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FSA bans three for mortgage fraud

The Financial Services Authority has banned three mortgage brokers from working in regulated financial services; another individual has been fined £17,500.

Investigations into each individual by the FSA revealed failings that exposed their firms to the risk of being used for financial crime.

These actions bring the total number of mortgage brokers banned to 84.

Noel Smith, a director of South London-based Andrew Copeland Mortgages Limited, has been fined £17,500 for systems and controls failings and for exposing his business to the risk of being used to further financial crime. Smith has also had his FSA approval to perform management functions withdrawn.

Following an investigation the FSA concluded that Smith’s poor management controls and compliance monitoring led to 224 customers being exposed to the risk of receiving unsuitable advice and left the firm open to abuse by mortgage fraudsters.

Smith also failed to oversee remedial actions outlined by the FSA to address potential poor advice given to customers.  In files reviewed by the FSA there was no evidence to show that affordability had been suitably assessed.

Jason Phillips, of Colne in Lancashire and a former partner of Lancaster House Mortgages, has been banned for submitting nine mortgage applications using false employment information and inflated salary figures.

The FSA concluded that Phillips was attempting to make financial gains and exposed lenders to the risk of substantial losses; his actions also threatened to undermine confidence in the mortgage market.

Between November 2007 and March 2008, Ashok Sharma, of Ash Commercials (UK) Limited in Uxbridge, submitted two mortgage applications each for two customers but failed to notice obvious discrepancies in the applications. These irregularities should have alerted him to the risk that the customers were using Ash Commercials to commit mortgage fraud.

The FSA’s investigation also revealed that Sharma had provided mortgage advice when not qualified to do so. He also failed to comply with a legal requirement to provide the FSA with a report from a third party on the quality of the advice he gave to customers.

Due to these failings, the FSA concluded that Sharma is not fit and proper and has banned him from working in regulated financial services.

John Apicella has been banned for lack of competency by leaving his business open to the risk of involvement in financial crime. Apicella was a sole trader at Newbury firm, Mortgages 4 You.

The FSA found that Apicella failed to meet the minimum standards required of a mortgage broker by not always completing a ‘fact find’ document for new customers or taking the time to research their attitude to risk.

During interviews with the FSA, Apicella said of researching a customer’s income, “if a lender doesn’t require it then I don’t ask for it”, and added that for a self-employed customer’s income figure he would “accept it at face value”.

Furthermore, Apicella did not carry out due diligence on a mortgage introducer from whom he subsequently accepted seven mortgage applications. The FSA found all of these applications to contain false and misleading information, therefore making them fraudulent.

Margaret Cole, the FSA’s director of enforcement and financial crime, says: “Mortgage fraud is a crime and we take any failings that put customers or lenders at risk of it very seriously. While the details are different from case to case, all of these individuals failed to demonstrate that they were fit and proper.

“A number of these cases came as a direct result of our Information From Lenders  scheme which allows lenders to report suspected cases of fraud to the FSA. To date this has resulted in 700 alerts and numerous fines and bans, and has gone a long way towards making the mortgage market a safer place both for lenders and customers.”

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