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American Greed: The Fugitives

Have I got a foreclosed house for you

Celia Watson Seupel, Special to CNBC
Image source: Dagmar Heymans | E+ | Getty Images

Foreclosure scams are up 58 percent, according to the latest data from the LexisNexis 15th Annual Mortgage Fraud Report, and the state with the dubious distinction of being tops in mortgage fraud investigations has held its lead for five years running.

The Worst 10 are based on total investigations in 2012 for mortgage frauds originating in any year. The worst five metro areas are based on investigations involving only mortgages originated last year. Because fraud is often discovered more than 12 months after it occurs, that calculation can show where fraud is trending.

The Mortgage Fraud Index (MFI) is based on the ratio of the number of loan originations and the number of fraud investigations in each state compared with those numbers nationwide. An MFI of 100 is the "expected" rate of fraud in the state based on national rates.

By Celia Watson Seupel, Special to CNBC
Posted 3 Oct. 2013

CNBC follows the money trail in search of the most wanted white-collar fugitives. "American Greed: The Fugitives " airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. ET.

10. New York

Getty Images

MFI: 98
2010 population: 19,378,102
Percentage of homeowners: 54.5

New York also ranked No. 4 on the 2012 Collusion Indicator Index. (The CII is based on factors, including cohabitation and shared assets, that make collusion possible or likely. The factors are particularly relevant when a property has been transferred at a loss.)

9. Georgia

Atlanta, Georgia.
Georgio Fochesato | E+ | Getty Images

MFI: 106
2010 population: 9,687,653
Percentage of homeowners: 67.1

The state's MFI fell 27 percent between 2011 and 2012. Georgia also ranked No. 9 of the 10 states with the largest percentages of properties in default, at 2.94 percent, though that was down from 4.32 percent in 2011.


8. Michigan

Grand Rapids, Michigan
Image source: Brandon Bartoszek | Flickr | Getty Images

MFI: 110
2010 population: 9,883,640
Percentage of homeowners: 74.5

Michigan posted a significant drop—just over 40 percent—in MFI between 2011 and 2012.


7. California

San Francisco, California
Image source: Mike Shaw | Flickr | Getty Images

MFI: 116
2010 population: 37,253,956
Percentage of homeowners: 56.1

Two of the metro areas with the highest number of mortgage fraud suspicious activity reports were in the Golden State: San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont, at 12.1 percent, and Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana, at 6.4 percent.


6. New Jersey

Nimu1956 | E+ | Getty Images

MFI: 120
2010 population: 8,791,894
Percentage of homeowners: 66.5

New Jersey is the only state making the Worst 10 on all three NexisLexis mortgage fraud indexes: It also ranks No. 7 on the CII for properties with a sale price decrease of 50 percent to 95 percent, and it's No. 6 on the default index.

5. Illinois

Image source: Franz Marc Frei | LOOK | Getty Images

MFI: 150
2010 population: 12,830,632
Percentage of homeowners: 68.8

The state also had the second-largest percentage of mortgage defaults last year.

4. Delaware

Image source: Johnny Stockshooter | Age Fotostock | Getty Images

MFI: 165
2010 population: 897,934
Percentage of homeowners: 74.7

This is the state's first appearance on this Worst 10 list. It also ranks high on the CII.

3. Arizona

Getty Images

MFI: 174
2010 population: 6,392,017
Percentage of homeowners: 66.6

The state was also third on in 2011; it ranked No. 2 in 2010.


2. Nevada

The Las Vegas Strip in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Doug McKinley | Lonely Planet Images | Getty Images

MFI: 280
2010 population: 2,700,551
Percentage of homeowners: 59.7

Nevada was also No. 4 last year among the 10 states with the largest percentage of properties in default, though the number decreased dramatically—to 4.13 percent from a high of 14.94 percent in 2009.

1. Florida

Image source: Michael Krinke | Getty Images

MFI: 805
2010 population: 18,801,310
Percentage of homeowners: 69.3

With its long history of real estate fraud, Florida has ranked No. 1 for mortgage fraud investigations for five years. It's also first for properties in default. Still, defaults fell to 5.42 percent last year from a high of 13.42 percent in 2009.

The metro area of Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach ranks fifth for fraud for mortgages originating in 2012.

American Greed: The Fugitives

CNBC's new spin-off series focuses on active cases of alleged white-collar criminals, accused of orchestrating elaborate scams to dupe investors and evade capture. Each episode features interviews with law enforcement, prosecutors and victims—all with the goal of bringing these fugitives to justice.

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