United States Attorney Peter F. Neronha and Rhode Island Attorney General Patrick C. Lynch announced that they have formed and held the first meeting of the Rhode Island Mortgage Fraud Task Force, an initiative linking federal and state agencies in the fight against mortgage fraud.
Consisting of several federal and state agencies and working closely with local police departments, the task force will pool investigative and prosecutorial resources and target deceptive mortgage foreclosure and loan modification operators. Its goals include seizing assets from scam artists and paying restitution to victims.
“Across the country, mortgage fraud has reached crisis proportions,” US Attorney Neronha said. “The Task Force will use every tool at its disposal to investigate, prosecute and punish these crimes. The goal is to make meaningful progress protecting families and communities, combating discrimination in our lending markets, recovering proceeds for fraud victims, and restoring confidence in our housing and financial markets.”
“Thousands of Rhode Islanders are still reeling from the effects of the foreclosure crisis, and unfortunately, there are swindlers just waiting to take advantage of them,” Attorney General Lynch said. “By pooling our resources, we think we’ll be able to gain the upper hand on the shady operators who shamelessly leverage the misery of distressed homeowners and, in the process, tear neighborhoods apart.”
The goals of the task force include:
· Streamlining the procedures for criminal mortgage fraud referrals;
· Developing and implementing a training program for state and federal investigators and prosecutors who handle mortgage fraud cases;
· Sharing useful information with and encouraging cooperation among the many agencies that have a stake in these cases;
· Tracking open investigations to ensure that partner agencies do not duplicate their efforts;
· Pursuing asset forfeiture and securing restitution for victims;
· Advising the public about common scams and schemes to help prevent more people from becoming victimized.
The agenda for today’s meeting included briefings about recent mortgage fraud cases prosecuted and under investigation in Rhode Island, an overview of mortgage fraud schemes and investigative strategies, a summary of civil and administrative remedies pursued by state and federal agencies and a discussion of the task force’s objectives.
Joining prosecutors from the Attorney General’s Office and the United States Attorney’s Office in today’s meeting were the Federal Bureau of Investigation, US Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Office of the General Counsel, Internal Revenue Service, Postal Inspector’s Service, US Secret Service and Rhode Island State Police.