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Mortgage & Deed Fraud Unit

In 2005, Prosecutor Kym Worthy, then Sheriff Warren Evans and Register of Deeds Bernard Youngblood worked tirelessly to come up with a solution to solve the epidemic problem of mortgage and deed fraud in Wayne County. As a result, the Mortgage & Deed Fraud Unit was established.

Housed in the Register’s offices at 400 Monroe, Detroit the unit takes in citizen complaints called to the Register of Deeds’ Deed Fraud Hotline: (313) 224-5869. The unit moved into its new headquarters in January of 2006.

In recent years, criminals have discovered that they can prepare and record legitimate looking documents, forge the rightful owner’s signatures and transfer title to themselves. They then work with an unsuspecting or cooperative mortgage lender and borrow against the property, all without the knowledge or consent of the rightful owner. This often happens when the rightful owner is elderly, has recently died or has moved to a nursing home.

Usually, the criminal’s method is to pull all the equity from the property at the closing, make no payments on the mortgage and the property goes into what is known in the industry as a “first payment default”. This will usually trigger a fraud investigation by the parent company of the mortgage lender and often a foreclosure action by the lender.

The rightful owner, or their heirs or family members, only learn of what has taken place when they find foreclosure papers taped to the front door. Filing a civil lawsuit to stop the foreclosure and set aside the forged transfer is expensive; time consuming, and often only marginally cost effective.

When the Register of Deeds receives a suspicious document, it is now immediately flagged and there is an investigation to determine the legitimacy of the document. Each case is typically factually intensive and requires a great deal more investigative and prosecutorial time than an ordinary stolen car or simple larceny case. In 2010, the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office obtained two sources of federal funding which has allowed for the expansion of the unit by adding more investigators and more prosecutors to better serve the people of Wayne County in combating the growing incidence of this type of crime.