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Prosecutors Say Mortgage Fraud Epidemic Highest In Northern California

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Nick Janes Nick Janes
Nick Janes joined KOVR/KMAX in December 2008 as a reporter. Nick...
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SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – Federal investigators say scammers have been targeting families on the brink of losing their homes.

As prosecutors put it, we’re talking about a tidal wave of crime against vulnerable homeowners. In our area alone, the cases involve thousands of alleged victims and losses exceeding $9 million.

“The sheer impact of foreclosures and the fraud it’s generated in our communities is simply devastating,” FBI Special Agent Herb Brown said.

Prosecutors say foreclosure fraud could be more prevalent in Northern California than anywhere else.

“More defendants were charged with federal mortgage fraud crimes in this district than any other district in the country,” said Benjamin Wagner, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District.

That’s saying something when you see the staggering numbers released Tuesday from the year-long “distressed homeowner initiative.” Multiple federal agencies combined efforts.

Nationwide, 530 defendants are charged for alleged schemes involving 73,000 victims defrauded out of more than $1 billion.

“Behind the numbers there are true stories and true victims. They can be your neighbors, they can be your family members, they can be your co-workers,” Brown said.

Locally, one scheme promised to reduce home loans by 75 percent. A Roseville duo is accused of targeting Spanish speakers with TV and radio ads. A statewide scam promised to find investors to buy mortgages at discounts.

The common theme: all demanded money up front but never delivered. Prosecutors promise their crackdown is far from over.

“More investigations are under way and we expect that more prosecutions will arise as a result of the initiative that was started in the past year,” Wagner said.

Unfortunately, as is the case in most fraud cases, even after conviction prosecutors say the chance of victims getting their money back is very small.

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