Senate finalizes mortgage fraud crackdown

LANSING -Legislation to help stop mortgage fraud and punish offenders was sent to the governor Wednesday to be signed into law, said Sen. Darwin Booher, lead sponsor of the package.

“This is positive news for all Michigan homeowners, especially as our state continues to struggle in a tough economy,” said Booher, R-Evart. “Mortgage fraud victimizes many consumers each year, but its impact is felt by the entire community and all taxpayers. These bipartisan reforms specifically combat mortgage fraud in Michigan by giving law enforcement officials the tools necessary to crack down on these criminals.”

The bipartisan 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.

“Homeownership is a cornerstone of the American dream. During my 40 years as a banker in the private sector, I helped many families achieve that dream. Today we preserve it,” said Booher, chair of the Senate Banking and Financial Institutions Committee.  “I look forward to seeing the governor sign this important reform into law and put an end to individuals taking advantage of hardworking Michigan families for personal gain.”

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 measures in the eight-bill 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 one 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 and 249-252 now head to the governor. House Bills 4462, 4478 and 4492 have been sent back to the House to be enrolled and sent to the governor.