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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Come on down!

In the wake of perceptions that Florida has become a hotbed of real estate scams, the state Senate yesterday passed the second bill in two years that boosts jail terms for those convicted of real-property-related rackets. Any mortgage fraud on home loans amounting to more than $100,000 will now be prosecuted as a second- degree felony, which carries a potential jail term of up to 15 years. Just last week, one Richard Crowder was convicted of a $37 million mortgage-fraud scheme involving 17 luxury condos in South Beach, Miami. He was sentenced to nine years in prison.

This is yet another example of the politically driven process by which criminal penalties are being increased in order to allow elected officials to appeal to voters. Longer sentences for those convicted of mortgage fraud will not address the widespread economic problems that Florida – and many other states – face in the wake of the subprime mortgage meltdown. And longer sentences cost states much more money in the long run. Election-driven prosecutors refuse to negotiate the fraud-case flavor of the month, thereby costing taxpayers money in unnecessary trials. This chronic pattern of predicament solving by mandating longer criminal sentences has never worked in the past and will continue to cause many more problems than it is worth in the future. CR

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