Scam questions still need answers

Sunday, November 16, 2008

At long last, we are now learning the details of the mortgage scam that involved dozens of homes in Sikeston and helped contribute to problem properties in our community. Indictments were announced this week against two men who carried on the scam here and pocketed an estimated $500,000 in the process.

This first wave of indictments involves 12 properties in Sikeston but I strongly suspect more are yet to come. The two men used a phony mortgage company to inflate the value of properties in Sikeston and, when they had their cash in hand, virtually abandoned the homes. Our community is now left to clean up the mess created by these two men and the process won't come cheaply.

A combination of loose lending practices and pure greed set the stage for this scam. But in my mind there are still questions that remain unanswered.

Surely someone in the process realized that this was a scam. Properties that could not fetch $20,000 were being purchased for three times that amount. You can't tell me that someone in the food chain of this lending scam did not recognize what was happening. And that's why I believe more indictments will be forthcoming. And well they should.

Yet when the dust clears - as it will someday - it is the community of Sikeston that is left with the work to resolve these problem properties. We must find the resources to remove these properties or determine if any have sufficient value that would warrant rehabilitating them.

One question I still want answered is: Why this scam was targeted at Sikeston? Why not some other community? Are we so gullible that no one recognized what was happening right under our noses? I assure you some property owners knew something was amiss but they were going to benefit financially so they apparently just took the money and ran. In some way, I can't blame them. But someone other than property owners knew something was fishy but said nothing. And did nothing. And now this mess falls into our laps to resolve.

These indictments are not the beginning of the end. They mark the end of the beginning. Someone has some questions to answer. Someone benefitted unfairly from this scam. And someone should pay and pay dearly.

For a year and a half, these two indicted gadflies were buzzing around Sikeston with a pocketful of money and welcoming all comers. They had to find suckers to take the bait and apparently in Sikeston, there were ample willing suckers. Greed blinded them from seeing that a day of reckoning was coming. A half a million bucks in that short period of time will blind anyone.

The indictments show that some of these Sikeston properties were valued as much as nine times their actual selling price. And you want me to believe that no one around here saw this coming?

But criminal activity aside, it is now our challenge as a community to addresses these and other properties. And as with so many other issues in life, the sooner the better.

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