For Immediate Release
June 5, 2008
Linda Tomlinson, Media Relations
US Attorney Tom Colantuono and Attorney General Kelly Ayotte today announced the formation of the New Hampshire Mortgage Fraud Task Force. This multi-agency Task Force will investigate and prosecute all forms of mortgage fraud which may have occurred or are occurring in this state. It is part of a larger nationwide effort led by the United States Department of Justice to respond to the current crisis in the housing markets caused by rising rates of foreclosures and failure of financial institutions involved in sub-prime lending.
US Attorney Colantuono stated, "Home ownership is one of the important foundations of our economy. American consumers need stable and honest mortgage markets to help achieve the American dream of home ownership. But when dishonest and unethical borrowers, lenders, appraisers, and brokers skew the system with crooked deals which end in failures and foreclosures, the potential ramifications can affect our entire economy."
Attorney General Kelly Ayotte stated, "A home to keep one's family healthy and safe is a basic element of the American Dream. Those who use fraud or deception to deprive people in New Hampshire of their fair chance at fulfilling that dream deserve to be vigorously prosecuted." The Task Force will include, in addition to the US Attorney's Office and the New Hampshire Department of Justice, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the US Postal Inspection Service, the US Secret Service, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development Office of Inspector General, and the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Division.
FBI Special Agent in Charge Warren Bamford said, "Mortgage fraud is a serious concern and an escalating problem in the United States. Fraudulent mortgage schemes contribute to the current credit crisis in the real estate market and ultimately affect property values. This makes it more difficult for honest, hardworking people to purchase or finance homes. The FBI will continue to work closely with our law enforcement partners to combat this growing epidemic."
Randy S. Miskanic, Inspector in Charge, US Postal Inspection Service said, "The US Postal Inspection Service is committed to protecting American consumers from misuse of the mails. Combating these frauds is a significant priority for our agency. The unscrupulous acts of these individuals have a devastating impact on consumers, lenders and the nation's economy. We are pleased to join our law enforcement partners in pursuit of those individuals or groups who commit mortgage fraud."
"The Secret Service has taken an aggressive stance in the prevention and investigation of mortgage fraud and other forms of identity theft," said Steven D. Ricciardi, Special Agent in Charge of the United States Secret Service in New England. "The New Hampshire Mortgage Fraud Task Force demonstrates the importance of cooperation among law enforcement to focus resources and respond effectively to uncover and prevent this type of financial fraud."
United States Department of Housing and Urban Development Office of Inspector General Special Agent in Charge Peter Emerzian said, "Mortgage fraud and white collar crime strikes at the economic heart of the American system. To uncover and prosecute these activities, it's to everyone's benefit. These frauds not only harm financial institutions and investors, but also impact homeowners and potential homeowners across the United States. Home ownership is part of the American dream; every instance of mortgage fraud detracts from that dream. Accordingly, the HUD office of Inspector General is proud to be part of this exceptional group of law enforcement agencies."
Tyrone G. Barney, Special Agent in Charge, IRS Criminal Investigation stated that, "Individuals in the real estate and mortgage industries who commit mortgage fraud may be prosecuted on a variety of charges, including tax evasion and money laundering. IRS Criminal Investigation is committed to pursuing individuals who commit these types of crimes, which are typically motivated by greed. IRS Criminal Investigation welcomes the opportunity to work with our law enforcement partners by providing our financial expertise to the New Hampshire Mortgage Fraud Task Force."
The Task Force has begun active investigations of cases of suspected mortgage fraud in New Hampshire. It will focus its attention primarily on large-scale institutional fraud, but it will consider allegations of any type of fraud relating to the business of granting, marketing, or servicing home mortgages. A mortgage fraud scheme generally contains some type of material misstatement, misrepresentation, or omission relating to the property or potential mortgage relied on by an underwriter or lender to purchase or insure a loan. Often, because initial loans are packaged and resold on secondary markets, the original fraud is concealed until the borrower defaults or some other problem with the loan arises.
Common types of mortgage fraud, uncovered by investigations nationwide can be broken into two groups; fraud for profit and fraud for housing. Fraud for housing generally involves illegal acts by the borrower, and can include misrepresentation of income or job history to qualify for a loan, undisclosed second mortgages, or phantom down payments. In some cases, the mortgage broker assists in or solicits these acts. Fraud for profit can include such practices as equity skimming, property flipping, and mortgage related identity theft.
According to the FBI Web site, common mortgage fraud indicators include:
Federal law enforcement agencies have been actively investigating these practices even before the recent increase in foreclosures. Here in New Hampshire, authorities have seen an increase in reports of alleged fraudulent activity in the mortgage industry. From 2003 to 2007, the number of suspicious activity reports relating to mortgage fraud nationwide to the Treasury Department has increased dramatically from 6,936 to 46,717. During that same time period, 2003 to 2007, the number of FBI pending criminal investigations of suspected mortgage fraud has increased from 436 to 1,204.
To report suspected mortgage fraud, please call the Consumer Protection Bureau of the New Hampshire Attorney General's Office at (603) 271-3641 or the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Boston Field Office at (617) 742-5533.
New Hampshire Department of Justice | 33 Capitol Street | Concord, NH | 03301