LANSING –-Legislation to help crack down on mortgage fraud and punish offenders was approved Tuesday by the state Senate, said Sen. Darwin Booher, lead sponsor of the package.
“Michigan homeowners continue to struggle in a tough economy, in which they face decreasing home values and family incomes combined with increased costs,” said Booher, R-Evart. “While annually some consumers fall victim to mortgage fraud, it impacts the entire community and all taxpayers. These bipartisan reforms specifically address mortgage fraud in Michigan.”
The nine-bill package would create a crime for mortgage fraud and make that crime a felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison and a $500,000 fine.
“In my 40 years of experience as a banker in the private sector, I have seen the hope and excitement of families trying to fulfill the dream of homeownership,” said Booher, chair of the Senate Banking and Financial Institutions Committee. “It is time that we put an end to individuals taking advantage of that dream for personal gain by giving law enforcement the tools needed to investigate fraud, prosecute offenders and punish them appropriately.”
Senate Bills 249 and 250, sponsored by Booher, would increase the penalties for forging real property deeds or obtaining real property by false pretenses. This would also enact thresholds to punish offenders more severely based on the amount of money they obtained.
Other bills in the package include reforms to:
- Increase the statute of limitations for crimes involving real property transactions from 6 to 10 years;
- Enact new elements for counterfeiting or forging real estate deeds and related documents including a sentence of up to 14 years in prison; and
- Quadruple the penalty for violating the notary public law from to four years in prison.
The reforms are supported by Attorney General Bill Schuette, Secretary of State Ruth Johnson and industry groups, including the Michigan Bankers Association, Michigan Credit Union League and the Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan.
Senate Bills 43, 44 and 249-253 have been sent to the House for consideration. Two other bills, House Bills 4462 and 4478, pertaining to forging deeds, are currently pending before the House Judiciary Committee.