The Ground Zero Mosque …. Photo Maps, Photos & Maps

MCAULEYSWORLD RELATED POSTS:

Rise of Freedom: Bringing Life to Ground Zero – First Trees for Ground Zero Memorial Park Start Journey 

 The Ground Zero Imam – Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf; The Wrong Man, The Wrong Mosque, The Wrong Place, The Wrong Time…

The Ground Zero Mosque – Obama’s Twisted Logic – Facts From Fiction – Photo Maps/Photos/Maps  With excerpts from the Flight Recorder Transcripts of the 911 Planes …

The Ground Zero Imam, Feisal Abdul Rauf: Is He a “Truther”, does he blame the U.S. Government for 9-11?  Does Imam Rauf blame that the U.S. Government for blowing up the WTC?

Less than "300 steps" from the Ground Zero Mosque

What are they talking about … some mythical “freedom to build a house of  worship” … there is no such thing … Did you know that a Greek Orthodox Church was destroyed on 911 when one of the Towers collapsed on it? St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church. The City has denied the Church permission to rebuild.  

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2010/08/17/ground-zero-church-archdiocese-says-officials-forgot/  

The Church owns the land and the parish was 1st founded in 1919 when 5 Greek families purchased a Tavern for $25,000. http://www.directionstoorthodoxy.org/n/st_nicholas_greek_orthodox_churchs_troubles_typify_ground_zero_d.html   

We are a Country of “limited rights” you can’t stand and pray on the steps of the Supreme Court building … you can’t sing the National Anthem on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial … you can’t hold a prayer vigil in front of an abortion clinic … you can only take one wife at a time, doesn’t matter what your religion states… we are a Country of limited rights …

The “memorial park” at ground zero is a “public cemetery’…  despite what the press may be trying to sell you … significant restrictions are imposed on structures and businesses around cemeteries … The Mosque will broadcast the “Muslim call to prayer” from speakers  5 times a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year …  a substantial burden to place on non-Muslims who wish to “worship” or “pay their respects” at Ground Zero … a Mosque can be located anywhere … Islamic terrorists created Ground Zero and Ground Zero cannot be moved …. 1100 of the “victims” have never been identified or located

The Landing Gear From This Plane Crashed Through The Roof Of The Building The Mosque Will Replace

Bridge Builders are not hesitant to condemn HAMAS … Bridge Builders do not equivocate when it comes to condemning the cold blooded murders that took place on 911… Bridge Builders need not “parse” their words when it comes to condemning Jihad or those who call for the destruction of competing religions…  A bridge builder would lay the first stone by moving the mosque … 

Landing Gear From This Plane Crashed Through The Roof Of The Building To Be Replaced By The Mosque

Note destruction of buildings accross from WTC Site (Click On Image To Enlarge)

 Compare the photo above with the map below … Church Street runs to the right … the buildings that stood along Vessey and Barclay have been destroyed ….  As the photo map demonstrates 7 WTC stood between Ground Zero and where the proposed Mosque will stand …  The 1st occupied block of buildings is Park Street where the Mosque will be built … the front door of the Mosque is 300 paces from Ground Zero 

Ground Zero Mosque Map

 

Note Destruction Of Buildings Surrounding WTC Site ... click to enlarge

WTC after debris removal - Note open area for two blocks from site ...

Watch the video below … the collapse of WTC #7, which was located one block away from site where the proposed Mosque would be built …. the “reporter” speaking to the woman and child as WTC 7 collapses was 11 blocks further away than the proposed Mosque site ….. You decide …. just how restrictively should we “define” Ground Zero …….

   

WTC 7 from WTC 1 Observation Deck - Mosque will be built 1 block to the left

The video below, with the late Peter Jennings as the announcer, features WTC 7 before it’s collapse. The twin WTC Towers have already collapsed. WTC 7 is vsiable in the center and left center of the video. WTC 7 has smoke billowing all about it … as the maps above indicate, the proposed Mosque site is less than 300 steps from the corner where WTC 7 stood. WTC 7 was 47 stories tall. Had WTC 7 toppled over in the direction of the building to be replaced by the Mosque … the building would have been burried in the debris.

You decide … is the Mosque at Ground Zero or not?

  

I want you to stop and imagine for a moment that the “Bosnian Killing Fields” where 8,000 Muslims were murdered in cold blood, were located in up state New York instead of Srebrenica. Next imagine that a Christian Group announced plans to build a Community Center and Church on “Killing Fields”, you know, to help build bridges and that loud speakers would adourn the “Center” and braodcast the “Rosary” across the “killing fields”, five times a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year …. Who would be protesting that exercise of “Freedom of Religion” …. the permits to build would be denied outright, and the denial would be appaulded not protested …. 

Criminal Investigators Unearth Mass Grave In Srebrenica

This same type of “genocide” has been ongoing for a decade now, in Dafur, southern Sudan, committed by Muslim extremists ….   http://terminategenocide.com/html/genocide_coverup.html 

Read this excerpt from 10/10/2006 …

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Two years have passed since then-Secretary of State Colin Powell reported to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that genocide was being committed in Darfur, Sudan. Samuel Totten awakes in the middle of the night sometimes and remembers the accounts of rape, torture and slayings that he documented while spending two weeks in 2004 at refugee camps in neighboring Chad.

Despite Powell’s assessment, the international community has done little to stop the killing and brutalization or help the people of Darfur, Totten lamented. Government of Sudan troops and Arab militia known as Janjaweed attacked village after village of black Africans … http://dailyheadlines.uark.edu/9402.htm

Since 2003, the genocidal conflict in Darfur has devastated millions of non-combatant civilians and resulted in the death of at least 200,000 people. As of 2010, Sudan continues to direct its troops and proxy Janjaweed militias to systematically destroy the livelihoods of Darfuris by bombing and burning villages, looting economic resources, and murdering, raping, and torturing non-combatant civilians.

http://www.genocideintervention.net/educate/darfur

The United Nations puts the death toll at roughly 300,000, while the former U.N. undersecretary-general puts the number at no less than 400,000. http://www.savedarfur.org/pages/background

Imam  Feisal Abdul Rauf  – Bridge Builder or Defender of the Islamic Faith – Extremists and Non-extremist alike

 April 2, 2010 in the American Muslim …. oh my, the Imam won’t even admit that Genocide has taken place or is taking place in Dafur … no mention of Muslim extremists … wow, what a middle of the road type of guy …. I’m sure the people of Sudan would be impressed… sounds like the type of guy that woudl hesitate before he condemning the terrorist organization HAMAS …

http://www.theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/rethinking_sudan_problems_remain_but_there_are_opportunities_for_the_us-sud/

and this from March 26, 2010

Cordoba Initiative Unveils New Push in Sudan

Organization to Focus on Elections, US-Sudan Relations and Other Challenges and Opportunities

NEW YORK – The Cordoba Initiative (CI), a leading global civil society organization promoting understanding between the Muslim world and the West, announced on Monday a major new initiative to help improve relations between the US and Sudan. “There is now an opportunity for the US and Sudan to fundamentally change their relationship,” said Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, Chairman of CI. “This will help each nation achieve its goals. It is also a way to build goodwill between the West and the Muslim world. http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/cordoba_initiative_unveils_new_push_in_sudan/

The Imam should stop the political BS and admit that the genocide is taking place … The Nazi’s denied the genocide in WWII, the Bosnian’s denied the genocide until the mass graves were uncovered  (some even continued to deny the genocide after forensic analysis of the graves were completed) …. the genocide in Sudan will not stop until the Sudanese Government and its “defenders” and “supporters”, Imam Rauf included, admit that the genocide is taking place and demand that it stop … the best way to “create goodwill” is to stop the raping, torturing and murdering of black African villagers in their own villages… the first step to “goodwill” is to stop the atrocities, not deny their existence… 

Lessons to Learn from the H1N1 scare – The United Nations – WHO / CDC Manipulate Reporting –

Reposted from June 20, 2009 with a statistical  update from August 17, 2010  

Have you read an article like this …..

US swine flu cases now exceed 21,000; 87 deaths

ATLANTA – The national count of swine flu cases has risen to 21,449 cases and the number of deaths have nearly doubled to 87.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released the number of confirmed and probable cases Friday morning. The tally is up from the last week’s count of 18,000 cases and 44 deaths

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090619/ap_on_sc/us_med_swine_flu_4

The United States is a Country of 300,000,000 plus (300 Million plus) people. The percent of the population that has contracted the much hyped Swine Flu stands at .00007 %, or in other words, 1 person in every 10,700 has contracted the flu since the Government inspired “panic”, complete with school and business closings, started 4 months ago.

The odds are much better that you’ll be struck by lightning, at some point in your lifetime, than of catching the Swine Flu. (The odds of being struck by lightning, assumming you live to be 80, is 1 in 5000 – http://www.lightningsafety.noaa.gov/medical.htm ). 

It is estimated that 100 individuals a year die from bee stings in the U.S. (http://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/bee-and-wasp-stings) , over 8,000 people are bitten by poisonous snakes each year. http://www.whmentors.org/saf/snakes.html .

On average, 15 children die every day due to preventable accidental injury in the US. http://www.usa.safekids.org/tier3_cd.cfm?content_item_id=24791&folder_id=300 . During the time period when the US has experienced 87 flu related deaths mentioned in this article, 1800 children have died in preventable accidents.

Relief agencies estimate that 10,000 displaced people are dying from disease and malnutrition every month in Dafur’s refuge camps. A condition that has existed since 2003.  http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/2008-03-28-2046054389_x.htm  

While the flu related deaths, like any death, are regrettable, I don’t understand the continued hype. Is it possible the Government is trying to create a distraction from the real crisis, like the US ecomony? Is the CDC and WHO acting out of a “self serving” interests … we need to follow the money … who is manufacturing the vacinations? 

McAuleys World Update: Single response directed to the 26 irate Obama supporters to send the same response to this blog today: 1) Reference the sited article before you make the ridiculous claim that the stats that I sited are out of date –  what a miserably weak responce – the Associated Press report is dated Friday June 19, 2009 – yesterday. The statistics, quoted in the article as coming from the CDC, are obviously correct and current. 2) You are all Political Science majors correct –  because it is obvious none of you are handy with math.

Maybe it’s an Obama thing? His math is fuzzy too.

All 26 claim, incorrectly, that the death toll associated with the swine flu in the U.S. is now 150. As if the alleged increase from 88 to 150 would suggest some sort of statistical significance in evalauting the Swine Flu as a national threat. While the deaths are a tragedy for the families that are directly involved, from the perspective of a national medical emergency, the Swine Flu is a non-event. The school and business closings have been unnecessary and wasteful. Even assuming  15o deaths associated with the Swine Flu, 150 is something less than one person out every 2 million (2,000,000). Let me help you out with your math …… heard the term “a shot in a million”, dying from the swine flu is twice as rare. 

Thanks for the comments anyway …… do you all work in the same “blogging office”? Is there a supervisor that writes your responses for you? It simply isn’t statistically possible to receive 26 responses, all claiming Friday’s stats from the CDC, are out of date, without sometype of coordinated activity taking place.

Update 08/17/2010

Chicken Little over swine flu: Learning from the H1N1 scare

Last year’s scare over a potential H1N1 flu epidemic was a bust, the WHO now indicates. With reports of another scare over a “superbug” supposedly from India, officials and media need to act with caution and restraint without stoking fears.

Some media outlets are making much of reports that Westerners seeking low-cost medical treatment in India might have returned carrying a drug-resistant bacterial infection. But that news should be seen in light of another, less noticed news item this week: As a potential pandemic, the H1N1 flu virus was a bust.

The World Health Organization (WHO) says H1N1, also known as swine flu, is not eradicated, but it has lost its “superbug” status, becoming just another flu variant among many.

Fourteen months ago dire predictions swirled through the news media about the possible effects of H1N1. Hundreds of thousands of deaths were possible, and perhaps 40 percent of the US work force could be affected, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated. (The CDC had already declared the H1N1 public health emergency over by June 23.)

Nothing remotely close to those predictions came about. The WHO estimates the number of deaths from H1N1 in 2009 at 18,500, [world wide] though it says that number is almost surely underreported. Still, it is a figure far lower than the hundreds of thousands of deaths worldwide attributed to other strains of influenza every year. Why did the pandemic fizzle? “Pure good luck,” WHO Director-General Margaret Chan says, that it didn’t mutate into a more troublesome form.

European governments and medical groups have criticized the way the WHO handled the H1N1 outbreak, saying it caused unnecessary expense, including stockpiling of unneeded drugs, and undue public alarm.

Dr. Chan has defended the organization’s actions, pointing out that from the start the WHO had termed H1N1 as “a pandemic of moderate severity” from which ”most people” would recover – many without receiving any medical treatment.

But is that the impression that was left on most people?

“The number of victims of H1N1 fell far short of even the more conservative predictions by the WHO,” said an investigative article in BMJ (British Medical Journal) in June. The authors’ “investigation has revealed damaging issues. If these are not addressed, H1N1 may yet claim its biggest victim – the credibility of the WHO and the trust in the global public health system.”

Questions have also been raised about the secret “emergency committee” that guided the WHO’s policies on H1N1.

This week the WHO released the names of the emergency committee, several of whom had ties to drug manufacturers as advisers or received support for their research from the industry.

Fighting an infectious disease is a serious matter. Public health organizations and governments can face tough calls in trying to pass along sensible information about possible health problems. They must share helpful information without creating undue panic or alarm. Chan suggested that “perhaps we need more flexibility in our future pandemic planning.” In the future the organization might offer “a best-case, an intermediate-case, and a worst-case scenario … to allow flexibility and adjustment as we track the evolution of the pandemic.”

The news media bear a responsibility, too, in not sensationalizing a public health story in order to grab reader attention. But today formal news organizations are less the “gatekeepers” of such news than ever before. People share their own versions of what’s happening via social media: e-mails, Facebook, Twitter, and the like. Chan acknowledged as much, noting that “we need to adapt the way we do communication, and learn how to work with social media and social networks.”

Perhaps some of these lessons can be applied to the “superbug” now being traced to India. The H1N1 pandemic that never was may provide a useful history lesson in that regard.

http://www.csmonitor.com/Commentary/the-monitors-view/2010/0813/Chicken-Little-over-swine-flu-Learning-from-the-H1N1-scare

McAuleysworld Comments

Another United Nations Group discredited for it’s self serving manipulation of scientific inquiry … an inquiry that netted a tremendous amount of money to “policy makers” whose decisions are made behind closed doors …. Move over UN IPCC (United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), you are clearly not alone ……… 

Financial Reform: Mortgage Fraud Continues to Boom

Who paid $300,000 for this "structure".

Special report: Flipping, flopping and booming mortgage fraud

(Reuters) – The house on the 53rd block of South Wood Street in Chicago’s Back of the Yards doesn’t look like a $355,000 home. There is no front door and most of the windows are boarded up.

Public records show it sold in foreclosure for $25,500 in January 2009, then resold for $355,000 in October. In between, a $110,000 mortgage was taken out on the home, supposedly for renovations. This June, the property went back into foreclosure.

To Emilio Carrasquillo, head of the local office of non-profit lender Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago (NHS), the numbers don’t add up. He believes this is a case of mortgage fraud.

It may not make the blood boil like murder or rape, but mortgage fraud is a crime that cost an estimated $14 billion in 2009 and could be hampering an already fragile recovery in the housing market. The FBI has been fighting back, assembling its largest ever team to fight it. They have their work cut out for them, though, as a tsunami of foreclosures is making classic scams easier and spawning new ones to boot.

“There’s no way any property in this neighborhood should sell for that kind of money,” said Carrasquillo, standing outside the house on Wood Street in this poor, predominantly black area of Chicago’s South Side. “Even if it was in great condition.”

Carrasquillo has identified a number of properties in Back of the Yards that sold for between $5,000 and $30,000 last year and then came back on the market for up to $385,000. He said property prices are being artificially inflated, allowing fraudsters to walk away with vast profits and making it harder for honest local people to buy a home.

Mortgage fraud takes many forms, but a well-organized scam frequently involves a limited liability company (LLC) or a “straw buyer.” In

Who paid $355,000 for this structure?

 this scheme, fraudsters use a fake identity or that of someone else who allows them to use their credit status in return for a fee. The seller pockets the money the buyer borrows from a lender to pay for the home. The buyer never makes a mortgage payment and the property goes into foreclosure.

In other words, the money simply disappears, leaving the lender with a large loss. Since the U.S. government is now backing much of the mortgage market in the absence of private investors, that means “taxpayers are ultimately on the hook for fraud,” said Ann Fulmer, vice president of business relations at fraud-prevention company Interthinx.

Back of the Yards was hit by fraud during the housing boom and Carrasquillo says the glut of foreclosures is now making it easier for scammers to pick up properties for a song and flip them for phenomenal profits.

Drug dealers and gang members have taken over abandoned houses, many adorned with spray-painted gang signs. Prior to touring the area, Carrasquillo attached two magnetic signs touting the NHS logos on his minivan’s doors to show he is not a police officer. He said he also prefers touring in the morning, as drug dealers and “gangbangers” tend not to be early risers.

“These properties are just going to sit there, boarded up, broken into and a magnet for crime,” he said. “And that makes our job of trying to stabilize this neighborhood so much harder.”

CRACKDOWN NETS MORE REPORTS OF FRAUD

The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation said in a report released on June 17 that suspicious activity reports (SARs) related to mortgage fraud rose 5 percent in 2009 to around 67,200, up from 63,700 the year before. The number had tripled from 22,000 in 2005 and the number of SARs for the first three months of 2010 hit nearly 38,000.

“We don’t see the number declining while foreclosures remain so high,” said Sharon Ormsby, section chief of the FBI’s financial crimes section.

Robb Adkins, executive director of the Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force, is known as U.S. President Barack Obama’s financial fraud czar. He describes mortgage fraud as “pervasive” and fears it is exacerbating the nation’s real estate woes. “That, in turn, could act as an anchor on the economic recovery,” he said.

For the housing market to recover, potential homeowners need confidence in home prices and investors need confidence to get back into the secondary mortgage market, Adkins explained.

Since the subprime meltdown, a wide variety of scams have come to the fore. They include big cases like that of Lee Farkas, the former head of now bankrupt mortgage lender Taylor, Bean & Whitaker Mortgage Corp, charged in June with fraud that led to billions of dollars of losses. The scheme involved the misappropriation of funds from multiple sources, including a lending facility that had received funding from Deutsche Bank and BNP Paribas.

That appears to be the scam of choice. On July 22, for instance, seven defendants were indicted in Chicago in a $35 million mortgage fraud scheme involving 120 properties from 2004 to 2008 using straw buyers. Of the half dozen properties listed in the indictment, two were in Back of the Yards.

In the mid-2000s, the availability of easy money, poor due diligence by lenders and low- or no-documentation loans, acted as a magnet for fraudsters, who used identity theft and other scams to bag large sums of cash.

“During the boom it was almost like people in the real estate market could do no wrong,” said Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray. “As ever more money rushed in, it attracted a lot of people who engaged in shady behavior.”

Instead of leaving them without a market, the crash has instead provided fraudsters with a glut of foreclosures, stricken borrowers and desperate lenders to take advantage of.

“There were plenty of opportunities for fraud on the way up and there are plenty on the way down,” said Clifford Rossi, a former chief credit officer at Citigroup and now a teaching fellow at the University of Maryland in College Park.

Alongside familiar scams like property flipping, the crash has added new terms to the lexicon: short sale fraud, builder bailouts and flopping. Rescue scams targeting struggling homeowners with false promises of help are also on the rise.

If some of the mechanisms are new, a lot of the fraudsters are not: in many cases, they turn out to be mortgage brokers, appraisers, real estate agents or loan officers. “Because they’re insiders, they see exactly what’s happening and they’re able to stay one step ahead of the game,” said Todd Lackner, a fraud investigator in San Diego. “They’re the same people who were committing fraud during the boom and they were never caught or prosecuted.”

BACK TO THE YARDS

Just a stone’s throw from downtown Chicago, Back of the Yards is the setting for Upton Sinclair’s classic 1906 novel “The Jungle,” a tale of grueling hardship and worker exploitation at the city’s stockyards. The book includes an act of mortgage fraud against an unsuspecting Lithuanian family.

“Mortgage fraud is nothing new,” said Christopher Wagner, co-managing attorney of the Ohio Attorney General’s Cincinnati office. “It’s been around for a long time.”

Saul Alinsky, considered the founder of modern community organizing, started out in Back of the Yards in the 1930s. Decades later, a young community organizer named Obama got his start near here.

The neighborhood has always been poor, but south of the old railway tracks at W 49th St, the housing crisis’ legacy of empty lots and boarded-up homes is evident on every block. There are few stores and services available — in four separate visits for this story, no police vehicles were sighted.

“This is what we refer to as a ‘resource desert,'” Carrasquillo said. “When no one pays attention to an area like this, it makes it easier to get away with fraud.”

Marni Scott, executive vice president for credit at Troy, Michigan-based lender Flagstar Bancorp, says there are virtually no untainted sales in the area. “There are no cases of Mr and Mr Jones selling to Mr and Mrs Smith.”

“We see cases of mortgage fraud around the country,” she added. “But there’s nothing out there that could match the mass-production, assembly-line fraud that’s going on here.”

In 2008 Flagstar instituted a rule whereby any loan applications here and in parts of Atlanta — another fraud hot spot — must be approved by Scott and the lender’s chief appraiser. In a Webex presentation, Scott rattles through a number of properties snapped up for pennies on the dollar in 2009 and then sold for around $360,000.

She provides an underwriter’s-eye-view of one property, on the 51st block of South Marshfield Avenue, sold in foreclosure in July 2009 for $33,000. In January of this year Flagstar received a loan application to buy the house for $355,000.

The property appraisal — compiled by an appraiser who Scott believes never visited the area — showed four nearby comparable properties of around the same age (100 plus years) sold recently for around $360,000. The trick to this kind of scheme is engineering the sale of the first few fraudulently overvalued properties to get “comps” — comparable values — to fool appraisers and underwriters alike.

“Miraculously, all of these properties were all within a very narrow price range,” Scott said with weary sarcasm. “This is a perfect appraisal for an underwriter. If you are an underwriter sitting in Kansas or California it all looks fairly straightforward so you can just hit the button and approve it.”

Using a $5 product called LoanIQ from U.S. title insurer First American Financial Corp called LoanIQ, Flagstar determined the application itself was fraudulent and there was a foreclosure rate in the area of nearly 60 percent. What is more, property prices here spiked 84 percent last year after 44 percent and 26 percent declines in 2008 and 2007.  [How mant times have you heard the MSM report that “Housing prices recovered 1% last month”]

“No neighborhood should look like this,” said Scott, who declined the application.

Last April, however, another lender approved a loan application for $335,000 on the same property from the same people.

FORECLOSURE MAGNET

Reports this year from Interthinx, CoreLogic Inc and the Mortgage Asset Research Institute (MARI) — which all provide fraud prevention tools for lenders — show foreclosure hotspots Florida, California, Arizona and Nevada are also big mortgage fraud markets.

MARI said in its April report that reported mortgage fraud and misrepresentation rose 7 percent in 2009, adding fraud “continues to be a pervasive issue, growing and escalating in complexity.”

Denise James, director of real estate solutions at LexisNexis Risk Solutions and one of the author’s reports, said reported fraud will continue to rise throughout 2010.

In its first-quarter report, Interthinx said its Mortgage Fraud Risk Index rose 4 percent to 151, the first time it had passed 150 since 2004. A figure of 100 on the index would indicate virtually no risk of fraud.

Congressman Barney Frank

According to various estimates, the 30310 ZIP code in Atlanta is one of the worst in the country. An analysis of that ZIP prepared for Reuters by Interthinx showed a fraud index of 414, making it the eighth worst ZIP code in the country. Back of the Yards — ZIP code 60609 — had an index of 309.

“In some neighborhoods in Atlanta there hasn’t been a clean transaction in 10 years,” Interthinx’s Fulmer said.

In 2005 local residents here formed the 30310 Fraud Task Force. Members sniff out potential signs of fraud — such as repeated property flipped — and report them directly to the FBI and local authorities. Information from the task force led to the arrest of a 12-member mortgage fraud ring on September 15, 2008 — better known in the annals of the financial crisis as the day Lehman Brothers filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

Brent Brewer, a civil engineer and task force member, said the arrests had a noticeable impact on fraud in the area. “It made a statement that if you come here to commit fraud there’s a good chance you’ll get caught,” he said.

But Brewer harbors no illusions the fraudsters are gone. “There’s no way they can catch everyone who’s involved in fraud. But if you’re dumb, greedy or desperate, you’re going to get caught.”

FBI GETTING INTERESTED

Law enforcement has come a long way in combating mortgage fraud, though officials freely admit that’s not saying much.

Senator Chris Dodd

Ben Wagner, U.S. attorney for the eastern district of California, said as mortgages are regulated at the state and local level, for years there was little federal interference. Prior to the recent boom, he said, fraud simply “was not identified as a huge problem.”

“There has been a little bit of a learning curve,” Wagner said. “This was not something federal prosecutors had much familiarity with. Now we’re getting pretty good at it.”

Half of Wagner’s 50 or so criminal prosecutors focus on white-collar crime including fraud. Two new prosecutors will be dedicated solely to mortgage fraud.

Now mortgage fraud is a known quantity, Wagner said all U.S. prosecutors tackling it are linked by Internet groups. The May edition of the bi-monthly “United States Attorneys’ Bulletin” (published by the Executive Office for United States Attorneys) was devoted entirely to mortgage fraud.

The FBI has more than 350 out of its 13,000 agents devoted to mortgage fraud. There are also now 67 regular mortgage fraud working groups and 23 task forces at the federal, state and local level. “This is the broadest coalition of law enforcement ever brought together to fight fraud,” Adkins said. He admitted, however that limited resources to fight fraud still pose a challenge.

Attorney General Eric Holder

In June U.S. authorities said 1,215 people had been charged in a joint crackdown on mortgage fraud. Many of the charges were for crimes committed years ago.

Latour “LT” Lafferty, the head of the white-collar crimes practice at law firm Fowler White Boggs in Tampa, Florida, said fraud in the boom was so pervasive that many crimes will go undetected and unprosecuted. “Everyone had their hands in the cookie jar during the boom,” he said. “Lenders, brokers, Realtors, homeowners … everyone.”

OLD DOG, NEW TRICKS

A new mortgage scam born out of the housing crisis is short sale fraud. Short sales are a way for stricken homeowners to get out of their homes, whereby in agreement with their lender they sell their home for less than they paid for it and are forgiven the remainder.

But they have also proven a tempting target for fraudsters, usually involving the Realtor in the deal. Lackner, the fraud investigator in San Diego, described a typical scheme: “Let’s say you have a property up for short sale that you know as a Realtor you can get $350,000 for,” he said. “But you arrange a low-ball appraisal of $200,000 and have someone make an offer of that amount.”

Tont Rezko - Convicted Felon - Real Estate "Development"

“The Realtor says to the bank this is the best offer you’re going to get, take it or leave it,” he added. “Then they turn around and flip it immediately for $350,000. In cases like this, the lender is probably already stuck with a lot of foreclosed properties and doesn’t want more. So they go for it.”

Where the process of fraudulent appraisals overvaluing a property for sale is “flipping,” deliberately undervaluing them has become known as “flopping.”

Bob Hertzog, a designated real estate broker at Summit Home Consultants in Scottsdale, Arizona, says he gets emails from unknown firms offering to act as a “third-party negotiator” between the seller and the bank with what turns out to be a grossly undervalued bid.

Hertzog has tried tracing some of the LLCs, but describes a chain of front companies leading nowhere.

“The problem is it is so cheap and easy to set up an LLC online that sometimes they are set up for just one transaction,” Flagstar’s Scott said. “And if they’re set up using fake information or a stolen identity, it’s very hard to trace who’s behind them.”

Many web sites boast they can help you form an LLC online for under $50.

Another common target for fraud is the reverse mortgage. Designed for seniors to release equity from a property, according to financial fraud czar Adkins, they have been used to commit a “particularly egregious type of fraud.”

Fraudsters commonly forge their victims’ signatures and, without their knowledge or consent, divert funds to themselves. The scam is worst in Florida, a magnet for American retirees.

“Unfortunately it is often not until the death of the victim that their heirs realize that all of the equity has been stripped out of the property by fraudsters,” Adkins said.

But Arthur Prieston, chairman of the Prieston Group, which sells mortgage fraud insurance and has launched a patented system to rate lenders on the quality of their loans, said most mortgage fraud he comes across consists of ordinary people fudging figures to get a loan. “The vast majority of the fraud we see is where people intend to occupy a property, but can’t qualify for a loan,” he said. “They’ll do anything to get that loan approved.”

He added this is achieved with the active collusion of Realtors, brokers and lenders looking to make a sale and keep the market moving. Before his firm issues fraud insurance it reviews a lender’s loans and between 20 percent and the 30 percent of the loans reviewed so far have had “red flags.”

The problem with assessing the extent of the damage caused by mortgage fraud is that it’s not just the dollar amount of the fraud itself. It also hits property values, property taxes and often causes crime to rise.

“Most people interpret white collar crime as a victimless crime, where the bank pays the price and no one else,” said Andrew Carswell, associate professor of housing and consumer economics, University of Georgia. “This is a mistaken perception … neighborhoods and homeowners pay the price.”

UNCOVERING THE SCAMS

Companies like Interthinx, CoreLogic and DataVerify all have data-driven fraud prevention tools for lenders. Interthinx’s program, for instance, identifies some 300 “red flags” including a buyer’s identity and recent sales in a neighborhood, while CoreLogic uses pattern recognition technology. CoreLogic also aims to bring a short sale fraud product to the market soon.

Interthinx’s Fulmer said regardless of the source, on average solid fraud prevention tools can be had for as little as $10 to $15 per loan. “The tools out there enable us to see what’s going on out there right now in real time,” she said.

Apart from fraud insurance, Prieston Group’s new credit rating system for lenders should have enough data within the next year to start providing valid ratings.

Prieston said the firm’s insurance product is growing at more than 100 percent per month, while CoreLogic’s Tim Grace said the firm’s fraud prevention tool business was booming.

Many lenders are also sharing more information about bad loans, though LexisNexis’ James said it is not nearly enough. “If lenders don’t start to share more information then fraudsters will continue to go from bank to bank to bank until they’re caught,” she said.

The University of Maryland’s Rossi said what the industry needs is a “central data warehouse” to combat fraud. “There has been a failure of collective data warehousing across the industry,” he said.

Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) spokesman John Mechem said members have no plans for a central database, but added “we view our role as being to facilitate and encourage information sharing in the industry.”

The U.S. Patriot Act of 2001 allows lenders a safe harbor to share information, but does not mandate it. “We always encourage more information sharing,” said Steve Hudak, a press officer at the U.S. Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, or FinCen. “As of now, however, this is an entirely voluntary process.”

But Rossi said the government should step in. “The Federal government is probably going to have to take the initiative because I don’t see the industry doing this one on its own,” he said. “I am personally not a fan of big government, but we need more information sharing.”

Ultimately, the expectation is lenders will be forced either to improve due diligence, or face being pushed out of business as investors burned by sloppy underwriting during the boom urge them to adopt fraud prevention tools.

“Investor scrutiny is going to be higher than it ever has been,” Rossi said. “The days of a small amount of due diligence are gone.”

Many investors are also investigating their losses and forcing lenders to repurchase bad loans. This is resulting in “thousands of repurchases a month,” according to Prieston.

“When it comes to small lenders with only a few million dollars of loans, ten repurchases will absolutely put some of them out of business,” he said.

The government now guarantees more than 90 percent of the mortgage market and forms almost the entire secondary mortgage market, as private investors have not returned. The FHA, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are thus seen as playing an instrumental role in pushing improved due diligence to clean up the government’s multi-trillion dollar portfolio.

FHA commissioner David Stevens was appointed in July 2009. Since then the FHA has shut down 1,100 lenders, after decades in which the government closed an average of 30 lenders annually. He says most lenders he deals with are of a “very high quality,” but that “there are still lenders that either don’t have controls in place or are proactively engaging in practices that pose a risk to the FHA.”

Stevens does not expect to shut down lenders at the same rate as the past year, but added “the number will be much higher than the historical average.”

CoreLogic’s Grace said most large lenders have the tools in place to combat mortgage fraud, but admitted he was concerned about some smaller lenders. “The next shakeout of weak lenders will take place over the next 12 to 24 months,” he said.

The MBA’s Mechem said the U.S. mortgage market must be cleaned up if it is ever to return to normal. “The one thing private investors need to get back into the secondary market is confidence,” he said. “And investors won’t risk buying mortgages if they don’t have confidence in the quality of the loans. Restoring that confidence is going to play a pivotal role in restoring the markets.”

In the meantime, mortgage fraud is expected to cause more problems in areas like Back of the Yards in Chicago.

Three doors down from the boarded-up, foreclosed property that has aroused Carrasquillo’s suspicions, father-of-three Oti Cardoso says he and his neighbors try to cut the grass at the abandoned properties on his block and to keep thieves out. But he has heard most empty houses end up occupied by gang members.

“I want my children to be safe, I don’t want drug dealers here,” he said. “I have tried to find the owner of these houses so I can work with them to help keep their homes clean.”

“If they only knew what was happening here,” he added, “I’m sure they would want to do what was right.”

http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE67G1S620100817

Investors Row - half million dollar houses in a row ...

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