Fraud Cases Rise in Santa Clara County – As Funding Goes Down

The Good GuysAccording to the San Jose Mercury News, the Santa Clara County DA’s office opened 125 new complaints into mortgage scams and fraud last year – four times as many as in 2006.  This surge in complaints comes right at a time when funding is the most scarce for handling these cases.  Also according to the Mercury News, one prosecutor has cleverly named 2007 ”the year of lending dangerously”.

Michael Fitzsimmons and James B Sibely - Deputy DAs 

Most real estate fraud cases are highly complex and difficult to prosecute, as the perpetrators are very shrewd white collar criminals.  They can range from anything from identity fraud to appraisal misrepresentation to illegal and misleading “foreclosure rescue scams”. 

One of the good guys is Deputy District Attorney Michael Fitzsimmons; one of only two full time lawyers assigned to real estate fraud.  Funding for the fight against real estate fraud currently comes from a  $2 portion of a county real estate document recording fee. Fitzsimmons has drafted legistlature that would double this amount to $4.  Even this may not be enough to allow adequate funding for handling the increased case load as fewer homes are being sold – hence fewer documents are being recorded. 

In an attempt to educate homeowners in foreclosure about mortgage fraud, the DA’s office has drafted this letter, which is being sent when a NOD (notice-of-default) is filed.  Hopefully, it will help make the public more aware that not everyone who offers to help is truly a friend, and sometimes, the mess they are in has an insidious root cause. 

I also hope that the state and local governments will wake up to the need for increased funding for real estate fraud from other sources – as the continuation of our current crisis will end up depleting much needed tax revenues for ALL government departments unless quick and decisive action is taken.  Stopping the bottom feeders from prospering on the backs of those less fortunate is one step in the right direction!

Photo Source = The San Jose Mercury News