Supervisors Extend Tax to Fund Fight Against Real Estate Fraud

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The Orange County Board of Supervisors this week unanimously approved a three-year extension of a $3 tax on real estate transactions to augment the district attorney’s budget and provide funds to prosecute real estate fraud.

Orange County began collecting the fee in April 2009, when the national real estate industry collapse and financial scandals were at their peak. Altogether 27 counties throughout California have recording fees.

According to a county staff report, the fees generated $1,353,786 for the district attorney’s office in fiscal 2010-2011.

In the three years since the tax went into effect, “the OCDA’s Real Estate Fraud Unit has convicted 53 people of criminal real estate fraud. The dollars lost by victims in completed cases alone totals $39.8 million,” the staff report stated.

The Real Estate Fraud Unit has two deputy district attorneys, three investigators and one paralegal. So far the unit has collected more than $390,000 in restitution for victims, according to the staff report. Another $40 million has been ordered by the courts, but it is not clear how much of that will ever be repaid.

The $3 tax on real estate transactions is paid through the county clerk-recorder’s office.

— TRACY WOOD

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