Friday, March 9, 2007

The Media's Mishandling of the Casey Serin Story

If you missed our previous primer on Casey and Galina Serin, I would encourage you to go back and read "Mortgage Fraud: Why Lenders Need to Know Casey Serin." My friend Aspeth and I are trading off blog posts on this story, and she picked up today's meme. I've cleaned up the content a tad, as Aspeth has been known to make sailors blush. For this portion of the thread, Aspeth wanted to focus on how the so-called "Old Media" has covered this debacle.

Traditional media's handling of the Casey Serin story has been grim, and it certainly lends credence to folks getting their information from alternative sources. At the very least, the Old Media folks should have cross-referenced their stories by speaking to law enforcement officials to give readers a full picture of the scope and potential punishment of Casey and Galina Serin's crimes.

It's lazy journalism, plain and simple. Anyone who has spent a brief amount of time actaully reading and researching Casey Serin's story is immediately struck by the extenxive chain of fraud that occurred. But print and glossy media has persisted in portraying Casey Serin (and by extension, his wife Galina Serin) as poor victims of the real estate bubble, predatory lending, or any other real estate buzzword of the day.

I find this particularly offensive. Casey and Galina Serin are not innocent victims of the real estate industry. They are the perpetrators of multiple crimes against various banks, lenders, and creditors!!!!

Bloggers have gone out of their way to alert government agencies and creditors alike to Casey Serin's illegal activities. This includes tracking the complicity of his wife Galina Serin and other 'known associates'.

The rage in these posts, and in the comments, is palpable. But it's easy to understand why. People who have followed Casey Serin's story for any length of time are not just content to see him arrested. Nothing short of a ridiculously long prison term and FULL REPAYMENT of "every dirty penny" will suffice.

Whether writing about the complexity of mortgage fraud, deconstructing Casey's attempts to dodge responsibility, or pointing out Galina's complicity, the blogosphere is just the beginning of the impending public response to Casey Serin.

So CHEERS to the bloggers. And a big "Boo! Hiss!" to the Old Guard. Here's our list of media sources that totally dropped the ball in fully informing the public about Casey Serin. In chronological order, here is the Casey Serin Media Hall of Shame:

San Francisco Chronicle
On October 6, 2006, the SF Gate posts a laughably optimistic story about Casey Serin's role in the real estate bubble. His ill intent is glossed over; instead, he is held up as some sort of poster-boy for failing markets and dodgy lenders.

"But by offering himself up as a penitent whipping boy of real estate, Serin has unwittingly offered us a glimpse into the fast-approaching future in which those high-flying real estate trade secrets come home to roost."

Wow. We surely cannot be referencing the same Casey Serin. Casey Serin is anything but "penitent."

USA Today
This is the one that brought Casey Serin into the national spotlight. In the October 22, 2006 edition, Noelle Knox writes If there's a poster child for everything that went wrong in the real estate boom, it just might be Casey Serin.

Rather than paying attention to Casey Serin's extensive mortgage fraud, much less say what else might lie beneath the surface, Noelle Knox writes basically that 'a lot of things can go wrong in real estate.' For a nationally syndicated newspaper, this certainly falls short of breaking the story wide open.

Inman News
Matt Carter writes that Casey Serin bought eight homes in six states using 100 percent stated income loans, getting $15,000 to $50,000 cash back on every loan. First, this is the only time I've seen mention of six states. Judging from the depth of fraud committed, that could very well be true.

But since it has not come up anywhere else in print or online media, I question the voracity. Secondly, I would expect that the highbrow, real estate-only news bureau Inman would delve much more deeply into the casually typed phrase "15,000 to $50,000 cash back on every loan."

New York Magazine
As recently as February 12, 2007, Emily Nussbaum had evidently done enough research into Casey Serin to include him in her piece on twentysomethings revealing their lives on the internet. But she paints a plucky portrait of young Casey, merely writing a few paragraphs about his online confessional.

That he is confessing to multiple felonies doesn't seem to faze Ms. Nussbaum. In fact, that element is never mentioned. Perhaps she never got past the title of Casey Serin's blog to actually read one of the numerous instances where he details his crimes. That's quite a shame, because she, too, missed the story entirely.

CBS 5 San Francisco
The most recent incident of a no-research fluff piece on Casey Serin occurred on March 7, 2007. John Lobertini presented yet another piece of Casey-Serin-as-victim-of-big-real-estate. Lobertini's piece is similar to the other 'Casery Serin-lite' pieces, where journalists follow right down the path that Casey leads them.

And while this is far from 'old media', it is worth noting that mortgage broker Niles Swaby has put out several press releases, positing himself as the authoritative source on Casey Serin. Niles Swaby chose the self-important headline Aspiring Web Journalist Lands Real Estate Story of the Year.

Well, that's really stretching it, isn't it? As you can tell from the timeline above, two major news outlets had already "landed" the story when he issued this press release on Halloween of 2006. (And regarding the timing, it's just too easy...I'm leaving that one alone.)

One last thing....I stumbled across an old blog of Casey Serin's. It was interesting in that was supposedly written on his 25th birthday. This was news, in a sense, since everyone thinks he's 24. But what really struck me was this:

Wait a I reading that correctly?!?!

Casey Serin was born on SEPTEMBER 11 ?!?!?!?

Talk about your 'day that will live in infamy'......


Miguel said...

I stumbled across an old blog of Casey Serin's. It was interesting in that was supposedly written on his 25th birthday. This was news, in a sense, since everyone thinks he's 24.

It's not news to those who realise that your 24th birthday is by definition the start of your 25th year - which is what Casey was getting at.

(Word of advice: you're doing valuable work here, but it's possible to be too zealous in your quest to dig up as much dirt as possible. You should certainly question everything Casey writes - but that doesn't mean it's automatically going to be untrue!)

Nicole said...

According to Casey's latest information on IAFF, his birthday is actually September 10.

Close enough :)

TheREForum said...

Ah...9/10. Thanks, Nicole. That isn't quite so disconcerting then.

Miguel, you're right. Where is the line between truth and fiction in this story. It seems to be as inexorably intertwined as DNA when it comes to this story.

I keep thinking that, when Casey Serin is finally prosecuted, it will really hurt to watch the television and, for once, nod in agreement with Nancy Grace.

Anonymous said...

Lender beware. If you give a loan to somebody, you must ensure they are capable of paying it back. Because if they're not, it's your employer's profit and your job on the line.

In reality, Casey's fraud is just a small part of the equation. Just as large is the fraud on the part of those who loaned him the money without due diligence, took commissions from the loan, and argued the merits of their own pay increase based on the dollar amount of loans disbursed.

TheREForum said...

"Anonymous", I completely agree. And whomever was complicit in crafting Casey's mortgage doc's will no doubt be in their own world of legal troubles. Because anyone dodgy enough to assist Casey Serin in that manner probably moved on and helped a number of other clients in much the same fashion.

Anonymous said...

is it possible to look up the mortgage terms
and income statement for the serin deals?

I figure he had to be listing himself as making 150K
or more to qualify for all those mortgages.

also, can a real estate professional run down
some of his sold properties?

find the tax records etc?

it'd be nice to collect all that onto the wikipedia article

TheREForum said...

@Anonymoys: mortgage terms aren't typically a part of the public record. the name of the lienholder is normally listed in the property records, but to my knowledge, the specifics are kept in the lender's files. like all things real estate, this may vary from state to state, so if anyone knows differently, please jump in.