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North Miami Mayor Convicted of Mortgage Fraud Scheme

Criminal law charges are not just for the ordinary citizen. Politicians and public figures are not exempt from the law. Such is the case with former North Miami Mayor, Lucie Tondreau.

After a 12-day trial, a federal jury convicted Tondreau, a suspended mayor at the time, on charges of participating in an $8 million mortgage fraud scheme. She is scheduled to be sentenced in March 2015 and faces up to 30 years in prison for the conspiracy and wire fraud convictions.

The charges stemmed from a scheme that Tondreau was convicted of conspiring in before she took office in 2013. The scheme was to defraud lenders using straw buyers, which in fraudulent transactions are people who buy something on behalf of someone who is legally banded from making the purchase themselves. The straw buyers were recruited through a radio program that catered to Hatian-American listeners. The scheme produced a total of 20 inflated loans.

In typical mortgage fraud straw buyer schemes, the straw purchaser will purchase a property on behalf of another person or entity, which will then pay the buyer a commission or a fee. Typically, the parties have no intention of paying the loan. It's also common for straw buyers to falsify documents that inflate their income in order to qualify for a larger loan. The scam may also involve property appraisers who help to inflate the value of the property.

According the Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking, "... borrowers who misrepresent information and straw buyers who allow others to purchase a property in their name are liable for any financial shortfalls in the event of default." Keep in mind that laws and penalties are different in each state.

Fraud cases-whether they're tax, mortgage, id, credit card, insurance or other issue-are rampant in Miami. When someone is convicted of a white-collar crime such as fraud, it's crucial that they work with an attorney to protect their rights. It's not unusual for suspects to unknowingly self-incriminate under stressful investigations and prosecutions. If you suspect you're being linked to a fraud claim, consult an attorney immediately.

Sources:

nbcmiami.com, "Suspended North Miami Mayor Lucie Tondreau Convicted in Mortgage Fraud Scheme," 17 December 2014

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