United States Attorney A. Brian Albritton has announced the results of a nine-month-long Mortgage Fraud Surge investigation that has resulted in charges against more than 100 defendants and involves allegations concerning more than $400 million in loans procured by fraud and more than 700 properties. U.S. Attorney Albritton is holding events throughout the district to highlight the announcement. There are currently mortgage fraud-related charges pending against approximately 500 defendants in federal mortgage fraud cases around the nation. The cases concern both mortgage schemes designed to defraud mortgage lenders and “foreclosure rescue schemes” which prey on distressed homeowners. “This initiative sends a clear message that mortgage fraud will not be tolerated. We must protect the integrity of the real estate market in our communities, which is a major contributor to the health of our economy, here and throughout the country,” said U.S. Attorney Albritton. Florida’s Mortgage Fraud Surge was launched in late January 2009 in response to the epidemic of mortgage fraud throughout the state, which began during Florida’s real estate boom earlier this decade. To address this wide scale problem, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida, along with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in both its Tampa and Jacksonville Divisions, began a nine-month intensive effort to identify, investigate, and prosecute mortgage fraud in all of its forms. To accomplish the Surge, the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida devoted significant additional personnel and resources to investigating and prosecuting mortgage fraud cases. All of the Assistant U.S. Attorneys in the Ft. Myers, Orlando, and Jacksonville offices responsible for criminal matters handled mortgage fraud investigations, and in the District’s largest office, Tampa, over half of the Criminal Division Assistant U.S. Attorneys were assigned mortgage fraud matters. In addition, FBI Special Agent in Charge Steven E. Ibison of the Tampa Division and FBI Special Agent in Charge Jim Casey of the Jacksonville Division established mortgage fraud task forces in their respective jurisdictions. A number of state and federal law enforcement agencies joined these mortgage fraud task forces, and the agents, investigators, and other law enforcement personnel from these participating agencies conducted an intensive and wide-ranging investigation into hundreds of mortgage fraud leads during this Surge phase. Along with the FBI, the agencies that joined in the Surge and who participated in the mortgage fraud task forces are: the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation, U.S. Secret Service, U.S. Housing and Urban Development Office of Inspector General, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Florida Department of Financial Services/Division of Insurance Fraud, Florida Office of Financial Regulation, Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, Lee County Sheriff’s Office (Ft. Myers Division only), Collier County Sheriff’s Office (Ft. Myers Division only) and Brevard County Sheriff’s Office (Orlando Division only). The U.S. Attorney’s Office charged mortgage fraud defendants throughout the Middle District of Florida. The number of defendants charged by office breaks down as follows: Ft. Myers-32; Tampa-30; Orlando-19; and Jacksonville-24. Of these defendants, 7 are related to cases under seal and not in the public record at this juncture. An indictment or complaint is merely a formal charge that a defendant has committed a violation of the federal criminal laws, and every defendant is presumed innocent unless, and until, proven guilty. The surge investigation completed on Oct. 31, 2009, and announced is the first phase of a continuing effort to investigate and prosecute not only mortgage fraud professionals and other individuals who have engaged in multiple fraudulent mortgage transactions, but also larger organizations and even financial institutions. For more information, visit http://tampa.fbi.gov.
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