Tag Archives: Fraud/Scams

Short Sale Supervisor Talks to a Real Estate Agent – Recorded Conversation

The Short Sales and Bank Fraud story continues to gain traction. After CNBC aired the story we brought them, dozens of other media outlets, bloggers and authorities have contacted me to discuss this topic.

Here is the story of how this fraud initially came to our attention, along with the evidence to back it up.

Last year, I was contacted by an experienced real estate agent in our network who negotiates many short sales. She had recorded a conversation between her and a supervisor in the loss-mitigation department at a major national lender, who she felt was trying to get her to do something illegal.

Here is the audio of that recording, along with the transcript. The names have been removed at the request of the agent to prevent backlash from the bank.

Listen: Recorded Conversation with Bank Supervisor

AGENT: OK, so the only way to settle with *LENDER* then is to get money from somebody else and pay it prior to – that’s what *LENDER-EMPLOYEE* suggested – pay it prior to close of escrow, outside of…. <unintelligible> Pardon me?

LENDER: That is something you can do.

AGENT: Pay it outside of escrow, off the HUD, prior to close.

LENDER: Right, that’s something you could do.

AGENT: And is that something you guys do regularly or you see people doing?

LENDER: Yes, that happens – we have people that send us money outside if they need approval letters <unintelligible> from the first, and once we receive the additional funds, the approval letter can be sent for what the first actually offered – so it happens.

AGENT: OK and what about the fact that the first says that, no more than you know, a certain percent is to go to the second?

LENDER: OK, if the first… Here’s the thing, if you’re asking what this is about – the first is saying “well here’s what I’m going to allow” and the first is saying “this is what we’re willing to pay out.”  If there’s a contribution, if you don’t want to be able to come up with the additional that we’re asking for – the first has already gave their approval on what they’re doing – what someone just comes up with has nothing to do with the first.

AGENT: Even if on this letter it says that “the second is not to receive any more than a certain amount”?

LENDER: The first can not dictate what we receive. The first is saying what they are only going to allow. That’s the amount that they’re allowing to us. If someone out there – the buyer – or a family member puts more money and says here’s what I want to give for you because here’s the additionally requested funds – that has nothing to do with the first.
You’re not asking the first to come out of their pocket any extra than what they are willing to give. So that that’s not any information that might have to be required on the HUD.
Hold on one second please.  <long pause>

LENDER: So I need to have the information – you’ve had the opportunity to go over this with *LENDER-EMPLOYEE* – did he explain all this to you on how this takes place?

AGENT: Well he does but I’m having a tough time, ******, I’m licensed and everybody else…

LENDER: It’s not illegal; it’s not a hard thing, this thing that has happened. The information that you’ve actually received from us – we’re actually trying to help you get this deal closed. If you choose to go back and tell the first what’s going on – you’re going to kill the deal.
So what actually happens prior to closing has nothing to do with the first. What happens at closing – that is information you can provide to them. If you are able to come up with additional funds not to get this deal closed prior to closing, then that’s fine – that’s irrelevant for the first. If you go ahead and you want to let the first know “well, here’s all the information that I have – here’s what’s going on” you will be the one to actually kill this deal. I’m trying to actually give you a way to go about getting this resolved. If you take our suggestion – you take the information that *LENDER-EMPLOYEE* has given you – you can have this done.
If not, then you know, those guys are going to foreclose on it and it’s a done deal. But it’s not like we’re holding up this process.

AGENT: Well, what about the form that the buyer’s lender puts out that there are – that everybody has to sign that says there are no side deals?  <long pause>
I mean that… How do I get around that?

LENDER: What you need to take care of actually is not going to be a problem. What they submit to us – there is $****** they are giving us – the only thing you have to worry about – I mean it sounds like you’re scared that you’re going to be fined for something because you are doing something you are not supposed to. This is what we do all day.

AGENT: Well yes, I don’t want to lose my license, go to jail, I mean, I have to sign…

LENDER: You’re not going to lose your license – we have plenty of realtors who do this, who actually understand how this whole process goes – and they realize that OK, if I want to get this done, this will take place. Nobody’s losing their license and nobody’s going to jail, nobody’s receiving a fine…
So and here’s the thing too, I’ll be really honest with you, if you are uncomfortable about working it, you can probably assign it over to someone else, where they would be able to do this – if it makes you feel that uncomfortable – you should probably just assign it over to someone else. Someone who’s actually been able you know – who’s done this before, who’s more familiar with it.
Not to be disrespectful or rude to you or anything like that, but we deal with this every day all the time, this is not something out of the norm. But if you feel like you are doing something that’s against your morals, please assign it to someone else who’s been able to do deals like this so they can get it done, and you can have a happy buyer and a happy seller.

AGENT: Well, how do I get, I mean what’s the logic or if I could understand – when I’m signing a paper put out by FHA that says there are no side deals – this is a side deal.

LENDER: This is a contribution. <long pause> You guys are able to come up with money in order to get this deal closed.

AGENT: OK

LENDER: OK. So the offer that we have it still stands – you can call *LENDER-EMPLOYEE* back and let him know if, what you’re going to do, and if you guys foreclose, we understand. If you’re not comfortable with this – go ahead and assign it over to someone else.

AGENT: <sigh> OK, well thank you for your time.

LENDER: No Problem

Short Sale Story Continues

The response to the story we brought CNBC on fraud in short sales has been amazing!

The whole goal of getting this story out there was to change the practice and prevent it from happening in the future.  It’s obvious from the response that this is a major issue, hopefully the authorities will take notice and investigate this practice.

Here is Diana Olick’s follow-up:

CNBC – Short Sale Fraud Follow Up

Our investigation into allegations of short sale fraud by some of the nation’s major lenders certainly struck a nerve in the lending community, but it also served to show me just how uneducated many in that same community still are, even today.

It’s clear from the dozens and dozens of comments on the blog page that many mortgage professionals still aren’t sure how exactly short sales work, and what is and is not legal.

Due to some technical difficulties on air Friday, I was unable to show a couple of MLS listings that were sent to me that clearly, on the public listing, demanded cash to the second lien holder outside of settlement as part of the transaction. Just so you know, that’s illegal. Yes, a second lien holder can demand payment on the loan, but it has to be documented as part of the sale.

And then just a few minutes after the story aired Friday, I received another email from my whistle-blower, Kayte Gentry:

Diana – we thought it funny that this came in about 10 minutes after the 2nd airing of the story…the email is to my Lead Negotiator.

“Linda,

The agent contribution of $500.00 can’t show on the HUD. Have that removed and resend just the HUD.

If it shows on the HUD the investor thinks they are getting it and not the 2nd lien holder.”

The author of the email reportedly works at Citi, as her email address shows. I have to believe/hope that she doesn’t even know what she’s demanding is illegal, otherwise I can’t imagine she would put it in an email. This is clearly fraud.

I also went on another real estate Web site that specializes in Realtor blogs, and there was a huge string/conversation of real estate agents explaining to each other how to keep second lien payments in short sales off the HUD settlement statements. Right there, in black and white, on the web.

I hope someone in regulation land is listening!

Foreclosure Fraud – Texas

Beware of how you present offers to home owners.  This situation is obviously fraudulent, but there are many persons who do offer foreclosure assistance that are legitimate.

From INMAN NEWS:

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has won a temporary restraining order and asset freeze to stop a Houston woman from unlawfully exploiting distressed homeowners, some of them elderly, who now face foreclosure and eviction.

The action alleges that Bobbie Heckard fraudulently took possession of the home of an 85-year-old Houston man under the guise of helping the homeowner prevent foreclosure. The man allegedly was led to believe he was only allowing Heckard to consult with his mortgage company, but the transaction allowed her to take ownership of his home.

“This is an alarming trend we are beginning to see in Texas, and I caution every homeowner to be wary of solicitations for foreclosure relief,” said Attorney General Abbott.

The order also cites Heckard’s associate, Christopher Henderson, to whom she allegedly transferred ownership of the property after the Attorney General’s office contacted her about its investigation. Henderson promptly established a $67,000 mortgage on the property fraudulently transferred to him from Heckard.

Heckard’s scheme allegedly is designed to induce homeowners into transactions they would never consider if they knew the consequences. Heckard obtains a list of homes facing foreclosure, then tries to convince the homeowners that she offers foreclosure rescue services and will correspond with mortgage companies to resolve the problems.

She then persuades homeowners to sign forms allegedly authorizing her to contact the mortgage companies on their behalf. But the forms the homeowners sign are deeds transferring ownership in the homes to Heckard. Once Heckard obtains title to the property, she allegedly sells it, pockets the equity and threatens to evict the original homeowner.

The Attorney General’s suit, filed Tuesday, asks the court to force the defendants to relinquish all monetary gains derived from these transactions, return this money to all victims and restore their property to them. The suit also seeks a civil penalty of $250,000 if the court finds that the practices were calculated to exploit a person over age 65, plus $20,000 per violation of the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act.

The judge will consider the Attorney General’s request for temporary injunction against the defendants in a hearing set for Sept. 12 in District Court.

Consumers may report what they believe to be fraudulent foreclosure relief operations by contacting the Office of the Attorney General at (800) 252-8011, or by visiting the agency’s Web site at www.oag.state.tx.us.

Real Estate Fraud / Scams

These articles remind me of three things.

1. Make sure you regularly consult your attorney to ensure you are following the law – things change often and you never know when you might inadvertently be doing something illegal. (see HB1823 post).

2. Always double check everything when buying property. There have been a number of times when we were ready to purchase a property and “dug a little deeper” to find inflated comps (prices listed in MLS were not the true selling price), phony appraisals, and inspections that didn’t hold up.  Remember – feel free to trust the seller, but always, always double check what they tell you!

3. DO NOT think that you can commit fraud and get away with it.  “The truth will always find you out”.  No one is above the law and the penalties can be stiff.  I’m sure Bernie Ebbers never thought he’d spend a day in jail.  Given the choice I’m sure he would take his lumps from the street rather then spend time behind bars.

Articles:
Former Chicago Title CEO Pleaded Guilty
NJ Man Charged With Conspiracy in $30M Real Estate Fraud Case
Phony Real Estate Investor Behind Bars
Decatur Man Jailed in Real Estate Fraud Case
Hearing Held in Real Estate Fraud Case