THE CONTINUING CRISIS
Florida’s nation-leading epidemic of mortgage fraud was facilitated by state regulators who permitted 2,200 people with finance-crime records to become professional “loan originators,” part of the total of 10,000 with rap sheets allowed to work in the industry over an eight-year period, according to a July investigation by The Miami Herald. At least 20 registered brokers kept their licenses after fraud convictions. A 2006 state law required criminal background checks for broker licensing, but fewer than half were ever done, reported the Herald. And the crisis continues, according to a Virginia research firm, which found in August that almost one-fourth of new mortgage fraud in the U.S. emanates from Florida (mostly on scams exploiting people who face foreclosure).
Charlie Van Wilkes Jr., 31, was arrested in Danielsville, Ga., in August and charged with possession of drugs and burglary tools. The arrest report noted that Wilkes had a “large lump in the front of his blue jeans, with wires running from inside his pants and hanging down dragging the ground” as he walked. Wilkes explained that he was wearing a “homemade vibrator,” hooked to a battery. Wrote the officer, “(A) small motor had been removed from an item and placed inside a pill bottle, and then wrapped in a piece of pipe insulation before being placed inside (Wilkes’) pants for a pleasurable sensation.”