California Attorney General Kamala Harris announced the creation of a 25-person task force on Monday charged with protecting homeowners from mortgage fraud.
[IMAGE] ""Families are losing their homes, while those who perpetrated crimes and frauds against them walk free,"" Harris said.
The Mortgage Fraud Strike Force will be staffed by Department of Justice attorneys and investigators and composed of both civil and criminal enforcement teams.
Harris has tasked the group with monitoring and prosecuting violations at every step of the mortgage process, from the origination of mortgage loans to the promotion of fraudulent foreclosure rescue services to the marketing of mortgage-backed securities (MBS) to the investing public.
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa joined Harris at a press conference announcing the initiative and offered his support of the new strike force.
""With nearly 10,000 foreclosures in the city of Los Angeles last year,"" he said, ""this strike force is certain to help[COLUMN_BREAK]
countless residents and families from becoming victimized.""
""The fingerprints of illegal activity are all over the foreclosure crisis,"" said Paul Leonard, director of the Center for Responsible Lending's California office. ""The attorney general's effort marries the need to punish bad actors for the practices that brought our economy to the brink with the need to eliminate the scam artists who have since attempted to profit from it.""
The attorney general's office says California has not only been hit hard by the foreclosure crisis, but by predators looking to take advantage of the millions of residents who are underwater on their mortgages, in foreclosure, or at risk of losing their homes.
Last year alone, the attorney general's office reports there were foreclosure filings against 546,669 California homes, and it is projected that between 2009 and 2012, a total of 2 million California homes will enter the foreclosure process.
Within the last year, the California Department of Justice says it has received thousands of complaints related to foreclosure scams and mortgage servicing practices.
In addition to scams on the default side of the business, the task force will be on the lookout for fraud related to unfair and predatory practices in originating loans, investment and money laundering schemes related to both origination and foreclosure prevention, and misconduct and false claims involving investments and securities tied to subprime mortgages.
The Mortgage Fraud Strike Force will operate out of Department of Justice offices in Los Angeles, Fresno, San Francisco, and Sacramento.