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Feds hold Mortgage Fraud Summit in Fresno

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A federal panel heard from local real estate agents, attorneys, and members of the public, who feel they've been burned by unscrupulous lenders.

Gene Johnson of Fresno complained about his three year old effort to find out who owns his mortgage. "We put $100,000 down on the home and we made payments for a year. I want to know if the money I paid went to the real person who loaned us the money."

Johnson says after his lender went bankrupt, his mortgage payments were not accepted by a series of supposedly new lenders who then tried to foreclose on his home in a gated community in North Clovis. "The banks have created this Ponzi scheme and now they are stealing people's homes right out from under them."

The U.S. Attorney's office is looking into Johnsons claim. U.S. Attorney Ben Wagner says mortgage fraud is rampant. "The thing about mortgage fraud is it can involve people on all sides of the transaction."

Wagner says there are cases where mortgage brokers and lenders along with real estate agents have inflated prices to get bigger commissions. He says in some cases buyers and sellers have lied to take equity out of properties, homebuilders have used straw buyers to move their projects. Assistant U.S. Attorney General Tony West says the most common fraud right now involves loan modifications.

"That is the typical loan modification scam people who are asked to pay an upfront fee and then never hear from them again and before they know it their home his foreclosed." West said.

The U.S. Attorney's office and the FBI say investigations are underway locally, and prosecutions are expected to follow.

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Tags:
fresno, fresno county, south valley, north valley, local, gene haagenson
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