NYC Mortgage Fraud Attorney Unveils Occupancy Fraud
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Occupancy fraud is a type of mortgage fraud that can result in serious criminal penalties. Many people who participate in an occupancy fraud scheme are not aware of the severity of this crime, or do not even realize that they are actually breaking the law. If you are accused of participating in mortgage occupancy fraud, you need to contact an attorney right away who understands how to handle complex financial fraud cases.
At Bukh Law Firm, PLLC, our New York City mortgage fraud lawyers have represented individuals, realtors, investors, companies, mortgage brokers, and lending institutions in federal and state mortgage fraud cases. We understand the ins-and-outs of how and why prosecutors try to secure convictions in mortgage occupancy fraud cases.
We will put our legal knowledge, skills, and experience to work to help you try to avoid being charged, get the case dismissed, get a not guilty verdict or negotiate a plea agreement.
What is Mortgage Occupancy Fraud
When you apply for a mortgage, you must indicate whether you intend to live in the house as a primary home or a secondary home, or whether you intend for the property to be an investment property. You must attest to the truth of the statements made in your mortgage application.
There are many different reasons why someone may claim to plan to live in a home, when really he does not intend to.
- Some loans with favorable terms, such as FHA and VA loans, are restricted to borrowers who plan to use the home as their primary residence.
- Some homes are first available to sale for people who plan to use the home as a primary residence, rather than as an investment property.
- Mortgage loans for a primary resident may have more favorable terms or a lower interest rate than loans for an investment property.
- A buyer may act as a “straw buyer” for someone else. A straw buyer claims an intent to pay the mortgage and live in the home, but he is actually buying the home for another individual who could not qualify for the loan on his own. The straw buyer usually receives a financial incentive for taking the loan in his name and claiming the intent to live in the house. A straw buyer could be a friend or a family member, or could be a stranger that a realtor or mortgage broker finds to help a sale go through that otherwise wouldn’t.
Regardless of the reasons for mortgage occupancy fraud, it involves making false or misleading statements in order to obtain money from a financial institution. This fits within the definition of bank fraud found in 18 U.S. Code Section 1344.
18 U.S. Code Section 344 defines bank fraud to include knowing participation in a scheme to “obtain any of the moneys, funds, credits, assets, securities, or other property owned by, or under the custody or control of, a financial institution, by means of false or fraudulent pretenses, representations, or promises.”
The courts have broadly interpreted the bank fraud statute. Even if your intent was not to defraud a bank, you can be charged with this offense if it was a likely outcome of the scheme that a lending institution would part with assets. You can be charged for any attempt to defraud a financial institution, even if the attempt was not successful. Under 18 U.S. Code Section 1349, you can also be charged with an underlying bank fraud offense (or other fraud crime) if you are part of a broader conspiracy to obtain money from a financial institution, even if you personally play only a minor role in the fraud scheme.
Occupancy Fraud Penalties
Bank fraud is not a minor crime. If you are charged with federal bank fraud, the maximum penalty is 30 years imprisonment and $1 million.
If you face federal charges for owner occupancy fraud, you could also be charged with mail and/or wire fraud if you sent any false documents via mail or via wire communication. These offenses also carry a possible penalty of 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine when the fraud is against a financial institution. It is not uncommon for a federal indictment to be handed down on multiple charges, which means that you could face a very lengthy prison sentence if convicted.
New York State has also criminalized residential mortgage fraud in Article 187. This offense is This offense is a felony as soon as $1,000 or more in money is involved in the fraud.
How a Mortgage Occupancy Fraud Lawyer Can Help
Mortgage occupancy fraud is not an offense to take lightly because of the serious penalties. Unfortunately, the law does not care whether you intended to commit a major crime. Even if you did not know you could face serious charges for misstatements on a mortgage application, you could still be imprisoned for decades if a prosecutor proves that you intended to obtain a loan under false pretenses.
At the Law Offices of Bukh Law Firm, PLLC, our New York City criminal defense lawyers are dedicated to providing aggressive, skillful legal representation to clients accused of mortgage occupancy fraud. To learn more about how we can help, give us a call today.