End in sight for Hennepin County mortgage fraud cases

  • Article by: RANDY FURST , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 5, 2012 - 11:31 PM

A five-year investigation of deals involving almost 500 homes in Hennepin County is coming to a close.

Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said on Thursday that his office is wrapping up a five-year investigation of mortgage fraud involving nearly 500 residential properties and more than $125 million in fraudulent loans.

Freeman said that the five-year statute of limitations is running out on the mortgage fraud cases, most of which occurred during the height of the real estate boom from 2005 to 2007. Also, he said, the federal grant is expiring that was used to hire additional attorneys to prosecute the cases.

At a news conference outside a home at 1811 Upton Av. N. that had been bought with a fraudulent loan, Freeman described how that investigation and others resulted in charges including racketeering, identity theft, theft by swindle, aggravated forgery and perjury.

Freeman said his office prosecuted 50 mortgage and real estate fraud cases. Ten went to trial, all resulting in convictions. More than 40 other individuals or companies pleaded guilty.

Some of those who were convicted received prison sentences of up to 16 years. Those convicted of racketeering mostly received sentences between five and nine years, those convicted of theft by swindle got from 21 to 39 months.

At the news conference, Elizabeth Soll, 55, of Shoreview, said her identity was stolen and her name used to buy 12 properties that all went into foreclosure. She said her credit has been ruined.

A Plymouth couple, John Foster, 49, and Melony Michaels, 50, also were victims of identity theft, which resulted in two fraudulent mortgages. "It's been a nightmare," Foster said.

With mortgage fraud prosecutions winding down, Freeman said his office will now turn its attention to financial crimes against vulnerable adults and seniors.

Randy Furst • 612-673-4224

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  • John Foster and Melony Michaels spent six years trying to repair their credit after their identities were stolen and used to take out two fraudulent mortgages. The Hennepin County attorney’s office prosecuted 50 cases ranging from racketeering to aggravated forgery.

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