Senator Liz Warren lives in a multi-million dollar home in Cambridge, MA., claimed ‘Native American’ status to score a Harvard gig paying $350,000 to teach one class, and now lectures us that ‘the system is rigged to benefit the rich. 

My question is:  What status did she put on her mortgage application? If she put down “Native American” would it be a “mistake” or something more serious?

What’s the difference between a mistake and bank fraud?

Your mortgage application and the law

Let’s leave aside the really serious stuff. For those using mortgages for serious scams or to launder money we already know its criminal. In no way, am I suggesting Elizabeth Warren falls into that category.

Often people lie or exaggerate to get a larger loan amount for a Cambridge house, smaller down payment or a better mortgage rate. Sometimes the applicant won’t get approved at all without deception. 

Here’s An Example

John from South Boston does a DNA test. Finds out he’s 0.0007% African American. Can he apply for a mortgage as an minority? The applicant didn’t intend to hurt anyone so no harm. Right?

This, however, is “fraud for housing” or “fraud for property.” While it’s less serious than “fraud for profit” or “fraud for criminal enterprise,” it’s still fraud.

This is where it gets complicated.

A mistake isn’t fraud

An error on your mortgage application isn’t fraud. Virtually every criminal offense requires that you commit a guilty act (actus reus in lawyer-speak). But you must at the same time have a guilty mind (mens rea). You don’t have a criminal mind when you make a mistake. In other words, you lack criminal intent.

That doesn’t mean you can rely on claiming obvious lies were errors. A jury is unlikely to fall for that one.

And, when you sign a mortgage application ( Declaration of Penalty of Perjury), you’re certifying that the information you’ve provided is accurate.  There’s a good chance your lender could call in your loan (make you repay it at once) even if you made a genuine mistake.

And it may be difficult, in the face of obvious lies, to prove that you had no criminal intent.

Bad family folklore is no defense

Suppose the fraud isn’t your idea. Maybe your mother exaggerated. Or it might even be your loan officer.(wink, wink)

Does family folklore provide you with a defense against fraud charges? After all, its your mom, and you rely on her advice.

Sadly, no. Your signature equals your liability.


For the record, I have no idea what Elizabeth Warren put on her bank mortgage application. I’m just a Beacon Hill real estate broker running out of Boston real estate ideas to blog about.

Last thoughts

  • Did Senator Warren refinance her home?
  • If so when? Before or after deciding to run for President.
  • If so when? Before or after the results of her DNA test?

Come back Monday. The answer s that I’ll have may surprise you.

Update: 1/10/19

Interesting banking mortgage history of Sen. Warren’s Cambridge home located at 24 Linnaean St

The property was purchased by Elizabeth Warren in 1996 for $250,000 sold the house to her second husband two years latter in 1998 for $390.000.Her husband refinanced it for $1,230,000 in 2017. 

File Under: Isn’t capitalism great.

 Recent Mortgage #1
 Buyer Name: Bruce H Mann Lender Name: Bank Of America Na
 Mortgage Amount: $1,320,000 Mortgage Date: 6/7/2007
 Mortgage Book: 49570 Mortgage Page: 566
 Recent Mortgage #2
 Buyer Name: Bruce H Mann Lender Name: Bankboston
 Mortgage Amount: $390,000 Mortgage Date: 2/18/1998
 Mortgage Book: 0 Mortgage Page: 0
 Recent Mortgage #3
 Buyer Name: Elizabeth Warren Lender Name: Baybank
 Mortgage Amount: $250,000 Mortgage Date: 7/3/1996
 Mortgage Book: 0 Mortgage Page: 0


More to come, stay tuned.

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