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m9151 BC-MN-MortgageFraud 12-10 0162

Authorities charge 5 in alleged mortgage fraud scheme

Eds: NewsNow.

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The owner of a mortgage brokerage and several employees have been charged with racketeering and theft by swindle in an alleged mortgage fraud scheme.

The Hennepin County Attorney’s Office says several employees at Universal Mortgage Inc. based in Brooklyn Park engaged in "mortgage flipping," where they bought and sold residential property quickly at rigged prices.

According to the criminal complaint, employees recruited so-called "straw buyers" to buy homes owned by Universal Mortgage in Minneapolis and Golden Valley at inflated prices.

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Most of the homes purchased in the scheme are now in foreclosure.

A man who answered the phone at Universal Mortgage on Monday hung up, and a subsequent message left by The Associated Press hasn’t been returned.

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