Tom Smart, Deseret Morning News
Blake Heiner, vice president of First American Title Insurance Co., talks to CREW members in Sandy Thursday. He said Utah is a prime market for mortgage fraud and that lenders "have to pay more attention to the transactions that they're making."

SANDY — The desire to make a "quick buck," along with extremely lax lending practices, are considered to be among the chief reasons for the recent decline in the nationwide mortgage and housing markets, according to a local title company executive

Speaking Thursday to the Utah chapter of the Commercial Real Estate Women (CREW) Network, Blake Heiner, vice president and regional counsel for First American Title Insurance Co., said fraud is a key component of the current mortgage meltdown.

"Right now, the focus (of many fraud schemes) is on real estate, because that market has been going up, home values have been going up," he said. "It's been easy money."

Heiner said people who perpetrate fraud are typically opportunistic and have found the mortgage industry an easy target, although the climate is changing rapidly as regulators work to reestablish tighter lending and borrowing standards.

"Mortgage lenders and everybody involved in that process have to pay more attention to the transactions that they're making, the loans that they're making," said Heiner.

He said the increase in fraudulent schemes occurred when speculators infused the mortgage market with huge amounts of capital, triggering a wave of activity prompted by greed and the ability to make an easy profit. Heiner said Utah has been a ripe market for those seeking to perpetrate mortgage fraud.

"People in Utah tend to be very susceptible to these kinds of schemes," he said.

Heiner noted the problem is so pervasive in the Beehive State that a law enforcement task force has been established to combat the issue. He also cites the large number of subprime loans and property flippers as big contributors to the problems now being experienced in the current mortgage debacle.

Heiner said that in addition to poor lending oversight, the ready availability of virtual loans has been huge issue, as well.

"A large part of the problem is the whole idea that you can get loans over the Internet," he said. "It makes it so much easier to defraud somebody when you're not sitting across the desk from them and not calling to make all the proper verifications."

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