Results Announced in National Distressed Homeowner Initiative
|U.S. Attorney’s Office October 09, 2012|
PLEASE NOTE: The press release below inadvertently reported inaccurate figures. An extensive review of the reported cases concluded that, contrary to the figures contained in the initial announcement, the initiative resulted in 107 criminal defendants charged in U.S. District Courts across the country. These cases involved more than 17,185 homeowner victims and total losses by those victims estimated by law enforcement at more than $95 million. In federal civil actions involving distressed homeowner victims, the Justice Department’s U.S. Trustee Program, the Federal Trade Commission and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), protectors of the nation’s bankruptcy laws and federal consumer laws, filed cases against 128 defendants in federal cases across the country, with at least19,198 victims identified and losses estimated at more than $54 million.
The discrepancy occurred due to the fact that the original figures included in the Distressed Homeowner Initiative materials included not only criminal defendants who had been charged in fiscal year 2012, but also a number of defendants who were the subject of other prosecutive actions—such as a conviction or sentencing—in fiscal year 2012. In addition, the announcement included a number of defendants who were charged in mortgage fraud cases in which the victim(s) did not fit the narrow definition of “distressed homeowner” that the initiative targeted.
MONTGOMERY, AL—U.S. Attorney George L. Beck, Jr. announced that, as part of the national Distressed Homeowner Initiative described by Attorney General Eric Holder and other federal officials earlier today at a press conference in Washington, D.C., 530 criminal defendants, including 172 executives, have been charged in 285 federal criminal indictments or informations filed in U.S. District Courts across the country. These cases involved more than 73,000 homeowner victims from across the country and total losses by those victims are estimated at more than $1 billion.
“To prey upon those who are already in financial trouble is deplorable,” stated U.S. Attorney Beck. We will continue to investigate and bring to justice those con artists who make money in the misery of others.”
From October 1, 2011 to September 30, 2012 (fiscal year 2012), the Distressed Homeowner Initiative focused on fraud targeting homeowners, such as foreclosure rescue schemes that take advantage of homeowners who have fallen behind on their mortgage payments. Typically, the con artist in such a scheme promises the homeowner that he can prevent foreclosure for a substantial fee by, for example, having so-called investors purchase the mortgage or transferring title in the home to persons in league with the scammer. In the end, the homeowner can lose everything. Other targets of the Distressed Homeowner Initiative include perpetrators of loan modification schemes who obtained advance fees from homeowners after falsely promises that they would negotiate more favorable mortgage terms on behalf of the homeowners.
“These comprehensive efforts represent a historic, government-wide commitment to eradicating mortgage fraud and related offenses,” said Attorney General Holder. “The success of the Distressed Homeowner Initiative and the developments we announce today underscore our determination to pursue these and other financial fraud criminals around the country.”
In federal civil actions involving distressed homeowner victims, the Justice Department’s U.S. Trustee Program, the Federal Trade Commission, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), protectors of the nation’s bankruptcy laws and federal consumer laws, filed 110 cases against 153 defendants in federal cases across the country, with more than 15,000 victims identified and losses estimated at more than $37 million. False or abusive filings in U.S. Bankruptcy Court are commonly used to execute foreclosure rescue scams. State Attorneys General also filed criminal cases against 51 defendants, with losses at more than $2 million, and also filed at least 104 civil enforcement actions against 125 defendants with losses to homeowners at approximately $5 million. Last, the Treasury Department’s Office of Financial Stability’s Antifraud Unit and the Office of the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (SIGTARP) shut down or forced into compliance more than 900 mortgage rescue websites or web advertisers.
In order to protect struggling homeowners and increase the number of criminal enforcement actions made as part of this initiative, the members of the Mortgage Fraud Working Group were proactive. The FBI generated new investigations by gathering victim complaint data from FTC databases and other sources, analyzed the data, and distributed information of lead value to field offices from coast-to-coast. The FBI, together with HUD Office of Inspector General, also utilized sophisticated undercover operations to facilitate the development of federal distressed homeowner criminal cases. Further, the FBI led a surge consisting of several law enforcement agencies in southern California, where many foreclosure rescue scam operators are located, to develop investigations that could be prosecuted in various federal districts. Many of the investigations initiated as part of the Distressed Homeowner Initiative are ongoing and will result in additional enforcement actions in the near future.
The initiative included federal criminal prosecutions brought by various U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and the Department of Justice’s Criminal and Civil Divisions; civil enforcement cases filed by the Department of Justice’s U.S. Trustee Program, FTC, and CFPB; and criminal and civil cases brought by Attorneys General in over 11 states. Participating federal agencies included the FBI, the Office of Inspector General of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Federal Housing Finance Agency’s Office of Inspector General (FHFA-OIG), SIGTARP, Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and the U.S. Secret Service. In addition, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, a task force partner, announced today that during the Distressed Homeowner Initiative it collected 4,395 foreclosure rescue Suspicious Activity Reports, a critical tool for law enforcement agencies when conducting investigations. For more on this announcement, please visit: fincen.gov.
To learn more about scams targeting homeowners, how protect yourself from scams, or how to report fraud if you believe you have been a victim, please visit: stopfraud.gov.
For information about the Distressed Homeowner Initiative, including stories about common scams, fraudsters’ sample marketing materials, plus radio and television public service announcements, please visit: stopfraud.gov.
The Mortgage Fraud Working Group of President Obama’s interagency Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force was established to lead 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 Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force, please visit: stopfraud.gov.