Background Checks for Mortgage Brokers in Miami? Don’t Sweat It
July 21, 2008
According to the Miami Herald, if you are a convicted criminal being a mortgage broker in the state of Florida might be for you. The article “When Scott Almeida Walked Out of Federal Prison and Into the Mortgage Business He Took a Gamble” depicts a story about a man who once released from prison decided he wanted to be a mortgage broker. He divulged that we had just gotten out of jail for selling cocaine and as a reference he provided a man he met during visitation at the prison and his mom.
The gamble paid off. State officials approved the application and away Mr. Almeida went. It took him just 3 years to write over $3 million is fraudulent loans and steal from over 30 people. “They asked for a copy of the court file but never demanded the police report, which shows that he had been caught with a small arsenal of assault rifles and ammunition, in addition to the cocaine.”
Yikes! Want some more fun facts, check out these whoopers revealed in the story:
During an eight-month investigation, The Miami Herald analyzed computer records for more than 222,844 Florida mortgage professionals, examined thousands of records from the Office of Financial Regulation, reviewed hundreds of court files and interviewed dozens of regulators, brokers and victims.
The newspaper found:
• From 2000 to 2007, regulators allowed at least 10,529 people with criminal records to work in the mortgage profession. Of those, 4,065 cleared background checks after committing crimes that state law specifically requires regulators to screen, including fraud, bank robbery, racketeering and extortion.
• More than half the people who wrote mortgages in Florida during that period were not subject to any criminal background check. Despite repeated pleas from industry leaders to screen them, Florida regulators have refused.
• Confronted with a growing epidemic of mortgage fraud — Florida now has the highest rate in the nation — the number of license revocations declined over the last five years, leaving borrowers at the mercy of predatory brokers.
• During the peak of the housing boom, the Office of Financial Regulation ignored a state law enacted in 2006 that compelled it to perform nationwide criminal background checks on applicants. That failure allowed people convicted in other states — and in federal court — to peddle loans in Florida without any scrutiny.
• Regulators allowed at least 20 brokers to keep their licenses even after committing the one crime that seemed sure to get them banned from the industry: mortgage fraud.
You think they ought to maybe look into this further? Florida Senator Mel Martinez said it best a most eloquently when he went ought on a limb and said “I knew we had a problem. I had no idea how bad“. Now you know senator. What next?