Internet dating swindle leads to mortgage fraud

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The Colorado Division of Real Estate announced today it has revoked the license of two mortgage brokers, and ordered them to pay a total of $94,000 in fines.

Stephen Benaske and Laura Stearnes, swindled a Michigan doctor through an Internet dating service, according to the division.

The division permanently revoked the license of Benaske and ordered him to pay the victim $24,000.00.

The division asserts that Benanske, in concert with mortgage broker, Laura Stearnes, mis-allocated loan proceeds.

Using an Internet dating service, Stearnes met a Michigan medical doctor, and convinced him to refinance his home, according to the division.

Stearnes improperly instructed the title insurance company to divert the loan proceeds totaling more than $80,000 to Benaske’s bank account, the division says.

According to bank statements, it appears that the pair spent the vast majority of the ill-gotten funds in less than 10 days without the knowledge or consent of the borrower, according to the division.

The Division of Real Estate revoked Stearnes’s mortgage broker license eight months ago in addition to ordering $70,000 in restitution to the Michigan doctor.

The $94,000 in restitution ordered in the case by the Division of Real Estate represents not only the original loan proceeds, but also other costs incurred by the homeowner in his attempt to recover the funds misappropriated by Stearnes and Benaske.

The Division of Real Estate is cooperating with the Denver District Attorney’s office regarding pending criminal charges in this case.

The division has also been contacted by investigative reporters in the State of California, where Benaske is alleged to have set up loan modification entities.

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John Rebchook

John Rebchook has more than 30 years of experience in writing and communications. As the Real Estate Editor for the Rocky Mountain News, he wrote about residential and commercial real estate for 26 years. He has won numerous awards for business stories and columns that he wrote, both as an individual and part of teams. In addition to real estate, he also covered economic development, banking and financing, the airlines, and cable TV for the Rocky. In addition, he was one of the original freelance writers for GlobeSt.com, covering commercial real estate for the Internet publication.

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