Statewide task force looking into mortgage fraud

The following article is brought to you by Andrew S. Ross at The San Francisco Chronicle.

Note to the thousands of Bay Area and California homeowners who have fallen victim to mortgage fraudsters and foreclosure scammers: A statewide Mortgage Fraud Strike Force is on the case.

Launched this week by California Attorney General Kamala Harris, its job is to “monitor and prosecute violations at every step of the mortgage process, from the origination of mortgage loans to the marketing of mortgage-backed securities to the investing public.”

High time, one might say. Last year alone, there were foreclosure filings against more than half a million California homes, quite a few, as we have come to learn, highly questionable, to say the least.

A team of 25 investigators and lawyers from the AG’s office will work out of offices in San Francisco, Sacramento, Fresno and Los Angeles, pursuing both civil and criminal offenses.

Might that mean some of those who brought homeowners to their knees could see the inside of a jail cell? “Families are losing their homes, while those who perpetrated crimes and frauds against them walk free,” said Harris, appearing to hint as much.

We’ll see. A 50-state coalition of state attorneys general looking into foreclosure fraud at major banks decided earlier this year not to pursue a criminal investigation – after Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller, who heads the coalition, had publicly promised in December, “We’ll put people in jail.”

Instead, the coalition, along with the U.S. Justice Department, has put a $25 billion price tag on five banks, including San Francisco’s Wells Fargo, which it said engaged in robosigning and other improper foreclosure procedures.

Last week, the banks countered with $5 billion, which was rejected.

Meanwhile, says the California AG, if you’ve been scammed, file your complaint online at oag.ca.gov/consumers.

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