When it comes to potential mortgage fraud, Hillsborough County - alas - is tops
Maybe it's time for less talk and more action against high rates of mortgage fraud in the Tampa Bay area? (AP photo.)
Wake up and good morning. Florida and Tampa Bay are hardly strangers to mortgage fraud. But the latest federal report on mortgage fraud suggests Hillsborough County leads the way nationwide in potential mortgage fraud, a disturbing No. 1 status given the hype and promise from mortgage fraud "task forces" that claim to be cracking down locally.
The data, out this week from the U.S. Treasury's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, says Hillsborough County was tops on a per capita basis (but 8th in total volume) among larger counties in the United States for mortgage loan fraud (MLF) suspicious activity reports (SARs) in the fourth quarter of 2011. That's the latest data available from the feds.
SARs are funny things. Suspicious activity reports do not mean a crime was actually committed but that banks and lenders filed SAR reports indicating a suspicion of fraud of someone seeking a mortgage. Ranked per capita, Hillsborough County ranked No. 1 for the fourth quarter of 2011 and 8th for all of 2011.
Tampa Bay ranked among the top 10 metro areas for SAR reports in 2011. Among states, Florida ranked third -- behind No. 1 California and Hawaii but ahead of Nevada and the District of Columbia -- in 2011.
So, let's see. We're near the top in mortgage fraud. We're near the top in tax refund false identity scams (read more here). We're either contending with incompetent law enforcers and regulators or, perhaps, we are just grossly outnumbered by the bad guys. Which is it? And how long do we want to be near the tops of such lists?
-- Robert Trigaux, Business Columnist, Tampa Bay Times