April 3, 2009
Florida has one of the top foreclosure rates in the country, and mortgage fraud is one of the issues at the heart of the matter. In order to revive Florida's and the country's economy, a multi-agency approach to combating mortgage fraud is necessary. It is a serious area of concern for all of us, but particularly for agencies that oversee the real estate industry professionals and are responsible for protecting the public.
I was so pleased to receive Attorney General Bill McCollum's letter this week, which sought our help—and the help of other agencies—in creating a statewide mortgage fraud network. He recognized the need for a more coordinated effort to combat mortgage fraud and reached out to all involved.
This past Wednesday, I represented the department at a summit called by the Attorney General, which included the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the Office of Financial Regulation's Division of Insurance Fraud, the Florida Chiefs of Police Association, the Florida Sheriffs Association, the Florida Prosecuting Attorneys Association, and the Florida Bar.
The Attorney General felt that Florida was "in a state of emergency" as his office has received more than 5,000 complaints about mortgage fraud, credit repair and debt relief services. Everyone at the table acknowledged the seriousness of this problem and committed to this organized effort to share information in a more consistent and uniform manner.
Many of the agencies in attendance already work together in an informal manner when investigating mortgage fraud. Our role at DBPR is to investigate cases that involve alleged violations by license real estate sales associates, brokers or appraisers. The criminal cases are referred to the local or state law enforcement organizations. The Division of Real Estate will pursue the administrative charges, and the department will prosecute them before the Florida Real Estate Commission.
As a result of this meeting, members formed a work group that would focus on three issues with an emphasis on how to collaboratively approach each issue. The issues are:
The overall goal of this committee is to create a system where mortgage fraud complaints are quickly investigated by the proper authorities, and each agency works with other agencies as a team.
I fully support the Attorney General's effort to combat mortgage fraud, and I can tell you that at DBPR, we have and will continue to tackle this serious issue head-on.
Charles W. Drago
UPCOMING BOARD MEETINGS