- Two people are wanted for mortgage fraud after allegedly using fake identification to impersonate the homeowners of a Toronto property and hiring a real estate agent to sell the home without the homeowners’ knowledge.
- The home was then sold to new owners before the real homeowners discovered the fraud several months later.
- Toronto police are seeking information on the male and female suspects.
A police investigation is underway after the owners of a Toronto home returned from a business trip to find their home had been sold without their knowledge.
Investigators allege that in January 2022, a man and woman used fake identification to impersonate the homeowners and hired a real estate agent while they were out of the country for business.
The home was then listed for sale and sold to new owners who took possession of the property, according to police.
Several months after the sale, the real homeowners discovered their property had been sold without their consent.
The alleged fraudsters are now wanted for mortgage fraud.
James Cook is a partner at Gardiner Roberts and is experienced in real estate and professional liability litigation.
While Cook says he can’t comment on this specific incident, he has worked on mortgage fraud cases.
“Mortgage fraud is not a new thing,” Cook says. “But this is probably a rare enough case where you’ve actually got a property involved. I think it’s becoming more common because there’s a lot of money, particularly in Toronto.”
While the listing agent involved in this fraudulent transaction may not have known the IDs used were fake, a realtor is responsible for taking steps to verify the identity of their client.
Longtime Toronto realtor Barry Lebow suggests agents work with lawyers who are thorough and cautious, and avoid working with those who focus on volume, as that may impede their ability to do due diligence.
Lebow also encourages realtors to get back to basics and, in addition to looking at the age and photo on an ID, compare the date of birth to the year of purchase.
Another piece of advice from Cook: “Look out for properties that are tenanted, ones that aren’t ordinarily occupied by the owners.”
The litigator adds that a lot of money can be involved in this type of mortgage fraud, and those with nefarious intentions may pull out all the stops to deceive the professionals involved.
“If criminals are going to go through the exercise of getting authentic looking, phony identification and impersonate somebody, it’s hard to say what anybody can do in those situations to stop it.”
Police have released photos of the two suspects. Anyone with information is asked to contact the Toronto Police Service Financial Crimes Unit.
There was a time when sold information on a property was kept private and not published. Why was that such a bad concept?
So nothing else suspicious? The furniture was gone when the new folks arrived? Was it moved somewhere?
What about when the Fintrac list was consulted? If it’s fake id, then I get why there’d be no hits.
Speed of closing a red flag?
Wondering if the agent had any suspicions along the way given that 20/20 vision works.
What about the fake vendors lawyer? Maybe he was also a fake or a flake. Had to be one or the other. He is also responsible under FINTRAC rules. The fake vendors probably asked their agent Do you know a good lawyer? 🙂 🙂
Did the new homeowners keep the home? How did this all play out? Was the home sold as is where is with all of their worldly possessions in it? I can’t imagine having neighbours who could see moving trucks coming and going while the homeowners have been away for months and not contacting the owners and asking why didn’t you mention you were selling/moving?
So many questions:
1) I’m curious to know why they called this mortgage fraud.
I believe the lawyers are exempt from FINTRAC rules which means only Ontario’s law society ID requirements kick in or if the lawyer is either closing out or registering a mortgage, they’d need to identify either the seller or buyer.
So if the seller had a mortgage, it seems the mortgagee would have been made whole on closing. And if the buyer had to arrange a mortgage, they woud have done so in good faith – are either of those considered mortgage fraud because one party was a fake?
Did the fake seller arrange a vendor take back?
2) Those photos are probably from the photo ID they provided. Did the listing agent actually meet the fake sellers or just accept emailed/messaged ID from people they’ve never met?
3) Best practices demand the LA ask for a copy of their realty tax bill and a copy of the transfer of title. In today’s digital trend toward paperless, it’s too easy to forge either of those or claim they don’t have a stored copy. What happened here?
Back in the early ‘90’s and we had Realtor open houses on new listings on different days of the week. I noticed a house on one morning and new the folks that owned it and knew they had it rented out. A friend had it listed. I went to see the place… the Realtor introduced the vendor to me who wasn’t my friend! I shook the guys hand, had a look around and left.
I went back to my office and called my friend who by the way lived out of town and said that I thought that his tenant might be trying to sell his house on him… he hadn’t listed it!
I then called the Realtor and asked him about the listing and asked if he was away from the house… he was. I told him the story and suggested perhaps they have the police call on this vendor and it was in fact an attempt by this tenant. I never did hear how it all ended but it did.