The scenario may seem improbable: with false identity documents, criminals pose as the owners of opulent houses, obtain a loan on these properties and immediately flee with the lender’s money as soon as it is deposited in their account. Yet this is what a group of fraudsters accomplished, revealed the Montreal City Police Service (SPVM), which has just dismantled the network.
The Economic Crimes Section of the SPVM has arrested 17 suspects, who must appear Wednesday at the Montreal courthouse, in relation to real estate fraud amounting to more than $5 million.
These arrests, which were carried out in several phases, are the result of a long-term investigation begun in the fall of 2021, indicate Montreal police officers.
They arrested seven women and ten men aged between 22 and 60. They will be charged with a variety of crimes, depending on their level of involvement in the scheme, including fraud, money laundering, receiving stolen property and conspiracy. Among the suspects arrested, some face prison sentences of up to 14 years.
The police investigation revealed that the network had targeted five mortgage-free properties: two opulent residences in the cities of Westmount and Beaconsfield, which were rented, and three vacant lots located on Nuns’ Island.
A well-executed ploy
Using false identification documents, the fraudsters were able to pose as the owners of a targeted property. They appeared virtually before a first notary in order to sign a power of attorney which gave full powers of administration of the property to a person who was part of the criminal network.
The fraudsters also opened an account in the name of the real owners in a financial institution.
Then, the person holding the power of attorney obtained financing from a private lender, and signed a mortgage deed with a different notary.
Once the loaned money was deposited into the fraudulently opened bank account, the suspects would quickly withdraw it and disappear.
The houses in question were rented, underlines the SPVM, which believes that this made the task of fraudsters easier: some had rented the property, thus having access to the premises which facilitated the commission of criminal offenses.
The consequences of these crimes? The actual owners are now stuck with mortgages on their homes and land worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.
As for private lenders, they lost all of the sums of money lent.
The SPVM provides advice for notaries, real estate brokers, mortgage brokers, private lenders as well as employees of financial institutions “who can play a key role in preventing identity fraud. » The police encourage them to be wary of customers in a hurry and those who insist on virtual meetings, avoiding showing up in person at the offices. They urge them to learn to distinguish a real driver’s license from a fake and to ask to see additional identification documents. They should also be wary of clients who do not ask questions about the terms of a loan or the fees to be paid.