Sunday, October 19, 2008

NY Times: Wave of Financial Fraud Cases

by Calculated Risk on 10/19/2008 11:46:00 AM

From the NY Times: F.B.I. Struggles to Handle Wave of Financial Fraud Cases

Since 2004, F.B.I. officials have warned that mortgage fraud posed a looming threat, and the bureau has repeatedly asked the Bush administration for more money to replenish the ranks of agents handling nonterrorism investigations, according to records and interviews. But each year, the requests have been denied, with no new agents approved for financial crimes, as policy makers focused on counterterrorism.

According to previously undisclosed internal F.B.I. data, the cutbacks have been particularly severe in staffing for investigations into white-collar crimes like mortgage fraud, with a loss of 625 agents, or 36 percent of its 2001 levels.
...
In 2004, one senior F.B.I. official, Chris Swecker, warned publicly that a flood of fraudulent mortgage deals had the potential to become “an epidemic.” Yet the next year, as public warnings about fraud in the subprime lending markets began to approach their height, the F.B.I. had the equivalent of only 15 full-time agents devoted to mortgage fraud out of a total of some 13,000 agents in the bureau.

That number has grown to 177 agents, who have opened 1,522 cases. But the staffing level is still hundreds of agents below the levels seen in the 1980s during the savings and loan crisis.
People having been sounding the alarm on mortgage fraud for several years - and the FBI still only has 177 agents devoted to mortgage fraud. Amazing.