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How a New Kind of Fraud Puts South Florida Real Estate Owners, Lenders at Risk

A con man is exploiting a loophole in public records access to target South Florida real estate lenders and landowners.  Based on little more than his charm, a fake driver's license and forged corporate documents altered on a government-run website for $50, he posed as a Boca Raton doctor and walked away with $550,000 from hard-money lenders in Fort Lauderdale.

People involved in the transaction say he spoke at length about his real estate holdings, didn't flinch when questioned, and was so convincing that when a private detective later inquired about the deal, lenders were suspicious of the investigator, not the fraudster.

"Next thing we know, we found out this person isn't who they said they were," said Alain Villar, the independent mortgage broker who originated the deal. "The person who went to the closing was not really the owner."

It was too late.
What remained was a smattering of clues—all eventual dead ends—and a real-life whodunit, complete with finger-pointing, misdirection, burner phones, cold trails, a mystery woman and plenty of unanswered questions about the high-stakes shakedown.

"Who was this guy?" asked Yves Naman, a landowner who filed suit March 16 against lenders seemingly duped into placing a six-figure lien on his vacant 9,750-square-foot residential lot along a Miami Beach golf course. "To be honest with you, I thought he had sold my property."  Read More

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