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TV News Reporter Exposes Unlicensed Broker

TV News Reporter Exposes Unlicensed Broker

Stacy Laughter investigated by NC Banking Commissioner

October 17, 2005


A North Carolina mortgage broker who lost his license more than a year ago is back in business, according to state regulators.Stacy Laughter, who operated two mortgage brokerages — Tops Mortgage and Morningwood Inc. — had his license revoked by the North Carolina Banking Commissioner on Oct. 29 of last year after failing “to meet the financial responsibility requirements” of state laws, according to an order from North Carolina Commissioner of Banks Joseph A. Smith.

But after receiving information from a Charlotte, N.C., consumer affairs reporter, the state launched an investigation and said it has “reason to believe that Stacy Laughter, by and through Tops Mortgage, was continuing to conduct a residential mortgage business notwithstanding the surrender of his individual mortgage loan officer’s license and the mortgage broker license of his company, Tops Mortgage.”

Laughter “solicited residential mortgage loan applications and/or brokered some 58 loans for 30 different borrowers” during the first six months of this year, according to documents provided to by the North Carolina Banking Commissioner’s office.

The documents indicate the loans totaled more than $7.4 million, earning Laughter $32,338.98 in fees. The loans ranged in size from $11,000 to $340,200.

The state investigation discovered that Laughter was operating Tops Mortgage, complete with a sign in front of the office. Investigators also inspected Laughter’s office and discovered active loan files and a “marker-board” listing the status of pending loans.

Laughter admitted that he was continuing to make loans when confronted by an investigator from the state’s Financial Crimes unit.

Laugher faces criminal and civil penalties of up to $10,000 per loan. He has been ordered to appear before state regulators and answer the charges at an Oct. 27 hearing.

Laughter could not be reached to comment. But when confronted by a Charlotte television station, Laughter first denied but then admitted making the loans.

“There were some loans made,” Laughter told a reporter from WCNC. “There were a few.”

Pressed about the number of loans made Laughter told the station that the overall amount of business activity is “negotiable,” according to a video tape of the interview.

“It could be construed that way,” he said. “There’s a lot of different ways of looking at it. That’s not completely clear.”

Laughter then admitted he was “out of business in the state of North Carolina.”

State regulators originally yanked Laughter’s license and he failed to disclose tax liens and judgments against him when applying for his license.

The liens were fore $195,377 and $75,273; the court judgments were for $48,758, $1,500 and $9,798, state documents show.

Laughter was also accused of providing two Social Security numbers on his license application and refusing to allow a state examiner to conduct a routine inspection of his Tops Mortgage office, “indicating a lack of character, fitness and financial responsibility,” records show.

Patrick Crowley is a feature journalist and blogger, and a reporter, blogger and columnist for The Cincinnati Enquirer. e-mail Patrick at:

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