Real estate deals involve large sums of money, property, or credit. With so much involved, it can be ripe for accusations of fraud when a deal does not come out the way someone expected. Real estate fraud can take many forms in Virginia. A conviction for a fraud crime can result in prison time, fines, and repayment of any lost money.
If you were accused of fraud involving real estate or property, your Virginia criminal defense lawyer can investigate your case and defend you in court. Contact me, Thomas M. Wilson, Attorney at Law in Charlottesville today.
Real Estate Fraud Laws in Virginia
Real estate fraud generally involves making false statements to obtain property or credit. Under Virginia Code § 18.2-186, a person is guilty of this crime by:
- Making any materially false statement,
- Knowing it to be false and intending that it be relied upon,
- For the purpose of procuring personal property, cash, or credit.
For example, Henry claims to be a real estate agent and offers to sell a house to Mike. Mike decides to buy the house and gives Henry his personal information to get a loan. Henry uses Mike's information to get multiple loans on multiple properties. After the loans go through, Henry takes the money, leaving Mike with multiple loans and properties. This type of real estate fraud is known as “chunking.”
Types of Real Estate Fraud
There are many types of real estate fraud involving buyers, sellers, borrowers, lenders, mortgage brokers, or builders. These processes can be complex and often involve multiple parties to commit fraudulent deals. Examples of real estate fraud in Virginia may include:
- Double selling;
- Buy and bail;
- Builder bailout;
- Phantom sales;
- Equity skimming;
- Mortgage service fraud;
- Property flipping;
- Reverse mortgage fraud;
- Short sale fraud;
- Loan modification fraud;
- Fictitious loans.
- Financial statement fraud;
- Foreclosure fraud; and
- Deed or title forgery.
Penalties for Virginia Real Estate Fraud
Real estate fraud generally falls under Virginia's larceny laws. Committing fraud that results in less than $500 is petit larceny, a Class 1 misdemeanor. The penalties for a class 1 misdemeanor conviction in Virginia can include up to 12 months in jail and a fine of up to $2,500.
Most cases of real estate fraud involve more than $500 and are classified as grand larceny. A conviction for grand larceny fraud can include up to 20 years in jail, depending on the type and extent of fraud involved.
In addition to criminal penalties, the defendant may also be ordered to return any money taken to the victims of the real estate fraud.
Other Charges Related to Real Estate Fraud
In real estate fraud cases, the defendant may also face additional charges related to the fraud. This could include:
Forging a public record, including a deed or tax documents, is a Class 4 felony in Virginia. The penalties for forging a public record involving a real estate deal could include additional jail time of up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $100,000.
If an individual uses another person's identifying information to commit fraud, like filing for a loan in another person's name without their knowledge, the individual may be charged with identity theft. Identity theft can be a Class 6 felony if the theft results in a financial loss of more than $500. The penalties for identity theft can include 1 to 5 years in prison.
Defending Against Real Estate Fraud Charges in Charlottesville
Innocent people can be accused of real estate fraud. When a real estate deal does not turn out as expected, the property market turns, or one party feels like the other party got a better deal, someone may claim fraud was involved. Facing serious criminal charges, the accused may even consider pleading guilty as a way to avoid possible jail time or more serious charges. Before pleading guilty to anything, make sure you understand your rights and defenses.
Your Charlottesville criminal defense lawyer will investigate your case and identify the potential defenses in your case. This could include:
- The defendant did not know the statements were false,
- Any false statements were not material or intended to be relied upon, or
- The defendant had no intent to deceive.
Charlottesville Real Estate Fraud Defense Lawyer
Real estate deals generally involve large sums of money, credit, or property value. When a deal does not turn out as expected for one party, they may claim that the other party committed fraud. Fraud is a serious charge and can result in jail time and a criminal record. If you are accused of real estate fraud in Charlottesville, talk to an experienced criminal defense attorney about how to fight criminal charges and avoid a criminal record. Contact me today for a free consultation.