BULLETIN: KABOOM x 1,215! Feds Announce ‘Operation Stolen Dreams’ Mortgage-Fraud Sweep; 1,215 Defendants Charged In Largest Mortgage Scammer Takedown In U.S. History

Attorney General Eric Holder announced the creation of the Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force last year.

BULLETIN: UPDATED 1:10 P.M. EDT (U.S.A.) At least 1,215 criminal defendants have been named in “Operation Stolen Dreams,” which U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder described as a “three and a half month takedown of mortgage fraud schemes throughout the country.”

The mortgage-fraud operation began March 1 and is the largest-such undertaking in U.S. history, Holder said.

“The staggering totals from this sweep highlight the mortgage fraud trends we are seeing around the country,” Holder said. “We have seen mortgage fraud take on all shapes and sizes — from schemes that ensnared the elderly to fraudsters who targeted immigrant communities. We have seen cases that have resulted in dozens of foreclosures and millions in losses, as well as fraudsters who have bankrupted entire companies and national lenders who were not playing by the rules.

Holder said the defendants caused more than $2.3 billion in losses. “Operation Stolen Dreams” was brought as part of President Obama’s interagency Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force. The attorney general was joined in the announcement by Sallie Cooper, deputy director of the IRS Criminal Investigation Unit;  Ken Jenkins, special agent in charge of the U.S. Secret Service Criminal Investigative Division;  FTC Commissioner Edith Ramirez; Ken Donohue, inspector general of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development; FBI Director Bob Mueller;  Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan;  Chief Postal Inspector Bill Gilligan; and Jim Freis, director of the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network.

Investigators did not limit the operation to criminal cases.

“[T]he operation involved 191 civil enforcement actions through which more than $147 million has been ordered recovered, with still millions more pending court approval,” Holder said.

“This represents the largest collective enforcement effort ever brought to bear in confronting mortgage fraud,” he noted. “The success of this operation is a direct result of our unprecedented focus not just on federal criminal cases, but also on civil enforcement, recovering funds for victims and increasing cooperation with state and local partners.”

Mueller said the FBI was “tracking” fraudsters aggressively.

“From home buyers to lenders, mortgage fraud has had a resounding impact on the nation’s economy,” Mueller said. “Those who prey on the housing market should know that hundreds of FBI agents on task forces and their law enforcement partners are tracking down your schemes and you will be brought to justice.”

Fraudsters lining their pockets at the expense of others have plenty to worry about, said Donohue.

“The last several years have seen enormous and damaging developments in the mortgage and housing markets, and the government has stepped in to bolster unstable marketplaces and devastated communities,” Donohue said. “The HUD-OIG, in partnership with other 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 today.”

Holder, who ventured to Florida in January and warned fraudsters that they were writing their own tickets to jail, also noted that law-enforcement had broken up yet another Ponzi- and affinity-fraud scheme in the state.

Suspects were arrested in the case yesterday, which targeted Haitian-Americans in South Florida.

Arrested were Maxo Francois, also known as “Max Francois,” Jean Fritz Montinard, Aiby Pierre-Louis and Maguy Nereus, also known as “Maguy Jean-Louis.”

The scheme involved businesses known as Focus Development Center Inc. and Focus Financial Group Inc., also known as Focus Financial Associates Inc.

Investors were promised annual returns of 15 percent, but it was a Ponzi scheme, authorities said.

The fraudsters used church presentations to pitch the scheme, prosecutors said.

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2 Responses to “BULLETIN: KABOOM x 1,215! Feds Announce ‘Operation Stolen Dreams’ Mortgage-Fraud Sweep; 1,215 Defendants Charged In Largest Mortgage Scammer Takedown In U.S. History”

  1. There’s also developments on the Trevor Cook ponzi scheme:

    The federal government has expanded its investigation of Minneapolis money manager Trevor Cook’s $190 million Ponzi scheme to include a number of his former business associates, according to recently unsealed court documents.

  2. And here’s another one that sounds familiar:

    Authorities said Jackson and McGee conned the investors out of huge sums of money through a purported low-risk, high-yield foreign currency exchange strategy. Instead, they spent most of the money on airline tickets, hotels, resort, casinos, vehicles, clothing, jewelry, spas and dermatology offices, according to court documents.