Florida tops country in mortgage fraud

For the second consecutive year, Florida ranked No. 1 in the country for mortgage fraud, as the stalled housing market quickly pushed both prevaricating borrowers and seasoned criminals into foreclosure.

Lenders reported more than twice the number of suspected fraud cases in Florida than would otherwise be considered average, based on the number of loans originated here in 2007, according to a report Thursday by the Mortgage Asset Research Institute and an industry group of the nation's biggest lenders.

The fallout is showing up in state's historic foreclosure rates. The report notes that fraud and delinquency rates are closely linked, as borrowers who may have lied to qualify for a home loan find themselves unable to make their monthly payments and criminals abandon properties after they have skimmed the proceeds of illegal mortgage transactions.

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