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FLORIDA AGAIN LEADS NATION IN MORTGAGE FRAUD

Florida dominates as the mortgage fraud capital of the country. Again. Last year, Florida had more than three times the expected number of reported mortgage fraud and misrepresentations based on the number of mortgages that originated here, according to a report released Monday by the LexisNexis Mortgage Asset Research Institute. It's been No. 1 since at least 2006, based on data from the institute. New York remained in second place, followed by California. Reports of fraud and material misrepresentation submitted to the Mortgage Asset Research Institute fell 41 percent from 2009 to 2010, the first drop in several years. But the report said the drop does not necessarily mean occurrences of mortgage fraud are down. To the contrary, the institute said it believes mortgage fraud cases are still rising, according to several industry sources. It attributed the drop, in part, to fewer mortgage loans being made and fewer resources available to investigate and report incidents of fraud.

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Movie rental debt settlement reached

Attorneys general from every state have reached a settlement with creditors overseeing the dismantling of the defunct Hollywood Video and Movie Gallery chains to restrain their hired debt collectors. Consumer affairs agency switchboards lit up with complaints after National Credit Solutions and Credit Control Services began adding late fees and interest penalties on 3.3 million of the video chains' former customers who owe a claimed $244 million. The ruling affected 81,000 customers in Florida who were taken off the hook for $6 million in charges. Many claimed they had long ago settled with stores and were provided no proof they owed the money. In the agreement, the agencies agreed to rescind negative credit reports already dispatched and stop trying to collect added fees. In cases where the agencies are trying to collect both late fees and principal charges for unreturned products, they will seek only whichever amount is less.

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Odyssey reports $5.2 million loss

Odyssey Marine Exploration Inc., a deep-sea treasure hunting venture based in Tampa, on Monday reported a quarterly loss as it continues trying to strike it rich from a shipwreck. The company's loss widened to $5.2 million, or 9 cents a share, up from $3.1 million, or 5 cents a share, a year ago. Revenue slumped to $2.1 million from $2.9 million, and mostly came from charter expeditions rather than artifact sales. Odyssey, which has raised money from several stock offerings over the years, reported holding $6.2 million in cash as of March 31. The company also reported total compensation for Greg Stemm, chief executive officer, was $748,000 in 2010, down from $1.1 million in 2009.

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Ex-TIA deputy lands airport post

John Wheat, the former No. 2 executive at Tampa International Airport, landed a new job last week as the boss at the year-old Florida Beaches International Airport in Panama City. Wheat resigned in January after new CEO Joe Lopano reviewed Tampa International's organization and decided the airport didn't need a deputy director. Wheat's new job doesn't pay nearly as well as his last gig: $135,000 a year, $77,294 less than at TIA.

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