Justice News

Department of Justice
Office of Public Affairs

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, June 26, 2012
Mortgage Fraud Summits Arm Distressed Homeowners with Information to Protect Them from Scams

The Department of Justice, the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Office of Inspector General and the Federal Housing Finance Agency’s Office of Inspector General, among other federal and state partners, are holding mortgage fraud summits in Las Vegas and Los Angeles today to help protect homeowners in areas hit hardest by these scams. The summit originally planned to be held in Tallahassee, Fla., will be rescheduled due to severe weather in the area. The summits, organized by President Obama’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force’s (FFETF) Mortgage Fraud Working Group, are an opportunity for homeowners to learn about common mortgage fraud schemes and how to avoid becoming a victim.

 

Additionally today, the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), an active member of the FFTEF, issued its first quarter 2012 update of mortgage loan fraud suspicious activity reports that shows California, Florida and Nevada leading the nation in the number of mortgage fraud suspicious activity report subjects per person. Financial institutions report suspected illegal activity to FinCEN, which then collects, analyzes and makes the information available to state, federal and local law enforcement investigators. For more information on FinCEN’s first quarter 2012 update of mortgage loan fraud suspicious activity reports, visit: www.fincen.gov/news_room/rp/files/MLF_Update_Q1_2012_508.pdf

 

California, Florida and Nevada have consistently ranked among the highest in mortgage fraud cases and suspected mortgage fraud according to data collected by the FBI in its “2010 Mortgage Fraud Report Year in Review.” The Department of Justice has remained vigilant in seeking and prosecuting mortgage fraud, resulting in a 92 percent increase in mortgage fraud prosecutions across the nation since fiscal year 2009. In fiscal years 2010 and 2011, alone, the department indicted more than 2,100 individuals for mortgage-fraud related crimes.

 

“Preventing, detecting and prosecuting mortgage fraud is a top priority of the Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force and its Mortgage Fraud Working Group members,” said FFETF Executive Director Michael Bresnick. “It’s more important than ever that we arm homeowners with the information they need to recognize the predators up front and empower them to avoid falling victim to these devastating scams. That’s why the task force is holding these summits in states hit hardest by the foreclosure crisis.”

 

The Nevada Mortgage Fraud Summit will take place today from 12:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. PDT in the Lloyd George Federal Courthouse located at 333 Las Vegas Boulevard South in Las Vegas. Multiple federal, state and local officials, including Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez-Masto, will discuss mortgage fraud trends and schemes in southern Nevada, the impact of mortgage fraud on the community and ways in which people can avoid becoming a victim of a mortgage fraud offense.

 

“We are continuing to work with our federal, state and local law enforcement partners to investigate and bring to justice the persons who are taking advantage of the housing crisis in Nevada to defraud financial institutions, distressed homeowners and homebuyers,” said U.S. Attorney for the District of Nevada Daniel G. Bogden.

 

For more information on the Las Vegas summit, visit: www.justice.gov/usao/nv/

 

The California Mortgage Fraud Summit is taking place today from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. PDT in the 300 N. Los Angeles Street Federal Building in downtown Los Angeles. The summit involves a wide variety of officials and practitioners dedicated to mortgage fraud enforcement and prevention from the FBI, HUD, Federal Trade Commission, California Attorney General’s Office, California State Bar, California Department of Real Estate and other federal, state, county and local agencies, including the Los Angeles County Department of Consumer Affairs. 

 

“The Central District of California’s Mortgage Fraud Summit is focused on bringing together resources at every level of both the public and private sectors and at developing a seamless integration of dedicated federal, state and local resources to fight mortgage fraud, raise fraud awareness and ultimately protect homeowners and their families,” said U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California André Birotte Jr.

 

For more information on the summit in Los Angeles, please contact Bruce Riordan at 213-894-0480.

The summit being rescheduled in Tallahassee will cover recent trends in mortgage fraud and the impact of mortgage fraud on victims.  A broad range of representatives from federal and state law enforcement, consumer groups and financial institutions are expected to participate in this conference.

 

“Mortgage fraud, indeed any fraud against consumers, weakens our economy not only by the loss it causes but also by decreasing consumer confidence in our economy. That, in turn, hurts our country,” said U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Florida Pamela Marsh.

 

For more information on the summit in Tallahasse, please contact Ginger Golden-Bouk at 850-444-4000.

 

Struggling homeowners can become the targets of fraudsters posing as foreclosure rescue or loan modification experts. Typically these con artists claim they can help struggling homeowners save their home from foreclosure for an upfront fee, even though advance fees are generally prohibited by law and loan counseling and modification services are generally provided free from the lender or from a HUD counseling center. The scams take many forms. Some scammers ask the homeowners to transfer title to their property, make mortgage payments to someone other than the lender, or stop making mortgage payments altogether. Others use false filings in the U.S. Bankruptcy Courts to temporarily stop the foreclosure process, while still others create websites containing false government logos and bold promises to avoid foreclosure in order to deceive the at-risk homeowner. Unfortunately, these fraudsters take the homeowner’s money and any remaining equity in the house and run, leaving the homeowner penniless and more likely to be foreclosed.

 

If you are behind on your mortgage and seeking assistance, please call toll-free, 888-995-HOPE (4673) for free, comprehensive foreclosure assistance and housing counseling services.

 

For more information on protecting yourself from mortgage, loan, lending and related fraud, visit: www.stopfraud.gov/protect-mortgage.html

President Obama established the interagency Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force to wage an aggressive, coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes.  The task force, chaired by Attorney General Eric Holder, includes representatives from a broad range of federal agencies, regulatory authorities, inspectors general and state and local law enforcement who, working together, bring to bear a powerful array of criminal and civil enforcement resources.  The task force is working to improve efforts across the federal executive branch, and with state and local partners, to investigate and prosecute significant financial crimes, ensure just and effective punishment for those who perpetrate financial crimes, combat discrimination in the lending and financial markets, and recover proceeds for victims of financial crimes. For more information about the FFETF, visit www.stopfraud.gov

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