Archives For Michigan

Authorities in Lansing, Michigan recently advised home buyers to beware of a Craig’s List home selling scam where scam artists meet potential home buyers at a home they do not actually own and take payments from the buyer.  This scam is operating across the country and is not limited to properties in Lansing Michigan.  (It is also being perpetrated against potential renters who are “rented” homes that are not owned by the scammers.)

In the Craig’s List scams, a home buyer can generally protect themselves by depositing the earnest money with their own real estate agent or with an escrow company rather than handing money over to the scammers.  The fact that the scammers don’t actually own the property will be discovered during the title search that is conducted while the sales transaction is pending.

This is not the only scam that involves fake sales.  In another common scam, fake sellers actually forge quit claim deeds and ‘transfer’ the property to themselves.  Sometimes these scammers also rent the property from the real owners so that they can ‘show’ the property to potential buyers.

Looking at current ownership in these fake sales transactions may not be enough.  Home buyers and real estate professionals also need to look at the last transactions recorded against title to the property.  If the property has recently transferred by way of quit clam deed, a little more due diligence may be in order before handing over the earnest money deposit or purchasing the property. It is as easy as contacting the “prior” record title holder – who may not even be aware that their property has been transferred.  Quit claim transfers are not always fraudulent.  And fake transfer can be done by way of regular grant deeds.  We just see more fake transfers by quit claim.

In the Craig’s List scam, the fake sellers walk away with the earnest money deposit or down payment.  In a fake sales transaction, if it is not detected by the title company, the scammers walk away with the entire purchase price.

If a homeowner falls for one of these fake sales transactions and purchases a property that doesn’t actually belong to the seller and was transferred by way of a forged deed, the new homeowner’s only real recourse will be their title insurance policy.

Steven Barry Ruza, 52, Orchard Lake, Michigan, and his company, Home Legal Group, Inc., have been charged with 30 felony counts for allegedly stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from Michigan victims that were facing mortgage foreclosures.

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Anthony Carta, 53, Detroit, Michigan, was sentenced to 30 to 99 years in prison for taking hundreds of thousands of dollars from more than 100 victims who believed he was going to help them with mortgage loans through his Southfield, Michigan, entity Freedom By Faith Ministries.

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Anthony Carta, 53, Detroit, Michigan, has pleaded guilty to seven felonies associated with his formation of a faith-based mortgage assistance scam.

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Joel Wilson, 32, Saginaw, Michigan, was convicted by a jury on nine felony charges for his role in an extensive Michigan Ponzi scheme wherein he defrauded hundreds of Michigan victims out of millions of dollars. In January 2014, extradition efforts were initiated to retrieve Wilson from Germany after he was on the lam in Europe for more than a year.

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GTL Investments, Inc., doing business as John Adams Mortgage Company, Southfield, Michigan, a mortgage lender, has agreed to pay $4.2 million to resolve allegations that it violated the False Claims Act in its origination of loans backed by the federal government.

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Sixteen people have been charged for operating a fraudulent telemarketing scheme that involved losses of over $20 million to more 290 victims in 46 states and Canada, including Michigan.

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Nationwide Consulting, LLC, and its operators, Kenneth Sandoval and Zacharia Ortiz, who were convicted for their roles in a loan modification scheme, will be repaying their victims out of restitution obtained in the criminal case.

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Joel Wilson, 31, Saginaw, Michigan, who was extradited from Germany after being on the lam in Europe for more than a year, will proceed to trial for his alleged role in an extensive real estate Ponzi scheme. Wilson allegedly defrauded investors by telling them he would use their funds to purchase distressed properties, then sell them at a profit.

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Charles Patrick Gahan, Grand Rapids, Michigan, a real estate developer, was indicted on August 26, 2014, on charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud affecting financial institutions for his role in a mortgage stacking scheme wherein he failed to disclose the existence of prior recorded liens and mortgages.

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