Mortgage scams involve a cartel of inside players -- colluding property appraisers, real-estate brokers and accountants willing to draw up fake income statements and tax returns -- who recruit people with good credit histories to serve as a decoy or "straw buyer" in a real-estate deal.
The conspirators inflate the price of the property, to get the biggest loan possible, pay the sellers the original price and then pocket the excess loan money as "cash back" at the closing of the deal.
The decoy buyer is paid off -- often with just $5,000 -- and the property is quickly abandoned to foreclosure.
The story's main focus is a condo tower in Miami that Reuters says is "a leader in mortgage foreclosures and ... appears also to stand at ground zero in a blizzard of fraud that may lie behind many of the failed loans threatening to bury the U.S. property market."
Baltimore is no stranger to mortgage fraud, as anyone who remembers The Sun's reporting on a pre-boom flipping epidemic will recall.