Federal investigators brought charges against 530 people over the past year as part of a nationwide effort to crack down on mortgage rescue scams, reports the Washington Post. The cases, spearheaded by members of the federal Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force, involved a broad array of schemes that victimized more than 73,000 homeowners and caused more than $1 billion in losses, Attorney General Eric Holder said yesterday. The announcement marks the latest effort on behalf of state and federal officials to demonstrate their eagerness to crack down on the range of fraud and mortgage-related misdeeds that proliferated during the housing boom and the bust that followed.
At a news conference, FBI associate director Kevin Perkins said that the focus on scams targeting ordinary homeowners has expanded in the wake of the housing bust. He said authorities often went to great lengths in investigating scams, using electronic intercepts and confidential informants, as well as establishing a “mortgage strike force” in Los Angeles, where fraud has proven particularly rampant. Reporters noted that there was no public announcement of the effort last year and asked whether the news conference was politically motivated, by touting the administration's crackdown on fraud weeks before the November election. “We're reporting on what happened over the past fiscal year,” Holder said. “That's what this was about.”