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Monday Morning Cup of Coffee: How did alleged serial killer get his real estate license?

Election Day is right around the corner!

November 7, 2016

Monday Morning Cup of Coffee takes a look at news coming across the HousingWire weekend desk, with more coverage to come on bigger issues.

The story is still developing on alleged serial killer Todd Kohlhepp, 45 and a registered sex offender living in South Carolina. But there is one key fact about Kohlhepp that is leaving those following the story shocked: How did Todd Kohlhepp get his real estate license?

Here’s a brief recap on the developing story. Be sure to check out CBS News for the latest update.

On Nov. 3, a South Carolina woman who vanished more than two months ago was found alive inside a metal container on a rural property, according to an article in CBS News. 

Follow-up coverage from CBS News stated that the South Carolina woman, Kala Brown, vanished with her boyfriend Charlie Carver more than two months ago.

As the story continued to come to light, CBS News stated:

The couple disappeared around Aug. 31 when they went to do the work on the suspect’s nearly 100-acre property in a rural area near the community of Woodruff, said Daniel Herren, a friend who sat with her in her hospital room after she was rescued Thursday.

“They were going to do some work, help cleaning up the property. And he pulled out a gun and took them hostage,” Herren said, adding that the abduction happened quickly.

Coverage stated that Charles Carver’s body was later found in a shallow grave on the property.

But the story doesn’t end there. As the story continued, coverage stated that Kohlhepp is a registered sex offender and is also responsible for another major unsolved case from 2003

From follow-up coverage:

When Kohlhepp was 15 and facing charges he raped a neighbor after forcing her into his home at gunpoint and tying her up, his father told court officials the only emotion the teen was capable of showing was anger, and a neighbor called him a “devil on a chain.”

Kohlhepp also admitted to murdering the four victims from the 2003 Superbike case. More on that case can be found here.

So how did Kohlhepp obtain a real estate license? An article in Fox Carolina by Jennifer Phillips answers:

According to the South Carolina Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation, Kohlhepp applied for a real estate license back in June 2006. Background checks were not in place at the time, but applicants are asked to provide a written explanation if convicted of a crime. FOX Carolina has a copy of Kohlhepp's application. It shows he checked "yes" about his conviction and provided this explanation:

"I entered into a verbal argument with my girlfriend who was also 15 at the time," Kohlhepp wrote. "I was charged with felony kidnapping due to the fact that I did have a firearm on me."

However, FOX Carolina learned from investigators Kohlhepp raped a 14-year-old who was not his girlfriend and he entered a lesser plea, which was kidnapping.

According to a state law called "Ground for Denial of Licensure," the LLR Department cannot automatically deny an application of someone convicted of a crime. It has to be reviewed or approved by the commission.

Check out the article for a copy of the letter Kohlhepp submitted when he applied for his real estate license.

This, unfortunately, isn’t the first time the process to become a real estate agent has been called into question.

A recent HousingWire blog by Kelsey Ramírez asked the question: How can you know your Realtor isn't a criminal? The short answer is, in many states, you can't.

Moving back to the financial world, according to an article in The Wall Street Journal, Wells Fargo is dealing with more than just its massive fake account scandal.

The article stated that Wells Fargo disclosed in its most recent quarterly securities filing that it is in discussions with the Residential Mortgage-Backed Securities Working Group of the Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force.

From the piece:

The RMBS task force has raised “potential theories of liability” with Wells Fargo related to certain mortgage practices, according to the bank’s filing. The bank had said in previous filings that it was responding to requests for information from government agencies related to the origination, underwriting and securitization of certain mortgages. The bank has produced documents for the Justice Department, but people familiar with the matter have previously said the process wasn’t progressing.

Despite this news and the sales scandal, Wells Fargo still managed to beat earnings expectations in the third quarter of 2016 as mortgage originations helped boost the bank’s results.

United Wholesale Mortgage announced that it introduced an automated suite of tools that gets rid submitting hard copies of documentation needed for loan approval, following recent industry trend to go doc-less.

Through the new tool, borrowers won’t have to find their pay stubs, tax returns, or bank statements. Instead, these items will get verified through a system that links to existing databases to automatically verify income, assets and tax returns.

“We’re taking a big step forward by introducing an automated verification technology in order to make the lending process faster and easier for brokers and their borrowers,” said Mat Ishbia, president and CEO of UWM.

UWM added that as part of its commitment to drive green initiatives in the mortgage business, it will plant a tree on behalf of the borrower for each doc-less loan that it closes in 2017.

Most recently, Freddie Mac announced new tools designed to cut mortgage origination costs. Freddie Mac’s new Loan Advisor Suite will now offer automated borrower income verification, automated borrower asset verification and automated assessment of borrowers without credit scores.

And lastly, we can’t forget that Election Day is less than 48 hours away.

While housing was not a hot topic this year, feel free to check out what little was said on the subject by Republican candidate Donald Trump and Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton here and here, respectively.

One thing is for sure, however, this election is anything but normal.

In a blog post for MGIC, Joyce Rubenstein wrote that this election season is breaking all the rules.

As a media publication, it’s interesting the number of newspapers that have broken tradition in this year’s election.

From the blog:

We are seeing traditionally conservative leaning publications  — among them, Cincinnati Enquirer, Dallas Morning News, Arizona Republic, San Diego Union-Tribune and Columbus Dispatch – endorsing a Democratic presidential candidate. In the case of the Columbus Dispatch, the Democratic endorsement is the first in 100 years … the San Diego Tribune, the first in its 148-year history and the Arizona Republic, the first in its 126-year history.

For now, we’ll be watching the news just as closely as you will be over the next few days. But in order to get there, be sure to practice your right to vote. Check here to find your local polling place. 

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