Down 'n Out Homeowners Turn to Crime to Pay Mortgages

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How far would YOU go to make your mortgage payments?

A brief article caught my eye on Reuters this morning that got me wondering -- and Googling -- to see to what extent some folks have gone to keep from getting evicted from their homes.

The article was about a 73 year old Florida man who was busted late last week in Tampa for allegedly holding up not one, but three different banks over a one-month period.

In each holdup, where no weapons were used, James Bruce reportedly demanded six $100 bills.

Tampa Police spokeswoman Laura McElroy told Reuters that Bruce admitted robbing the banks, claiming he needed the cash to pay the mortgage on his house. "He called it a repayable loan," McElroy is quoted as saying.A judge released Bruce on $22,000 bond.

Since the housing crisis in this country began, there have been odder stories.

Last May, a Michigan postal worker reportedly admitted to stealing first class stamps (about $20,000 worth of them) with the aim of selling them on an online auction in order to raise cash to pay his mortgage, according to cnn.com

About the same time, the Hartford Courant reported on a Connecticut woman who allegedly stole "tens of thousands" from her employer so that she could make her mortgage payments after Countrywide threatened to foreclose on her.

And, in a sort of twist on this story, just the other week, a Wisconsin man, who owns a real estate company pleaded guilty to mortgage fraud, among other things, for diverting millions of dollars of other peoples' mortgage money held in the firm's escrow accounts for his own personal use, like investing in a restaurant.

Finally, this: what about people who "steal" from themselves to pay their mortgages? How's that, you ask? By cashing out of a Roth IRA, for example, to make the mortgage payment. That's how. Not a good idea, as some financial blogs will tell you.

Charles Feldman is a journalist, media consultant and co-author of the book, "No Time to Think-The Menace of Media Speed and the 24-hour News Cycle." He has written about real estate issues for several years.
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