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.
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
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
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
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