Federal agents go undercover to root out mortgage fraud

Fourteen people have been charged in alleged mortgage fraud schemes in Chicago's Englewood neighborhood.

August 3, 2011

By Ashley Gross

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Fourteen people have been charged in mortgage fraud schemes in Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood after an undercover federal investigation brought the cases to light.

The FBI, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the IRS all worked together on the undercover operation. Federal agents infiltrated the alleged schemes by posing as straw buyers. Once they entered that world, they allegedly found appraisers willing to jack up appraisals in exchange for higher fees and others willing to create fake employment records as part of the effort to dupe banks into making mortgages.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Tyler Murray says mortgage fraud has consequences for an entire neighborhood.

"Mortgage fraud deprives an area of a property tax base," Murray said. "These homes become vacant and are used as drug stash houses and the like. It’s part of a larger problem."

Murray says mortgage fraud did not go away when the housing bubble burst. Instead, he says people have figured out new ways to illegally profit off of real estate