Fifty-six individuals in the Northern District of California are facing mortgage fraud related charges as a result of Operation Stolen Dreams.
Nearly $44 million in losses were inflicted by the mortgage fraud schemes employed by the alleged fraudsters in the Northern District of California. Seven individuals in the District have pled guilty to mortgage fraud related crimes during the take-down that began on March 1. Two individuals have been sentenced.
The charges were announced by U.S. Attorney Joseph P. Russoniello; FBI Special Agent in Charge Stephanie Douglas; and Scott O’Briant, Special Agent in Charge, IRS-Criminal Investigation. The announcement follows U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder’s statements in Washington, D.C., concerning the national mortgage fraud take-down, Operation Stolen Dreams, that targeted mortgage fraudsters in the Northern District of California and throughout the country. Operation Stolen Dreams is the largest collective enforcement effort ever brought to bear in confronting mortgage fraud.
“Mortgage fraud is undermining the recovery of America’s fragile economy. It’s victims are often those individuals who have the least to spare,” U.S. Attorney Russoniello said. “My office is working hard to root out the perpetrators of this crime. Once they’re discovered – and they will be discovered – we will prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law.”
“Mortgage fraud ruins lives, destroys families and devastates whole communities, so attacking the problem from every possible direction is vital,” said Attorney General Holder. “We will use every tool available to investigate, prosecute, and prevent mortgage fraud, and we will not rest until anyone preying on vulnerable American homeowners is brought to justice.”
“More than any other white collar crime, mortgage fraud impacts us in a personal way: it directly affects our friends, families, neighbors, coworkers, and communities. The lure of easy money from mortgage fraud resulted in widespread foreclosures, bankruptcies, and ruined lives; it shook our national economy to the core; and it severely damaged some of the world’s largest financial institutions,” said Stephanie Douglas, special agent in charge of the San Francisco division of the FBI. “Those responsible at every level must be vigorously pursued and brought to justice. The work of the mortgage fraud task force announced today – while only a drop in the bucket – shows how effective we can be when working together toward a common goal.”
“Victims of mortgage fraud may include the banks that loan the money, but also include all homeowners and would-be homeowners who end up paying for this type of fraud,” said Scott O’Briant, Special Agent in Charge, IRS-Criminal Investigation. “IRS-CI is committed to pursuing those who line their pockets with profits from these schemes.”
“The last number of years have seen enormous and damaging developments in the mortgage and housing markets with an urgent reliance on the government to bolster unstable marketplaces and devastated communities,” said Kenneth M. Donohue, Inspector General of the Department of Housing and Urban Development. “The HUD OIG, in partnership with other federal agencies, is deeply committed to ensuring that scarce resources are not diverted to those who seek to enrich themselves at the expense of those who so desperately need assistance.”
The sweep was organized by President Barack Obama’s inter-agency Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force, which was established to lead an aggressive, coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. Starting on March 1, to date Operation Stolen Dreams has involved 1,215 criminal defendants nationwide, including 485 arrests, who are allegedly responsible for more than $2.3 billion in losses. Additionally, to date the operation has resulted in 191 civil enforcement actions which have resulted in the recovery of more than $147 million. Unlike previous mortgage fraud sweeps, Operation Stolen Dreams focused not only on federal criminal cases, but also on civil enforcement, restitution for victims and increasing cooperation with state and local partners.
The President’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force includes representatives from a broad range of federal agencies, regulatory authorities, inspectors general, and state and local law enforcement agencies who, working together, bring to bear a powerful array of criminal and civil enforcement resources. The task force is working to improve efforts across the federal executive branch, and with state and local partners, to investigate and prosecute significant financial crimes, ensure just and effective punishment for those who perpetrate financial crimes, combat discrimination in the lending and financial markets, and recover proceeds for victims of financial crimes. For more information on the task force, visit StopFraud.gov.
The Financial Fraud Task Force in the Northern District of California is managed by the United States Attorney’s Office and consists of federal agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation; IRS – Criminal Investigation; the United States Postal Inspector Service; the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of the Inspector General; the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs Office of Inspector General and the United States Secret Service; as well as state and local law enforcement officials from the Alameda County District Attorney’s office; the California Department of Justice; the California Department of Real Estate; the Napa County District Attorney’s office; the Sonoma County District Attorney’s office; the Santa Cruz County District Attorney’s office; the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s office; the San Francisco County District Attorney’s office; the Monterey County District Attorney’s office; the Solano County District Attorney’s office; he San Benito County District Attorney’s office; and the Concord Police Department.