Dean Counce pleaded guilty this month in federal court to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Counce was accused of submitting fraudulent inspection reports to lenders handling foreclosed properties.
Around 2007, Counce founded a company in Brooksville called Mid-Florida Home Securing. The company name was changed two years later to American Mortgage Field Services. The company specialized in residential and commercial property inspections and general home repairs and maintenance.
Lenders like Countrywide Services and Bank of America sent Counce a list of distressed properties that required periodic inspections mandated and paid for by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac or the Federal Housing Administration.
Counce's company was required to visit a property, complete a report, take photographs and send the information to the lender. Initially, Counce performed inspections himself. As his company grew, employees were hired to carry out the inspections. As the number of foreclosures skyrocketed, the employees were not able to keep up with the volume of inspection requests. Counce's staff began fabricating reports.
According to investigators, Counce directed inspectors to visit the property and take more photographs than necessary. The photos were then used for subsequent reports. In other cases, Counce allegedly told workers to use information from public websites to fabricate reports for properties that were never inspected.
Employees estimated about 30 percent of the reports completed in 2007 and 2008 were fabricated. That percentage increased to 50 to 60 percent in 2009 when Counce won a new contract with Bank of America. Bank of America paid the company about $23.5 million over the course of five years.
Secret Service agents raided Counce's office last spring and seized documents. He was then charged with wire fraud. Investigators say Counce owes taxpayers more than $12 million. He faces up to 20 years in prison plus restitution and fines.