in possession may have, in which case, the woman's ownership rights to her home, as adjudicated by a court, should be superior to the rights of any subsequent purchaser or (foreclosing) mortgagee. Having constructive notice of the woman's occupancy will eliminate any entitlement to claim the status of "bonafide purchaser".

The Florida Supreme Court, in Florida Land Holding Corp. v. McMillen, 135 Fla. 431, 186 So. 188 (Fla. 1938) stated the following:

"This Court had before it a similar set of facts in the case of Marion Mortgage Co. v. Grennan, 106 Fla. 913, 143 So. 761, when this Court said:
  • "Actual possession is constructive notice to all the world or anyone having knowledge of said possession, of whatever rights the occupants have in the land. Such possession when open, visible and exclusive, will put upon inquiry those acquiring any title to or a lien upon the land so occupied to ascertain the nature of the rights the occupants really have in the premises. Carolina Portland Cement Company v. Roper, 68 Fla. 299, 67 So. 115; Tate v. Pensacola G.L. & Dev. Company, 37 Fla. 439, 20 So. 543; McAdams v. Wachab, 45, Fla. 482, 33 So. 702. This court also specifically held in the case of Crozier, et al., v. Ange, 85 Fla. 120, 95 So. 426, that 'where at the time property is mortgaged it is actually occupied by others than the mortgagor, the mortgagee is thereby put upon notice to inquire as to the rights of the occupants.' 19 R.C.L. 421, Sections 201 and 202.
One final point on this case. If a Florida attorney takes on a case like this, and would like the possibility of obtaining a court ordered attorney fee award, he/she may have to assert claims of violations of Federal or Florida consumer protection laws (which entitles an attorney representing a prevailing plaintiff to a fee award to be imposed upon the accused fraudster), in addition to asserting claims of fraud, constructive trust, or any other equitable claims that may be applicable. See my prior post, Voiding A Title Transfer In A Foreclosure Rescue Transaction, which discussed a Nebraska case where the attorney for a dozen victims of a foreclosure rescue operator was granted a $378,000 fee award (imposed on the foreclosure rescue operator) for successfully asserting violations of the Nebraska Consumer Protection Act (in addition to fraud and conspiracy), and which involved the application of a contingency fee risk multiplier in calculating the fee award, which is allowed in Florida on state law claims. The case was Eicher v. Mid America Financial Investment Corp., 270 Neb. 370, 702 N.W.2d 792 (2005).

With regard to the application of contingency fee risk multipliers in Florida, see generally, Bell v. U.S.B. Acquisition Company, Inc., 734 So.2d 403 (Fla. 1999), which discusses Florida Patient's Compensation Fund v. Rowe, 472 So.2d 1145 (Fla. 1985), where the Florida Supreme Court discusses what the contingency fee risk multiplier is based on and how it is calculated and applied.

While these cases may be difficult to make (which is why you need a sharp attorney), those having or creating the impression that nothing can be done for the woman featured in the article are simply uninformed. equitable mortgage zebra

Dillon Continues Battle Against Alleged Predatory Mortgage Servicer

The ongoing saga of New Hampshire homeowners Michael Dillon and Jennifer Kresge and their tenacious battle against the alleged predatory mortgage servicing company formerly known as Fairbanks Capital Corporation, now known as Select Portfolio Servicing, Inc. ("Select"), and five other financial institutions is continuing in a New Hampshire court.

A complaint was filed by Dillon alleging, among other things, fraud, intentional misrepresentation, conspiracy, unfair collection practices, unfair and deceptive commercial practices, and violation of the Federal Truth In Lending Act, all in connection with alleged abusive mortgage servicing tactics used in the servicing of Dillon's home mortgage. Attorney Walter L. Maroney, of the New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Maine law firm Gallagher, Callahan & Gartrell, P.C., represents Dillon and Kresge.

Click here for more on the Dillon matter.

Go here , go here , and go here for posts on questionable mortgage servicing practices. questionable mortgage servicing practices tactics zebra

Editorial Note:

One allegation in the Dillon lawsuit that caught my eye (and should catch the eye of any attorney who represents and defends homeowners being sued in a foreclosure action) is "Avoidance of Note". Apparently, Mr. Dillon requested evidence that the defendants have actual possession of the promissory note that Dillon signed when he borrowed the money against his house. The Defendants, according to the complaint,
  • [h]ave been unable or unwilling to provide Mr. Dillon with evidence that they hold the original of the Note secured by the Mortgage.
The complaint then goes on to state that
  • "[i]n the absence of an ability to show that it possesses the original of the Note, neither [the mortgage lenders] ha[ve] a right to enforce the same; nor [do Select or the collection attorney] have any right or capacity to seek to enforce the same on their behalf."
It is my understanding that a mortgage lender generally cannot bring an action to foreclose on a mortgage loan without first either (a) having possession of the original promissory note, signed by the borrower, that they are trying to collect on; or if the note has been lost, destroyed or stolen, (b) bringing legal action to re-establish the lost, destroyed or stolen instrument, which may not be as easy as it sounds. Further, inasmuch as the promissory note typically used in a residential mortgage loan transaction is in such a form that it is legally treated as a "negotiable instrument", the maker of the note (the debtor) is, as a matter of law, entitled to the return of his original note upon full payment. Accordingly, a mortgage lender's failure to present the original note for payment in a foreclosure action is an issue that should always be raised (and pressed) by counsel for a homeowner.

For examples of cases where a mortgage lender was not entitled to foreclose on its mortgage because it didn't have possession of the original note, see State St. Bank & Trust Co. v. Lord, 851 So. 2d 790; (Fla. App. Ct. 4th Dist., 2003), and the cases cited therein.

Given all the turmoil in the subprime mortgage lending industry, with mortgage loans being bought and sold numerous times before ending up in a mortgage pool collateralizing mortgaged-backed securities - then going into default, the increase in foreclosures, and the number of subprime lenders going out of business (and, in the process, dumping their subprime loans at a discount to others - see Frmont Unloads $4 Billion in Whole Loans), it seems to me that there is a significant potential for a large number of foreclosing mortgage lenders who are going to have fits trying to find, much less produce, the actual original promissory note in a foreclosure action. However, unless the homeowner (and legal counsel) know enough to make the demand for the original note (and insist on the original note being produced), either before or after the foreclosure action commences, the situation will end up as nothing more than a lost opportunity for the homeowner to (at least attempt to) effectively defend against a foreclosure action.


To read a court order from a Pinellas County, Florida trial court ruling that a certain mortgage servicer "lacked standing" to bring foreclosure actions on behalf of the actual mortgage holders whose loans the mortgage servicer was servicing, (and, accordingly, dismissed twenty foreclosure actions that the mortgage servicer had brought on their behalf), see in re Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Inc. (MERS), available online courtesy of Mortgage Servicing Fraud .org, at

Sunday, March 25, 2007

California To End Sale Of Social Security Numbers

According to a report dated today, the California Progress Report states:

"Assemblyman Dave Jones last week revealed that a state-run web site had been selling access to the Social Security numbers of thousands of California consumers, a practice that began in 2004 and only ended this week when Jones raised objections. According to Jones this is
  • "potentially the longest running government Internet breach in California's history."
  • “For the past 3 years, the state has been in the data broker business [...]. It has sold Social Security numbers for a mere $6 each to any member of the public with an Internet connection and a credit card. This is a gold mine for identity thieves.”"
For the rest of the report, including a link to legislation proposed by Assemblyman Jones designed, for among other reasons, to stop this practice, see Legislation to End California's Sale of Social Security Numbers (State Sold Thousands Over Three Years on the Internet for $6 A Pop)

Tax Form Preparation Office Target Of Identity Theft

The story of two Utah identity theft victims is featured in a story published today in The Salt Lake Tribune. The victims allegedly had their personal identification information stolen by employees of one tax return preparation firm where the victims went to have their taxes done.

About two weeks ago, a federal grand jury indicted Heber Uriel Nevarez (currently on the lam) on two counts of bank fraud and two counts of aggravated identity theft, and Juan de Jesus Lopez (currently in custody) on four counts of bank fraud and four counts of aggravated identity theft. Both worked for the firm that prepared the victims' income tax forms.

One victim reports that
the identity theft experience has delayed his plans to get a new house for his wife and three grown kids. To read more, see Pair accused of using Latinos' tax preparation information to steal identities (Pair worked at Latino services business in 2006)
(revised 3-25-07 - 11:30 p.m.)

More On Alleged Mortgage Fraudster Matthew Cox

Accused mortgage fraud operator Matthew Bevan Cox (known in Nashville, Tennessee as Joe Carter) is featured in a story today in the Dickson Herald, published at The story highlights some of his real estate activities in Nashville prior to his apprehension. He currently is in federal custody in Atlanta.

To read more, see Intown developer tied to fraud prosecution (Real estate investor pitched revival of Napier area) (link no longer available).

More On Manufactured Home Dealer Glenn Vaught

The stories of several alleged fraud victims of accused South Carolina manufactured home dealer Glenn Vaught are featured in a story published by The Sun News, at Vaught, owner of the now-closed, Conway, South Carolina manufacured home dealer G&E Home Center has been named in two lawsuits by mortgage lenders containing allegations that, in ten deals, he took over $1.5 million in loan proceeds for non-existent homes.

To read more, see Buyers lose more than cash (Mortgage scheme steals dream, home, credit) (no longer available online).

For a prior article in The Sun News on Glenn Vaught, see
Conway home seller accused of loan fraud (Horry's manufactured house problems continue to mount) (no longer available online).

Financial Counselors Overwhelmed With Calls From Homeowners Facing Foreclosure

Financial counselors at the Home Ownership Center of Greater Cincinnati are reportedly swamped with phone calls from consumers facing foreclosures, according to a recent Reuters article reported at In addition, demand for counseling appointments at the Cincinnati offices of Consumer Credit Counseling Service has risen 87 percent from a year earlier. For more, see Mortgage crisis overwhelming credit counselors.

FBI, Mortgage Bankers Association Working Together To Combat Mortgage Fraud

The FBI, with the cooperation of the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA), has issued to MBA members an advisory recently covering a number of points designed to combat mortgage fraud. The details of the advisory are aimed at both lenders and consumers who are contemplating engaging in fraudulent real estate transactions and provides consumers suggestions to avoid getting lured into a scam. To read more, see How Not To Become A Mortgage Fraud Statistic, reported by Realty Times.