Utah lawmakers may give regulators more leeway to investigate and fine unlicensed real estate agents, brokers, appraisers and mortgage officers.

SB 199, sponsored by Republican state Sen. Sheldon Killpack, would allow the Utah Division of Real Estate to recover as fines any profits obtained by unlicensed real estate professionals who engage in fraud. Under current law, the state can only seek civil penalties limited to $2,500, the Deseret Morning News reported.

The Utah Legislature is also considering another bill, HB 25, which would make mortgage fraud a second-degree felony, and direct the state attorney general to hire a real estate fraud prosecutor and two investigators at a cost of $379,800 per year.

According to a report by the Mortgage Asset Research Institute, Utah has been one of the top five states in per capita mortgage fraud since 2001, despite having bolstered requirements for professional licensing and conducting more rigorous enforcement. The state’s rate of mortgage fraud was the second highest in the nation in 2005, the report said.

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