Gary Kafka, a former body builder with a long rap sheet and violent past, wrote millions of dollars in mortgages in South Florida without ever applying for a state license. Fresh out of prison after serving time for bank fraud, he never went through a criminal background check before selling loans. He never took a competency exam. He never had to. More than half the mortgage professionals registered in Florida — 120,563 — entered the industry this decade without being licensed by the state, The Miami Herald found.
Known as loan originators, they perform the same job as mortgage brokers but aren’t bound by the same rules. Time and again, industry leaders asked Florida regulators to bring this group under their watch by imposing mandatory licensing. But regulators refused to press for any changes, claiming that lawmakers would never approve. The state’s refusal proved costly during the biggest housing boom in Florida history: Thousands of loan originators entered the industry with criminal histories, state records show.