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Appellate court ruling will allow mortgage fraud case to proceed

A lawsuit that accuses Creig Northrop Team, Long & Foster and several mortgage firms — including Long & Foster's Prosperity Mortgage Co. — of perpetrating mortgage fraud to ease home buying and selling could go before a jury, after the Maryland Court of Special Appeals reversed a lower court decision that found the statute of limitations had expired in the case.

Creig Northrop Team sold more homes than any other real estate group in the state last year and was one of the top five in the country, according to a ranking by RealTrend. Northrop did not respond to requests for comment.

The defendants have denied the allegations.

James Carbine, a Baltimore trial lawyer representing one of the other defendants, called the decision a significant setback but said he plans to appeal. The defense felt it was strategic to focus on the statute of limitations first but has other arguments, he said.

Other attorneys for the defendants either declined to comment because they were unaware of the decision or did not respond.

The suit, filed in 2011 on behalf of three couples, alleges that the firms persuaded clients to buy new homes without first selling their old ones, misrepresented the financing involved, and falsified documents to ensure the buyers would qualify for loans, despite not having sold their homes. The deals, which closed in 2006 and 2007 as the housing market slowed, allowed the companies to earn more in fees, commissions and interest, according to the suit.

Wednesday's ruling determined that Howard County Circuit Court erred last year in finding that the claims were time-barred. It did not resolve the claims brought against the Northrop team and the other firms.

The Court of Special Appeals upheld the earlier decision denying certification as a class action suit.

The homeowners' attorney, Greg Lawrence of Conti, Fenn & Lawrence LLC, said he has been in contact with other homeowners in the same situations.

nsherman@baltsun.com

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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