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Thursday, February 12, 2009

FBI shifting focus from counterterrorism to combating fraud
Steve Czajkowski at 11:27 AM ET

[JURIST] FBI Deputy Director John Pistole [official profile] said Wednesday the FBI is looking at shifting a number of agents from national security and counterterrorism activities to investigations involving financial fraud, during a hearing [materials; video] before the US Senate Judiciary Committee [official website]. Pistole said [prepared testimony] there are currently more than 1600 ongoing mortgage fraud investigations, along with more than 530 corporate fraud investigations, 38 of which are "directly related to the current financial crisis." While Pistole said the number of special agents working on fraud cases increased to 180 in 2008 from 120 in 2007, he compared the numbers to the savings and loans crisis of the late 1980s, during which about 1,000 agents were assigned.

As of September, the FBI was investigating [JURIST report] Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Lehman Brothers, and AIG [corporate websites], along with 22 other financial institutions, for possible mortgage fraud [FBI backgrounder]. In June, the FBI announced that more than 400 people had been indicted [press release; JURIST report] in connection to what has been termed the US "sub-prime mortgage collapse." The vast majority of the indictments involved fraud related to individual mortgages, with the FBI focusing on lending fraud, foreclosure rescue scams and mortgage-related bankruptcy schemes, which account for more than $1 billion in losses.

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