Feds Charge More than 400 with Mortgage Fraud

The Department of Justice and Federal Bureau of Investigation said at a press conference today that more than 400 people have been charged across 144 mortgage fraud cases spanning March 1 to June 18, in a sting operation dubbed “Operation Malicious Mortgage.” Yesterday alone, 60 cooridinated arrests were made in mortgage fraud-related cases spanning 15 different districts. Charges in Operation Malicious Mortgage cases have been brought in every region of the United States, the DOJ said, and in more than 50 judicial districts by U.S. Attorneys’ Offices; the FBI estimates that approximately $1 billion in losses were inflicted by the mortgage fraud schemes employed in involved cases. “Mortgage fraud and related securities fraud pose a significant threat to our economy, to the stability of our nation’s housing market and to the peace of mind of millions of American homeowners,” said Deputy Attorney General Mark R. Filip. “Operation Malicious Mortgage and our other mortgage-related enforcement actions demonstrate the Justice Department’s commitment and determination to combat these criminal schemes, hold their perpetrators accountable and help restore stability and confidence in our housing and credit markets.” “Operation Malicious Mortgage is a concerted, joint law enforcement and prosecutorial effort aimed at disrupting individuals and groups engaged in mortgage fraud,” said FBI Director Robert S. Mueller, III. “This operation is an example of our unified commitment to address this significant crime problem. The FBI will continue to direct investigative and analytic resources towards mortgage fraud and corporate securities fraud that threaten our nation’s economy.” The big Bear bust In addition to fraud directly related to individual mortgages, the DOJ also touted its ongoing investigation into mortgage-securities fraud, which led today to the indictment and arrest of former Bear Stearns & Cos. hedge fund managers Ralph Cioffi and Mathew Tannin under charges of conspiracy, securities fraud and wire fraud. Cioffi was also charged with insider trading, the DOJ said. The indictment alleges that the managers marketed the two funds as a low risk strategy, backed by a pool of debt securities such as mortgages. The indictment alleges that by March 2007, the managers believed the funds were in grave condition and at risk of collapse, but made misrepresentations to stave off investor withdrawal. The funds subsequently collapsed in the summer of 2007 resulting in approximately $1.4 billion in losses to investors.

Other points of interest: the Feds said they focused their investigations thus far on lending fraud, foreclosure rescue scams, and mortgage-related bankruptcy schemes …. the list of federal agencies involved in the investigation is mind-numbingly long and includes the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation Division, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, U.S. Secret Service, among others …. Operation Malicious Mortgage is the most recent coordinated law enforcement sweep involving mortgage fraud, with the last targeting illegal home flipping activity in 2005.

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