Owners of an apartment complex near Pittsburgh, who wanted to take out a mortgage on the buildings, allegedly made vacant units look occupied by turning on radios, placing shoes and mats outside doors and in one instance having a woman tell inspectors her boyfriend was asleep inside.
The owners obtained a $45.8 million loan, which was wrapped into mortgage securities and sold to investors.
Practices such as these—which were alleged in a federal search-warrant application—have sparked one of the largest mortgage-fraud investigations since the financial crisis. It focuses on whether income from commercial properties was falsified, a move that would enable owners to get larger mortgages and take out cash or expand their businesses faster.
Still in its early stages, the investigation has so far yielded a fraud-conspiracy indictment against four real-estate executives in upstate New York. Loans that some or all of them were involved with totaled about $170 million, the indictment alleges.
Investigators have sought mortgage data on dozens of other apartment buildings, according to documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal and interviews with people familiar with the probe. Investigators have looked at student housing and self-storage facilities in addition to apartment complexes.
About $1.5 billion of securities issued by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are backed by mortgages from just one developer who has been under scrutiny, according to a Journal analysis of loan data from Thomson Reuters .
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