Sunday, November 05, 2006

Newest Terror Finance Plan: House Flipping

In the Columbus Dispatch this morning comes a news story about a rash of house 'flipping' -- the practice of borrowing much more than the price of a property, paying off the current owner's mortgage, then pocketing the difference. This has been done forever in inner-city properties. Now, it's moving to the affluent suburbs of Columbus, like Muirfield in Dublin.

What's the big deal? The Dispatch reports that most of the buyers are of middle eastern descent. Not one mention that it could be used to finance terrorism.

Big deals send up red flags
Sales of 14 upscale homes at well-above-market prices raise suspicions of flipping
Sunday, November 05, 2006
Geoff Dutton

The peculiar but tempting offers sometimes came a year or more after homeowners planted for-sale signs in their front yards.

Interested buyers suddenly appeared, proposing to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars more than the asking price for houses in some of central Ohio’s elite neighborhoods, including Muirfield Village and Tartan Fields.

The catch: the sellers must agree to immediately refund the difference between the asking price and the sale price.

At least 14 such deals worth more than $11 million have closed since spring, and the offers continue.

Rather than celebrate, some suspicious realestate brokers, lawyers and title agents advised sellers to reject the offers and walk away from the deals.

Some called the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security, because most of the buyers were Middle Eastern.

"We turned down five of them," said Bryan Wing, executive vice president of CV Perry Builders. "Believe me, in this day and age, we could have used it." Others couldn’t resist.

The elusive buyers who could be located by The Dispatch offered little if any explanation. The real-estate professionals, two of whom have troubled track records, wouldn’t discuss the sales in detail. Bankers holding the mortgages wouldn’t talk, and neither would FBI or Homeland Security officials.

With few people talking, and a limited public paper trail, key details remain a mystery. But some observers fear the worst — that dealmakers might abandon the houses and disappear with the mortgage money, leaving neighbors and lenders to sort out the mess.

I'm not so worried about the rich folk having abandoned houses in their neighborhood. I'm interested to see where the money is going. Hezbollah? Hamas? Al Queda? The Muslim Brotherhood?

I'm sure the FBI will say it's just a coincidence. Move along. Nothing to see here. After all, they've had muslim sensitivity training.

This is a similar story that is appearing over and over again. Middle eastern-descent families move here to make their fortune, then send money back to their country of origin or give it to an islamic charity.

Follow the money. It could be that these people are simply hucksters and con men that have a found a gaping hole in Ohio's mortgage lending laws and are taking advantage of it (like so many others). Or, they could be terror financiers. Only time will tell.

Read the complete story here.

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