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Feds Charge 41 South Floridians in $40 Million Mortgage Fraud

Last summer, South Florida sank under a spectacularly burst housing bubble that had been inflated well beyond reason by speculators, absent investors, and more than a few outright criminals.

In June '08, the U.S. Attorney's Office created a task force to track down the last -- the fraudsters who helped dig us into the financial mess most of Miami-Dade is still struggling desperately to climb out of.

This afternoon, the team announced its biggest bust yet: 41 South Florida residents charged in $40 million worth of mortgage fraud.

Those 41 people engaged in a staggering variety of crimes, detailed in six federal indictments obtained by Riptide.

But they all shared the basic schemes: faking mortgages to drive up the price of homes, stealing identities, and selling the same properties multiple times to straw companies.

In dozens of cases, they stole homeowners' personal information and then sold and resold their houses until they eventually were foreclosed. Only when the bank came knocking did the scammed residents realize anything was wrong.

Miami's housing market this week has finally showed signs of recovery. Let's hope the next bubble isn't built on quite so much blatant mischief.

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Tim Elfrink is a former investigative reporter and managing editor for Miami New Times. He has won the George Polk Award and was a finalist for the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting.
Contact: Tim Elfrink