Well over a year ago, I along with others were writing profusely about mortgage fraud and the severe lack of business ethics that seemed rampant in the industry. It almost seemed like “money for nothing” and the house was free. Now, as we approach the time for our general election, things could not be worse. There is no doubt that this will be a disaster for the GOP when the election results come in.
October 23, 2008, an indictment was handed down in Brooklyn federal court charging OSMOND DECOTEAU with wire fraud for masterminding a scheme to defraud mortgage lenders and banks of more than $20 million in connection with the sale of several properties located in Brooklyn and Florida.
According to the indictment: DECOTEAU recruited straw purchasers for properties located in Brooklyn and Florida, and ensured that their mortgage applications would be approved by lenders by fraudulently misrepresenting the purchasers’ financial condition. Subsequently, at the closings on these properties, DECOTEAU presented phony payoff letters which indicated that three companies he controlled were the loan servicers for the properties. The closing attorneys then issued payoff checks to the DECOTEAU-controlled entities, instead of the actual loan servicers for the holders of the pre-existing mortgages. To conceal the fraud, DECOTEAU caused monthly payments to be made on the underlying mortgages so that those mortgages would not be declared delinquent. As a result of the defendant’s scheme, between April 2005 and January 2007, multiple fraudulent closings occurred resulting in a fraud exceeding $20 million, and each of the properties is now encumbered by two first-lien mortgages.
Mortgage Fraud has been rampant. It will take years for the majority of the crimes to be uncovered. No doubt Decoteau, if found guilty, is just one of thousands who will prosecuted for taking advantage of a system without substantial controls.
“In May of this year we announced the formation of a task force comprised of federal, state, and local law-enforcement agents and investigators to address the burgeoning problem of mortgage fraud,” stated United States Attorney Campbell. “This prosecution is one example of the results of that cooperative initiative, which includes the investigation and prosecution of mortgage fraud that has harmed investors, lenders, and homeowners across the country.” FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Mershon stated, “Combating mortgage fraud is a priority because mortgage lending and the housing market have a significant overall effect on the nation’s economy. The FBI is committed to investigating and prosecuting criminals who exploit vulnerabilities and devise new methods or schemes to defraud.”
As a business ethics and white collar crime speaker, I understand first hand the effects of the choices we make. I served time in federal prison for poor choices I made 25 years ago and the consequences still follow to this day. If it takes three components to create a fraud: (1) need; (2) opportunity and (3) rationalization…then Decoteau had plenty of opportunity considering the lax state of oversight when it came to mortgages in the past five to eight years.
If you know Decoteau…perhaps you’ll comment on his motivation.
Your comments are welcome…