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Assistant Attorney General Tony West, who oversees the Civil Division at the Department of Justice, announced last Tuesday, Nov. 24, the newest addition to the fight against financial and mortgage fraud: an Executive Order by President Obama creating the Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force. The Dept. of Justice Task Force will combine the efforts of approximately 20 government agencies working with states' Attorney Generals and even local District Attorneys to criminally prosecute all types of financial fraud.
The Task Force will join the work the FTC has begun with their "Operation Stolen Hope" to crack down on mortgage foreclosure rescue and loan modification scams. However, the Task Force will broaden its focus to attempt to reach the roots of the current financial crisis. The DOJ's Justice Blog says the aim of the Task Force will be to "seek to hold accountable not just those responsible for the corporate fraud that created our current financial crisis, but those responsible for the financial fraud that affects everyday, working families, like mortgage fraud and lending discrimination."
HUD will also be joining the Dept. of Justice Task Force to tackle mortgage fraud. Since one of every 3 new mortgages is insured by the FHA (officially part of HUD), the fraud Task Force will prosecute fraud in FHA insured mortgages using the False Claims Act. This law makes it a crime to "submit fraudulent claims to the government, and these include false claims made to the FHA in loan documents." HUD will be looking for support from the public in identifying fraud under the Act. Members of the public who step up with information may receive a bit more than a gold star. Whistleblowers are entitled to a share of the recovery of funds the government receives. Last year, whistleblowers received $254,794,658 in connection with False Claims Act enforcement.
Although Asst. AG West made the fraud Task Force announcement in Nevada, the state with the highest number of foreclosures in the nation, according to West these efforts are will be a "cabinet level" priority for the entire nation.
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