Government Admits It Is Going Easy On Fraudsters
The Inspector General of the Department of Justice just issued a report slamming DOJ’s prosecution of mortgage fraud.
Initially, the report found that – despite talking a good game about going after mortgage fraud – the Department of Justice and its subsidiary, the FBI, placed a very low priority on mortgage fraud:
DOJ and its components have repeatedly stated publicly that mortgage fraud is a high priority and during this audit we found some examples of DOJ-led efforts that supported those claims. Two such examples are the Criminal Division’s leadership of its mortgage fraud working group and the FBI and USAOs’ participation on more than 90 local task forces and working groups. However, we also determined during this audit that DOJ did not uniformly ensure that mortgage fraud was prioritized at a level commensurate with its public statements. For example, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Criminal Investigative Division ranked mortgage fraud as the lowest ranked criminal threat in its lowest crime category. Additionally, we found mortgage fraud to be a low priority, or not listed as a priority, for the FBI Field Offices we visited, including Baltimore, Los Angeles, Miami, and New York.
In addition, the Inspector General found that funds earmarked for mortgage fraud went to other activities:
We also found that while the FBI received $196 million in appropriated funding to investigate mortgage fraud activities from fiscal years 2009 through 2011, in FY 2011 the number of FBI agents investigating mortgage fraud as well as the number of pending investigations decreased.
The report slams the Department of Justice for wildly inflating the number of prosecutions and the amount of taxpayer losses involved:
During this press conference, the Attorney General announced that the initiative resulted in 530 criminal defendants being charged, including 172 executives, in 285 criminal indictments or informations filed in federal courts throughout the United States during the previous 12 months. The Attorney General also announced that 110 federal civil cases were filed against over 150 defendants for losses totaling at least $37 million, and involving more than 15,000 victims. According to statements made at the press conference, these cases involved more than 73,000 homeowner victims and total losses estimated at more than $1 billion.
Shortly after this press conference, we requested documentation that supported the statistics presented. In November 2012, in response to our request, DOJ officials informed us that shortly after the press conference concluded they became concerned with the accuracy of the statistics. Based on a review of the case list that was the basis for the figures, the then-Executive Director of the FFETF told us that numerous significant errors and inaccuracies existed with the information. For example, multiple cases were included in the reported statistics that were not distressed homeowner-related fraud. Also, a significant number of the included cases were brought prior to the FY 2012 timeframe.
Over the following months, we repeatedly asked the Department about its efforts to correct the statistics. We learned that, on August 9, 2013, the FBI provided a memorandum to the FFETF concluding that several of the statistics announced during the October 2012 press conference were substantially overstated. Specifically, the number of criminal defendants charged as part of the initiative was 107, not 530 as originally reported; and the total estimated losses associated with true Distressed Homeowners cases were $95 million, 91 percent less than the $1 billion reported at the October 2012 press conference. The Department’s October 9, 2012, press release and the press conference transcript of the Attorney General’s remarks, both available on the Department’s website, now include disclosures citing the inaccuracy of the originally reported statistics, and the language in each has revised wording and statistics based on the FBI’s August 2013 memorandum.
Despite being aware of the serious flaws in these statistics since at least November 2012, we found that the Department continued to cite them in mortgage fraud press releases that it issued in the ensuing 10 months. We believe the Department should not have continued to issue press releases with these statistics once it became aware of the serious flaws.
We also found that neither DOJ nor the FFETF had an established methodology for obtaining and verifying the criminal mortgage fraud statistics announced during the press conference on October 9, 2012. We found this process to be disturbing, and it led the Department to report inaccurate information to the public.
According to DOJ officials, the data collected and publicly announced for an earlier FFETF mortgage fraud initiative – Operation Stolen Dreams – also may have contained similar errors.According to these officials, a similar collection methodology was employed for the statistics publicly reported by the Department for this initiative.
Here’s the conclusion of the report:
The FBI did not rank mortgage fraud among its highest ranked priority white collar crimes. We further found that, despite receiving significant additional funding from Congress to pursue mortgage fraud cases, the FBI in adding new staff did not always use these new positions to exclusively investigate mortgage fraud. Moreover, when we attempted to assess the effectiveness of the Department’s efforts in pursuing mortgage fraud cases, we found that DOJ could not provide readily verifiable data related to its criminal and civil enforcement efforts. The DOJ’s release of significantly flawed information at a highly publicized press conference in October 2012 regarding the purported success of the FFETF’s and the DOJ’s recent mortgage fraud initiative reflects the lack of accurate data maintained by the Department regarding its mortgage fraud efforts, as well as the Department’s serious failure to adequately vet information that it was presenting to the public. Only days after the press conference the Department had serious concerns over the accuracy of the reported statistics, yet it was not until August 2013 when the Department informed the public that the October 2012 reported statistics were indeed flawed. Moreover, during those 10 months, the Department continued to issue press releases publicizing statistics it knew were seriously flawed. We believe the Department should have been more forthright at a much earlier date about this flawed information.
This is nothing new.
And – as we pointed out in 2010 – the Department of Justice “crackdown” on Wall Street is just a P.R. stunt targeting small-time crooks.