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Mortgage Fraud Defense Counsel

Four Florida residents, along with two co-conspirators based in Brazil, have been indicted for fraud following their alleged involvement with an international mortgage fraud scheme. The scheme involved residential properties in Miami-Dade and Palm Beach Counties, for which the defendants are accused of procuring mortgages fraudulently. The group applied for up to $9 million in mortgage loans from Chevy Chase Bank, JPMorgan Chase Bank and Washington Mutual Bank, over several years from 2004 through 2007. Some of the conspirators filled out false information on loan documents, claiming to be employed by fictitious companies, and offered false documentation to back it up. Other conspirators held the fictitious companies and corroborated the claims of their partners in crime when lenders called to verify the applications. Another conspirator, who worked at Wachovia Bank, provided fraudulent written verifications of deposits at the bank, to back up the false claims about accounts that the applicants listed on their mortgage loan paperwork.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida, which is prosecuting the case, announced last week that it would seek forfeiture of property if the defendants are found guilty.

Forfeiture Under Federal Law

Forfeiture can take the form of seizing contraband material, proceeds from criminal activity ( as in the case of the alleged mortgage fraudsters), and tool or instruments used in the commission of a crime. Forfeiture can be ordered in criminal or civil proceedings. Most forfeiture these days takes place in the civil arena, because of the relative ease of seizing property in the non-criminal context. Civil cases treat the property itself as being in violation of a relevant law, while criminal cases view the person in control of the property as being the violator of the law. Therefore, forfeiture in a criminal case requires a conviction, while forfeiture in a civil case does not even require an official criminal charge against the property owner, much less a conviction on the charge. For this reason, civil forfeiture is attractive to law enforcement, and brings up a special set of concerns for advocates who are worried about the abrogation of Constitutional protections, especially the right not to be deprived of property without due process of the law.

The use of forfeiture by the federal government, and by state and local governments, has become commonplace, especially in the context of the “war on drugs” and other large-scale efforts to curb crime. However, the authority to seize property that is allegedly linked to criminal activity is not all-encompassing, and criminal defense professionals have advocated to ensure that forfeiture is constrained appropriately, as required by the Constitution and federal laws. The expanding use of forfeiture has not yet been hemmed in effectively by the Supreme Court, which plays the central role in ensuring that laws and policies do not infringe upon Constitutionally-granted rights.

If you are facing criminal charges, and the government is trying to seize your property, you need an attorney who will fight for your Constitutional rights to due process. In addition to seeking forfeiture, criminal prosecutors won’t hesitate to push for huge fines and long prison sentences for those accused of fraud and other white collar crimes. Attorney Jeffrey S. Weiner and his team will work with you to mount a strong defense against allegations of fraud. Contact our Miami office today for a consultation.

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