California Attorney General Kamala Harris announcing the creation of a mortgage fraud unit. –Photo credit: Samuel Richard
The unit of 25 investigators and federal attorneys will confront mortgage fraud in California and bring perpetrators to justice.
By Samuel Richard
A new unit of investigators and federal attorneys has been formed to hold accountable those who have committed mortgage fraud and to make them pay consequences for their wrongdoing, California’s attorney general announced Monday.
Aiming to protect homeowners, the Mortgage Fraud Strike Force plans to help consumers who have been victims of scams. It also plans to tackle corporate fraud and prosecution of criminals.
The strike force, which is under the Department of Justice, initially has 25 people.
“As a career prosecutor, I believe there should be accountability and consequence to wrongdoing and crime, and it is for that reason we created this unit,” Attorney General Kamala Harris said at a press conference at the Ronald Reagan State Building in downtown Los Angeles.
Harris said mortgage scams, fraud and unfair business practices have had a “heartbreaking” impact. The effects: homelessness, bankruptcy and innocent families being torn apart, she said.
Harris added that the “web of crime” plays a significant role in throwing the nation and state into economic turmoil.
Addressing how the Black community and other communities can be helped, Harris said word needs to be spread, and people need to know their rights for prevention.
There are agencies that will help them for free and there is information that can empower them so they won’t be victimized, she added.
They can also intervene early, Harris said, by contacting lawyers and accountants who may help them navigate the foreclosure or modification system in a way that will allow them to keep their homes.
The other way is where the attorney general and her team come in, she said:
“When there’s wrongdoing, there’s going to be consequence and people are going to be held accountable,” she said.
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa supported Harris and shared his opinions.
“It’s going to send a message here in Los Angeles and across the state that if you’re engaged in predatory lending or fraudulent real estate practices … the attorney general is (going to) hold you accountable to the law” and ensure that those practices end, he said.
Paul Leonard, director for the Center for Responsible Lending’s California office, commended the attorney general for what he said was the vision she was bringing to address crime in the foreclosure arena from “soup to nuts, from original … individual transactions all the way up to the very complex corporate securitization issues that have wreaked havoc not just only on the California economy but on our nation’s economy as a whole.
“It’s important to keep in mind that this mortgage foreclosure crisis brought our economy here in California to its knees.”
This is a housing-led recession, he said, that’s led to historic levels of unemployment, leaving thousands and thousands of Californians who have lost their jobs at risk of also losing their homes.