Mortgage Fraud Schemes Target Potential Business Owners - WBAY

Target 2 Consumer Alert

Mortgage Fraud Schemes Target Potential Business Owners

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Starting a new business can be as exciting as it is stressful -- especially if it means spending a large chunk of your savings.

That's why the FBI is warning potential business owners about mortgage fraud--a growing crime.

A couple in pursuit of their dream lost their life savings when they got mixed up with the wrong people.

John Sanders and his wife, Gloria, a caterer by trade, dreamed of converting an old church into a party venue.

Catering big events would be the couple's next big adventure together.

First, the Sanders needed a mortgage to buy the $1.6 million property.  They asked their real estate agent for help finding a mortgage broker.

"Unfortunately, we were put in touch with someone who turned out to be a criminal," said John Sanders.

The mortgage broker, a woman named Ann Ursiny, promised to help the Sanders get the financing they needed.

"There were a lot of things done to reinforce the legitimacy of the firm and we fell for it," said Sanders.

Ursiny strung the Sanders along with phony fees and permits that cost more and more money until they ran through their savings.

"We saw this money was funneled directly to bank accounts to this individual in Florida - Ann Ursiny - and she was spending this money daily," said Andrew Jones, U.S. Postal Inspector.

Over a 4-year period, the Sanders lost one million dollars, making their dream impossible to realize.

"They are now left with absolutely nothing," said Jones. "Ms. Ursiny took everything from their 401K, their retirement funds, savings, checking. Now they are left destitute trying to find work at age 80."

Ursiny eventually confessed. She's in prison and was ordered to pay restitution, but the couple is not optimistic they'll get their money back.

Investigators offer this advice:

  • Get referrals for real estate and mortgage brokers.
  • Check out their license. Wisconsin has a website free to the public, to look up state licensed mortgage companies and individuals.

The FBI website on mortgage fraud (http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/investigate/white_collar/mortgage-fraud/mortgage_fraud) suggests you get referrals for real estate and mortgage professionals when you want to buy or sell a home.

  • Check out their licenses with state, county, or city regulatory agencies.
  • Do your own research into what other homes in the neighborhood have sold for.
  • Look into recent tax assessments of neighborhood homes.
  • Beware of "no money down" loans. These are a gimmick used to entice people to buy a home they really can't afford.
  • Don't let anyone (i.e., a realtor, mortgage broker) talk you into making a false statement on your loan application, like overstating your income or lying about where your down payment is coming from.
  • Never sign a blank document or a document containing blank lines. Be sure to read and review all loan documents signed at closing. If you don't understand what you're signing, get an attorney who can review the documents for you.

State of Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions has a searchable website (http://www.wdfi.org/fi/mortbank/). It allows the public to view information concerning state-licensed mortgage companies, branch offices, and individuals currently licensed through NMLS (Nationwide Mortgage Licensing System.)

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