Stephane Giroux of CTV News has an excellent report tonight about a man suspected of obtaining mortgages for at least five Montreal properties he didn't own.
One Westmount homeowner was tipped off to the scam when a bank evaluator showed up at her door to do a evaluation for the person seeking the mortgage.
An eagle-eyed clerk at Westmount city hall also noticed that welcome tax bills were being sent to the same individual for several residential properties within a few blocks of each other.
Mortgage fraud reached epidemic levels in Ontario during the hot real estate market of the early 2000s. It seemed that scammers were able to easily obtain identification documents that allowed them to obtain false mortgages on properties and then either disappear with the cash, or, in the case of the truly bold and brazen, resell the property and disappear with the cash.
This kind of scam has never been a huge problem in Quebec, which is why this story is so noteworthy. Here, unlike Ontario or the rest of Canada, notaries play a key role in assuring an orderly and meticulously researched and documented property transfer.
Notaries have an obligation to read all the ownership documents attached to a property, sometimes going back a hundred years or more to ensure that the vendor has the legal right to sell. They verify that there are no mortgages or other liens on the property when it passes from vendor to buyer. They meet with both parties, and though it usually seems rote and a little insulting, they ask to see two pieces of ID from each party, to be sure the buyer is who he says he is and the vendor is who he says he is.
In this case, the scamster appears to have bypassed the notary and gone to a lawyer. The police investigation will reveal whether the lawyer preformed his or her job dilligently.
The good news is that the homeowners did not lose their properties and are not out of pocket. Looks like the banks who left the fake mortgages might not have been so lucky.