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Mortgage fraud and organized crime

After conducting raids in Florida, Texas and New Jersey, federal prosecutors charged thirteen people with wire fraud, money laundering, racketeering, securities fraud and making false statements on loan applications. The mortgage fraud case is noteworthy because FBI investigators claim the people charged are members of the mob in Philadelphia. They claim that white collar crimes such as mortgage fraud are replacing the traditional sources of income in organized crime groups.

If found guilty, the group faces many years in prison as well as restitution of millions of dollars based on the false loan statements and securities violations. The government claims that, through threats of violence and coercion, the group took control of FirstPlus Financial Group. Through shell corporations and consulting contracts, they purportedly funneled money out of the publicly traded company for personal expenses and luxury purchases.

Federal prosecutors are increasingly conflating mortgage fraud, health care fraud and other white collar crimes with more notorious criminal enterprises. As the penalties for white collar crime have increased, it may help the government to paint a more sinister picture of the people being charged.

The incidents alleged took place in 2008. Since that time, FirstPlus Financial Group has declared bankruptcy, claiming the actions of the defendants ruined the business. The bankruptcy drew little attention, coinciding as it did with the dramatic downturn suffered by the housing industry. Several of the defendants have pleaded not guilty in connection with the case while others have not yet entered a plea.

Source: ABC News, "Reputed Mobsters Charged With Taking Over Company," Geoff Mulvihill, 1 November 2011

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