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Financial Crimes

ICE and Florida CFO investigation nets 6 arrests in mortgage fraud crackdown

MIAMI - Six South Florida residents involved in a mortgage fraud scam that resulted in more than $2 million in fraudulent mortgages were arrested as a result of a joint investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Florida Department of Financial Services' Division of Insurance Fraud (DIF).

Special agents assigned to ICE's Office of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Miami and a DIF detective assigned to the ICE Miami Office Asset Identification and Removal Group (AIRG) began an investigation in November 2009 based upon a federal investigation that resulted in mortgage fraud referrals.

Investigators discovered that Alan Weitz, vice president of Bal Bay Properties, and his son Brandon Weitz, working for the same company, recruited "straw buyers" who were offered $3,000 each to allow their names to be used on mortgage loan applications to purchase homes with the understanding that the properties would be quit-claimed over to an actual buyer.

The following six individuals were charged with first degree grand theft on various counts: Sean McCarthy, 28, of Plantation, Fla., two counts; Brett Lewin, 27, of Plantation, one count; Corey Lewin, 30, of Davie, Fla., one count; Daniel Scala, 28, of Miami, one count; Alan Weitz, 58, of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., four counts and Brandon Weitz, 28, of Miami Beach, one count.

"Criminals are motivated by profit and ICE's AIRG is an effective tool that HSI uses to remove the profit from criminal acts," said Anthony Mangione, special agent in charge of HSI in Miami. "Special agents assigned to our AIRG take on the complex task of identifying and seizing money and other assets that are the ill-gotten gains of all types of criminal activity."

"This is a prime example of the excellent collaboration among Florida's law enforcement and investigative agencies, including my insurance fraud detectives," said Florida's Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink. "Mortgage fraud is an insidious crime that continues to be a drag on Florida's overall economy and hurts all Floridians, including borrowers, neighborhoods scarred by foreclosures from mortgage scams, and lenders weakened by loans that won't be repaid."

All homes purchased in this scam eventually went into foreclosure as a result of unsuccessfully finding buyers for the properties.

The Miami Dade State Attorney's Office Mortgage Fraud Prosecution Unit is prosecuting the case.