White-Collar Crime

Closing attorney indicted in claimed mortgage-fraud and identity-theft scheme

A New Jersey lawyer has been indicted along with two other defendants in a claimed scheme to defraud residential mortgage lenders of $873,000 by submitting mortgage applications in the name of individuals whose identities authorities say had been stolen.

Attorney Stephanie Hand, 49, practices in Newark and was the lawyer and settlement agent in both of the closings at issue in the case, authorities say. She is accused of falsifying closing statements showing that nonexistent buyers made required payments and proceeds were properly disbursed, the Star-Ledger reports.

“We are seeing this combination of mortgage fraud and identity theft with increasing frequency, as con artists seek to take out major loans, steal the proceeds and escape under the cover of a false identity,” said director Elie Honig of the state Division of Criminal Justice.

The article doesn’t include any comment from Hand or her counsel.

She and the other defendants are charged with money laundering, second-degree conspiracy and theft by deception in the Mercer County case. If convicted, she could get as much as a decade in prison.

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