Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Scenes from the Mortgage Crisis, Part Next

Courtesy of the Palm Beach Post:
"The U.S. Attorney's Office accuses Berry Louidort and Ralph Michel (also known as Ralph Duverneau) of putting together deals for two dozen homes in Palm Beach County, persuading banks to loan far more than the properties actually sold for, then pocketing the difference and letting many of the homes lapse into foreclosure.
Boca Raton mortgage broker Lauren Jasky helped Louidort and Michel arrange the deals, prosecutors say.
Louidort, 26, Michel, 35, and Jasky, 29, were arrested April 23, and it's hard to say which detail of their deals, as federal officials describe in court documents, is the most jaw-dropping.
There's Michel - a native of Haiti who, according to his attorney, can't read or write well enough to pass a U.S. citizenship test - collecting "assignment fees" of $650,000 and $600,000 on side-by-side homes in the Versailles development in Wellington.
There's Louidort, also a native of Haiti, describing a scheme to buy 50 condos in Boynton Beach while stealing $4 million from lenders. He thinks he's talking to a willing accomplice. In fact, he's laying out the plot to an undercover FBI agent who captures the conversation on videotape.
There are straw buyers, such as the part-time Publix cashier whose income on loan applications was inflated from $13,000 to $344,000 so she could qualify for $1.3 million in loans on a palatial home in a gated community in Boca Raton.
There's Jasky saying she doesn't want to know the unsavory details of the loans she's shopping to lenders. Meanwhile, her mother is acting as the Realtor on some of the deals.
And there are some of the world's most sophisticated financial institutions, including JPMorgan Chase and Bank of New York, making loans on these properties for twice what they were worth. The Wall Street giants approved these mortgages in 2007 for much more than the properties sold for in 2005 and 2006, despite the steep downturn in home prices in Palm Beach County."

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