Arizona AG receives $1.7 million to fight mortgage fraud
Arizona attorney general Terry Goddard was awarded a $1.7 million grant today by the U.S. Department of Justice to fight mortgage fraud across the state. The grant will be used to create a six-person unit whose sole function will be investigating and prosecuting mortgage related crimes. The new unit will operate as part of the Criminal Division of the Attorney General's Office. “With our state’s economy and housing market still on shaky ground, many homeowners are being targeted by unscrupulous businesses that promise far more than they can deliver,” Goddard said. “This federal award will enable my office to better ensure that any company engaged in mortgage relief follows the letter of the law.” Last quarter, Arizona was the state with the second highest mortgage fraud index at 238, according to Interthinx risk research and analytics firm. An index of 100 represents a normal amount of fraud. Goddard has already been proactively pursuing mortgage deceptions. Over the passed three years, his office made 13 indictments and 19 lawsuits/settlements. More recently, Goddard sent out more than 600 letters to loan modification firms and licensed brokers outlining the new state laws against mortgage fraud. The new state laws prohibit foreclosure consultants -- including loan modifiers -- from charging upfront fees to consumers seeking to modify their existing loans. The laws also require anyone doing any business in loan modifications to obtain a loan originator license from the Arizona Department of Financial Institutions. The Federal Bureau of Investigation is also leading a nationwide sweep to catch and prosecute mortgage fraudsters. It has 23 local mortgage fraud task forces across the U.S. Write to Christine Ricciardi.