On Wednesday, Florida CFO and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Alex Sink released details on the arrest of six Florida men whose participation in a mortgage scam generated millions.
According to a press release, the six men, who ranged in age from 28 to 58, were guilty of a scam that resulted in over $2 million in fraudulent mortgages. All were charged with first degree grand theft on various counts. Two of the six acted as a father-son team in perpetrating the scam: “Alan Weitz and his son Brandon Weitz, [both working for Bal Bay Properties], recruited ‘straw buyers’ who were offered $3,000 each to allow their names to be used on mortgage loan applications. Homes were then purchased with the understanding that the properties would be quit-claimed over to an actual buyer.”
Back in February, 42-year-old Israeli national Charly Amsellem pleaded guilty to one count of trafficking in counterfeit goods or services and consented to the forfeiture of his $3 million property in Golden Beach. After further investigation, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement special agents discovered that the property had been used to facilitate the importation and distribution of counterfeit merchandise.
The Amsellem organization generated approximately $15 million in revenue from the counterfeit scheme; the funds were used to purchase numerous properties in South Florida. According to Jennifer Hirst, communications coordinator for the Department of Financial Services, the investigation eventually lead authorities to making several more arrests: “The ICE investigation resulted in spin-off cases involving mortgage fraud, bank fraud and money laundering violations. The mortgage fraud leads generated from the ICE investigation were worked jointly with investigators assigned to the [Division of Insurance Fraud] which led to today’s arrests.”
Hirst says the homes purchased as part of the scam were forced into foreclosure at the bank’s loss: “The homes were not paid for because the ‘recruiters’ never found a buyer. Ultimately the mortgage loans slipped into foreclosure and the banks became the victims when they were forced to liquidate the properties at a foreclosure sale resulting in the loss of their investment capital.”
In a press release announcing the arrests, Sink cited the arrests as “a prime example of the excellent collaboration among Florida’s law enforcement and investigative agencies, including my insurance fraud detectives.” She spoke of the crimes as “insidious” and “a drag on Florida’s overall economy.”