White-Collar Crime – Real Estate Fraud
Real estate fraud is a hefty offense that can bring the weight of the law down on the accused. Because it is a federal crime, there are burdensome penalties that come along with a conviction.
If you find yourself in the situation of being accused of real estate fraud, it’s critical to know the details of the crime and what you can do to defend yourself.
What is Real Estate Fraud?
According to the Office of the Inspector General, fraud is the “wrongful or criminal deception intended to result in financial or personal gain. Fraud includes a false representation of fact, making false statements, or by concealment of information.”
Real estate fraud occurs when fraud happens in connection with the purchase, sale, rental, or financing of real estate property. There are multiple stages throughout the process of a real estate transaction, and fraud can occur at any one of them.
Whether perpetrated by the seller or the buyer, real estate fraud can take many forms. It could be committed by anyone, from real estate brokers looking to make a quick profit to drug dealers involved in money laundering. Some common examples include:
- Foreclosure fraud: when the perpetrators find homeowners in foreclosure or at risk of foreclosure and mislead them to believe they can save their home if they transfer the deed of ownership to an investor. It can also occur if someone promises to stop a foreclosure for a fee but instead pockets the money without taking action.
- Straw buyer schemes: a straw buyer buys something on someone else’s behalf. It becomes illegal when it is done for someone who is otherwise ineligible to purchase the property.
- Fraudulent qualifications: this occurs when real estate agents help buyers qualify even when they typically would not, usually by making up an employment or credit history.
- Illegal property flipping: when a scammer buys a property to resell at an artificially inflated price without making any real or valuable improvements. Such procedures are generally legal but become fraudulent when false statements are made to the lender.
- Predatory lending: a practice that imposes unfair or abusive terms on the borrower, such as high-interest rates or unfair penalty fees.
The term white-collar covers a wide range of crimes, including different types of fraud. White-collar crimes are usually perpetrated by businesses or government officials, and they are usually characterized by:
- Trust violation
They are not dependent on the threat of force or physical violence, and they are often financially motivated.
Real estate fraud is a serious white-collar crime as it usually involves financial institutions in one way or another. Since it deals with ill-gotten gains that are either monetary or property-related, the federal government takes real estate fraud very seriously.
Real Estate Fraud – Federal Laws
Depending on the severity of the fraud committed, those involved can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony depending on the state. Federal laws come into play in particular circumstances, usually when real estate fraud leads to bank fraud or wire fraud.
Conviction of real estate fraud at the federal level can lead to an extensive prison sentence in a federal penitentiary as well as strenuous fines. For example, a false statement on a loan or credit application is punishable by up to 30 years in prison and fines of up to $1 million.
The IRS plays a large role in fighting real estate fraud through tax fraud investigations and money laundering charges.
How Can a Lawyer Help
If you are accused of real estate fraud, it is essential that you find an experienced lawyer to help you navigate the complexities of a federal lawsuit. A skilled real estate fraud attorney can help lessen the charges brought against you or get the case thrown out in the right circumstances.
Good Faith Defense
If you acted in good faith without intending to commit a crime, or you were unintentionally involved in the fraudulent scheme, a skilled attorney should be able to provide the necessary evidence to show in court.
Evidence must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. If there is insufficient evidence against you, an experienced attorney should be able to make that apparent.
Defending Against Real Estate Fraud Charges
Real estate fraud is a serious crime that the federal government treats with the utmost severity. If you are charged with real estate fraud, it is critical that you get in touch with the experienced attorneys at Zoukis Consulting Group.
Building a strong defense is the best way to ensure that your case is handled fairly and accurately. Let’s begin building together. Contact us today.
Published Feb 16, 2022 by Christopher Zoukis, JD, MBA | Last Updated by Christopher Zoukis, JD, MBA on Feb 16, 2022 at 11:44 am