Nevada has received $1,700,500 from the U.S. Office of Justice Program as a discretionary or project-driven grant to enable the Mortgage Fraud Unit within the Nevada Office of the Attorney General to expand services to deal with Nevada’s mortgage fraud and vacant property crimes.
The grant will enable the Mortgage Fraud Unit to add four investigators and two prosecutors to its current staff of three investigators and three prosecutors. The grant will enable the unit to increase the number of cases investigated and prosecuted, increase the amount of funds recovered through restitution for victims and create a plan to sustain the program after grant funds have been exhausted. The Office of the Attorney General has been working in partnership with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, federal prosecutors, local law enforcement and state and community agencies to investigate and prosecute mortgage fraud cases.
“Nevada’s standing as #1 in home foreclosures in the nation has made us a ripe target for mortgage fraud scammers,” said Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto. “This grant money will assist my Mortgage Fraud Unit in investigating and prosecuting the more than 200 companies for which we’ve received complaints from Nevadans. These complaints average 50 per company and in some cases, they number into the hundreds.”
The Attorney General’s Mortgage Fraud Unit has criminal litigation files open against 18 loan modification companies in Clark County. An additional 51 cases have been designated for civil handling and are at various states of prosecution.
In the past 12 months, the Mortgage Fraud Unit has executed 15 search warrants and presented 14 large scale mortgage fraud and loan modification cases to the grant jury – each involving hundreds of victims and thousands of pages of documentary evidence. The Unit has obtained indictments against 20 mortgage fraud defendants for a combined total of 128 felonies. It has successfully obtained convictions against nine defendants to date, resulting in seven felony convictions, four gross misdemeanor convictions and one misdemeanor conviction for mortgage fraud related crimes.
Prosecutions have resulted in restitution orders totaling more than $306,332 payable to victims. The Unit currently has 10 cases awaiting jury trial against 12 defendants. Over 184 cases are pending investigation.
The office utilizes a number of Nevada statutes to prosecute these mortgage fraud cases ranging from forgery; embezzlement; obtaining money by false pretenses; false, deceptive or misleading advertising; deceptive practices; money laundering and racketeering.
“We are the first law enforcement agency in Nevada to successfully utilize NRS 205.372, the ‘Mortgage Lending Fraud’ statute passed by the 2007 Nevada Legislature,” said Attorney General Masto. “This statute creates the crime of ‘mortgage fraud.’ Since we began utilizing this valuable prosecution tool, we have successfully obtained indictments and convictions, including sentences involving prison time.”
While investigating mortgage fraud cases, the Office of the Attorney General has also uncovered extenuating issues and multiple criminal activities including organized crime; racketeering; overseas call centers; use of offshore bank accounts; international extradition issues; large scale, sophisticated forgery and identity theft; fake social security cards; fake drivers licenses; homes and vehicle purchased illegally and leased to members of an organized prostitution ring; drugs; child pornography; a possible homicide; misuse of overseas Swiss bank accounts; international fraudulent transactions with investors from overseas companies; and an individual on the United Kingdom’s top ten most wanted list.