Today’s news:

DAs to fight mortgage fraud with e-mail system

The Queens district attorney’s office is joining forces with the mayor and prosecutors from around the city to put a stop to mortgage fraud by using new digital systems.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced Feb. 2 the creation of a financial crime task force’s digital fingerprint system and an e-mail alert system for real estate transactions done in the city. Both initiatives were created in response to the large numbers of fraudulent mortgages, many of which were made on Queens properties and led to the borough’s high number of foreclosures, according to Bloomberg.

“Our financial crime task force, with the help of our district attorneys, has developed a system to alert law enforcement and property owners to irregularities in real estate transactions,” he said in a statement.

“These leads will give law enforcement a powerful assist in rooting out and preventing mortgage fraud in our neighborhoods,” he said.

Queens DA Richard Brown was on hand with the mayor and the district attorneys of the other four boroughs and praised Bloomberg for taking more action against mortgage fraud. Southeast Queens neighborhoods, such as Jamaica, Springfield Gardens and St. Albans, lead the state in the number of foreclosed properties and many were a result of fraudulent home loans that were given to buyers through deceptive tactics, according to Brown.

He cited a case where a 93-year-old Jamaica Alzheimer’s patient had $800,000 in equity from a property in Jamaica and another in Bayside after those properties were stolen by a caregiver.

“Mortgage fraud and related complaints to my office have quadrupled over the last five years — and that is only the tip of the iceberg. Many of these frauds are directed at the county’s elderly, immigrant and economically disadvantaged populations who are often less aware of the ever-increasing variety of scams that can befall them,” he said in a statement.

The two programs are designed to halt mortgage fraud in the city on two fronts.

The digital fingerprint system uses data on mortgage fraud cases around the country, including information from the DA offices, and finds common traits of fraud to develop a search methodology. Fraud indicators include homes that changed owners multiple times in a short period, transfers of title at far below market prices or properties sold at values just below thresholds for mandatory reporting or tax filings.

The financial crime task force will then compile an “unusual property activity report” for law enforcement officials.

The city Department of Finance’s new program will allow property owners to receive notifications through e-mail, text or regular mail for any transactions involving their homes. If someone uses their identity to file phony documents, they will be alerted.

Interested homeowners can sign up for the program at nyc.gov.

Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at ipereira@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.

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