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We can't fix Florida economy while mortgage fraud remains out of control in state

mortgage_fraud_4.jpegWake up and good morning. So here's the crux of Florida's housing crisis.

1. Florida's burst housing bubble decimated a vast chunk of the state's wealth. Floridians are more dependent on the equity in their homes to bolster their wealth than folks in many other states. So when that equity disappears with falling home values, Floridians get poor -- quickly.

2. New data show Florida is once again No. 1 in the United States for mortgage fraud. Florida's held the top spot in four of the past five quarters, says the latest survey by The survey folks tell the South Florida Sun Sentinel here that Florida's big population played a role in making Florida No. 1, which does not explain why larger California lags Florida in fraud or why larger Texas is not even among the high fraud states or why larger New York also trails Florida.

3. Florida can't rebuild its housing industry while mortgage fraud remains so out of control. And if the housing industry can't rebound, neither can the wealth-building ability of Floridians.

Follow that logic and here's what you get. Until Florida gets a grip on mortgage fraud, we're in deep economic trouble.

According to the 2012 first quarter mortgage fraud index, which uses to assess fraud activity levels by state. Florida was worst at No. 1 with in index of 163. It was followed by California at 160, Minnesota at 70, Ohio at 60, and North Carolina at 53.

By dollar amounts, Florida was No. 1 "more than doubling" from the prior quarter, the survey says. Based on dollars, the pecking order changes. Florida remains No. 1 with $260 million, but is now followed by North Carolina with $226 million, California with $208 million, New York with $144 million and Nevada with $134 million. Read more here.

There are fraud arrests and convictions for fraud in Tampa Bay and Florida. Read some examples here and here and here. But it's still too little.

-- Robert Trigaux, Business Columnist, Tampa Bay Times