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Billions in Mortgage Fraud, FBI Says

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Organized crime has taken on a new face, and it’s not that of mobsters with names like “Sammy the Bull.”

With recent record mortgage originations totaling trillions of dollars annually, fraud committed on just a small portion of the transactions can be in the billions. And that’s just what the government has announced.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) said Friday that it has taken action against more than two hundred people in what it termed “the largest nationwide enforcement operation in FBI history.” The initiative, dubbed “Operation Continued Action,” is directed at organized groups and individuals committing crimes at financial institutions.

“Our lenders have seen an increase in the number and variety of fraudulent schemes over the last several years committed against them,” the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) said in a statement. “It has cost the mortgage banking industry and other financial service providers billions of dollars.”

More than 5,000 cases covering crimes from mortgage fraud to check kiting have been targeted in the initiative, the FBI said.

“From its inception in August 2004, until today, Operation Continued Action investigators have identified more than 245 subjects in 158 investigations,” the announcement said. “The cases included in today’s announcement represent potential losses due to fraudulent activities against financial institutions in excess of $3 (billion).”

In excess of 11,000 convictions have resulted from the operation, according to the FBI, and the convicted have been ordered to repay more than $8 billion.

The announcement went on to describe cases such as one where it broke up organized crime rings in Jacksonville, Fla., another in Chicago where developers submitted fake vouchers to get construction draws on two condo complexes, and a fraud ring in Kansas City, Mo., that used fake buyers to flip homes.

MBA said its own “Fraud Task Force” actively works with the FBI to help catch criminals.

“Let this be a serious warning to those who would break laws for personal gain,” MBAs statement said.

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