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Thief Of Hearts
by Robert Franco | 2007/04/02 |

Once again, Dateline NBC has earned two thumbs up for an excellent expose on Matthew Cox, a con man who ripped off homeowners, mortgage lenders, and title companies. His mortgage fraud allegedly netted him about $5 million. See Fraud by the Book for the full story.

Source of Title covered this case as arrests were being made last year. See Woman Admits to Role in Mortgage Fraud Scheme, Woman Sentenced for Mortgage Fraud, and Secret Service Nabs Suspected Felon. It was interesting to see some of what went on behind the scenes in the Dateline report.

Cox started as a mortgage broker, though a crooked one. It was well known in the Tampa mortgage industry that Cox was up to something. "You just knew because other people in the business would talk how Matt’s office is," one bank rep told Dateline. “If you need a W-2, he’ll make it always appear. If you need someone’s Social Security card, he’ll make it appear.”

After using a stolen identity to get an $80,000 mortgage, he was caught. He pleaded guilty to conspiracy and grand theft. He was sentenced to three years on probation and ordered to stay out of the mortgage business. But that didn't keep him from committing more mortgage fraud.

He was able to fake good credit to buy literally dozens of Tampa properties, including an apartment building... And then secretly, leaving almost no mark at all, according to investigators, he used his building like a burglar’s tool. Again, using a false name, he filed fake documents to make it appear it was paid off... It’s reported Cox took out mortgages on this building worth nearly a $1 million, five times what it was worth.

Cox then began using women, single moms, he met on the Internet. He got them to commit mortgage fraud for him. For this, Dateline dubbed him the "Thief of Hearts."
They were more like Robin Hood, Cox told her—the big fat insurance companies would cover the losses, nobody would actually get hurt.

And so she was willingly sucked in.

Alison rented a home, forged a deed, and then just as Cox told her he’d done again and again, filed phony paperwork to get three real mortgage loans borrowing nearly $400,000 against a property she didn’t even own.

Then, she bought a house under a fake name and incredibly, the Social Security number of her own young son... She filed false paperwork to make it appear a mortgage was paid off, then pulled out hundreds of thousands of dollars and leaving lenders holding the bag.

He went on to involve other women in similar schemes. From Florida, to Georgia, to Tennessee, Cox and his gullible accomplices continued to buy properties with stolen identities, file phony releases, and take out more mortgages.

Atlanta-area lenders who’d been stiffed began alerting authorities about Cox’s schemes.

"The number of victims, the number of stolen identities used, the number of prior mortgages that are erased—all of that makes this case very unique, said Gale McKenzie, assistant U.S. attorney, Atlanta."

Oh... and Dateline also reported that Cox had written a novel several years prior about a con man committing mortgage fraud all across the country. The passages from the book paralleled his crime spree. I suppose that the way he preyed on single moms and followed his own script for the crimes is what made this story exciting enough for Dateline to cover. However, its not what I find most fascinating.

It is incredible how much damage one person can do with a little bit of knowledge about our real estate records. Imagine what a criminal could do if he could figure out how to leverage that knowledge with anonymous online access to the public records and e-recording. Cox had inside information. No doubt he learned much of what he needed to know as a mortgage broker and his position gave him access to much of the information he needed to perpetrate his fraud. But, any savvy con man could most likely figure out how to do the same thing with the information we are putting online.

It we want to make mortgage fraud tougher to get away with, we need to protect the information fraudsters use. Yeah, its public record, but we don't need to serve it up to them on a silver platter.

Robert A. Franco

Source of Title Blog ::


Categories: Fraudulent Transfers, Mortgage Fraud

1012 words | 5763 views | 1 comments | log in or register to post a comment

Excellent piece, Robert. Leaves me...
Excellent piece, Robert. Leaves me wondering how many others are out there operating in the same way, who just haven't been caught - yet.  
by Jan Forster | 2007/04/02 | log in or register to post a reply
Source of Title Blog

Robert A. FrancoThe focus of this blog will be on sharing my thoughts and concerns related to the small title agents and abstractors. The industry has changed dramatically over the past ten years and I believe that we are just seeing the beginning. As the evolution continues, what will become of the many small independent title professionals who have long been the cornerstone of the industry?

Robert A. Franco



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