ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - A real estate agent is facing charges after federal prosecutors said he devised a short sale fraud scheme.
The alleged scheme involved assisting homeowners who were facing foreclosure by helping them file fraudulent bankruptcy paperwork.
Prosecutors believe Reafael Sanchez was trying to stop the foreclosures temporarily, long enough to try to make a short sale on the distressed property and potentially receive a commission.
Once they filed bankruptcy paperwork in federal court, it automatically stopped the proceedings at the Orange County courthouse.
On his real estate bio, Sanchez describes himself as a "short sales specialist."
Federal prosecutors said that over a two-year period, prosecutors believe Sanchez collected money and assisted at least 30 homeowners facing foreclosure in filing fraudulent bankruptcies.
"(He filed) completely fraudulent bankruptcies all of which were dismissed in 14 or 15 days," said bankruptcy attorney Scott Shuker.
Shuker said it's a problem that's clogged up the court system.
A "notice of foreclosure sale" was posted showing a home would be sold April 7, 2014, but three days before the sale, a bankruptcy was filed.
"A week or two before they're ready to foreclose, this happens. The bankruptcy is filed. That means the sale stops automatically," said Shuker.
While the foreclosure sales were put on hold, it gave Sanchez a chance to try to sell the distressed homes and make a commission.
Shuker said often the homeowners can't sell and end up losing their home anyway.
“Now they have the bankruptcy on their record in addition to the foreclosure and they've spent money that produced absolutely no benefit," Shuker said.
Three of Sanchez’s clients said they lost their homes anyway, but they said they didn't blame him.
Sanchez agreed to make a plea in the case, but a date hasn't been set.
He faces up to five years in prison.
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