Representatives of the Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force, including Attorney General Eric Holder, met in Phoenix today for the second of a series of Mortgage Fraud Summits. The task force, established by President Barack Obama in November 2009 to wage an aggressive, coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes, is comprised of representatives from a broad range of federal agencies, regulatory authorities, inspectors general, and state and local law enforcement.
The Attorney General announced that new investments included in the FY 2010 budget will soon be distributed to combat mortgage fraud. This spring, nearly $8 million for mortgage fraud enforcement and related efforts, including task forces, will be allocated for this work, including $1.7 million to Arizona.
A recent study from the Department of the Treasury's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) study indicated that the Phoenix metropolitan area is ranked fourth in the nation for the number of Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) filed by depository institutions concerning suspected mortgage fraud. In addition, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Arizona is ranked number one for homes that were funded by Federal Housing Administration loans and have been foreclosed upon.
"Today's summit marks another important step in our nation's most aggressive, comprehensive, and collaborative effort to combat mortgage fraud and protect American homeowners," said Attorney General Holder. "Here in Phoenix, and in cities across the country, mortgage fraud crimes have reached crisis proportions. But we are fighting back, and with the Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force that President Obama created last November, we're tackling the challenges and consequences of mortgage fraud in bold, innovative and coordinated ways. We have one message to those who would engage in mortgage fraud schemes: you will be found, you will be prosecuted, and you will be punished. "
"We welcome the opportunity to combine forces with federal agencies to attack the serious problem of mortgage fraud in Arizona," said Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard. "Arizona is ground zero in the foreclosure crisis, which plays a large role in our state's economic downturn. This crisis has been exacerbated by the deceptive practices of lenders in originating and servicing loans and fraudulent mortgage rescue scams that prey on borrowers desperate to hang on to the American dream of owning a home. "
Task force members met today with Phoenix area community leaders, legal services providers, banking, mortgage and real estate industry representatives and law enforcement officials to discuss this problem of mortgage fraud from a national, state and local perspective. In the morning, attendees participated in panels on mortgage fraud trends in Phoenix and the community impact of mortgage fraud. In the afternoon, task force representatives are meeting privately with law enforcement officials involved in the investigation of mortgage fraud.
Also participating in the summit will be Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division Tony West; U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona Dennis Burke; U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of California Ben Wagner; Deputy Inspector General at the Department of Housing and Urban Development Michael P. Stephens; FBI Chief of the Economic Crimes Unit Sharon Ormsby; Department of the Treasury's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) Deputy Director Charles Steele; Executive Director of the Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force Robb Adkins; and representatives from U.S. Secret Service, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Internal Revenue Service and local police agencies.
Mortgage fraud is a key focus of the Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force's efforts. 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.