The state of Pennsylvania takes all allegations of fraud very seriously, and lenders or borrowers can face criminal charges if they lie about or omit certain information during the mortgage application process. In certain cases, alleged offenders may also face federal charges for this type of fraud.
The penalties can be quite severe if a person is convicted of this offense, with punishments including several years of imprisonment, substantial fines, and possibly even restitution to victims. Prosecutors will aggressively pursue maximum sentences in these cases.
West Chester Mortgage Fraud Lawyer
If you have been accused of any type of fraud relating to mortgage loans, you will want to make sure that you are working with an experienced Pennsylvania criminal defense attorney. Michael J. Skinner is admitted to practice in state courts throughout Pennsylvania as well as the federal United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
The Skinner Law Firm defends clients from all over Chester County and surrounding areas in Delaware County, Montgomery County, and Lancaster County. Call (610) 436-1410 today to have your case reviewed during a free, confidential consultation.
Types of Mortgage Fraud in Pennsylvania
Some of the specific types of illegal activity that can result in this type of criminal charge include:
- Appraisal Fraud — A home’s value is deliberately understated or overstated to either help a seller demand a better price than the market warrants, help a homeowner get a refinance or home equity loan, or help a buyer get financing for a lower mortgage amount or a lower price on a foreclosed home.
- Employment Fraud — A borrower misrepresents his or her income by either claiming employment by a non-existent company or a higher position in a real company.
- Equity Skimming — Also known as equity stripping, an investor offers to help a homeowner facing foreclosure by buying the home and leasing it to the homeowner, but the rates and terms of the agreement usually result in default and loss of property and all equity.
- Fraud for Profit — A complex scheme to defraud lenders or investors of large sums of money. These schemes may involve credit agency employees, mortgage brokers, outside investors, real estate appraisers, real estate brokers, or title insurers working together to either inflate home prices or get loans for non-existent homes.
- Hiding Liabilities — A borrower lies about his or her car loans, credit card balances, or other mortgages in an attempt to improve his or her debt-to-income ratio.
- Income Fraud — A borrower overstates his or her income to qualify for a higher loan.
- Occupancy Fraud — A borrower claims on a loan application that he or she will occupy the property as his or her primary or second residence when it is actually an investment property that should have higher interest rates because of a higher risk for delinquency.
- Property Flipping — Whereas legal flipping involves a party purchasing, improving, and selling a home for profit, property flipping can be illegal when a home is purchased, appraised at a higher value, and sold for profit. This practice may involve a combination of other types of illegal mortgage activity, including appraisal fraud, income fraud, or fraud for profit.
- Straw Buyers — A borrower uses the name and credit history of another party in order to obtain a loan.
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Chester County Mortgage Fraud Penalties
The classification of this type of fraud depends on the specific charges involved, but punishments for a conviction in Pennsylvania may include:
- Third-Degree Misdemeanor — Up to one year in jail and fines of up to $2,500
- Second-Degree Misdemeanor — Up to two years in jail and fines of up to $5,000
- First-Degree Misdemeanor — Up to five years in jail and fines of up to $10,000
- Third-Degree Felony — Up to seven years in prison and fines of up to $15,000
- Second-Degree Felony — Up to 10 years in prison and fines of up to $25,000
- First-Degree Felony — Up to 20 years in prison and fines of up to $25,000
It should be noted that a federal conviction for this crime can result in up to 30 years in prison and fines of as much as $1 million.
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Pennsylvania Mortgage Fraud Defenses
There may be several defenses that can help a person overcome these types of allegations. Some successful defenses include, but are not limited to:
- Coercion or Entrapment
- False Accusations
- Illegal Search and Seizure
- Lack of Evidence
- Mistaken Identity
- No Criminal Intent
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Skinner Law Firm – A Mortgage Fraud Lawyer in Chester County
Michael J. Skinner is a former Assistant District Attorney of Chester County. He understands how prosecutors handle these cases and know what weaknesses to look for when it comes to evidence.
The Skinner Law Firm represents clients throughout Montgomery County, Delaware County, Lancaster County, and Chester County. Let our firm review your case and help you understand your legal options by calling (610) 436-1410 right now to schedule a free consultation.