ATLANTA, GA – Governor Sonny Perdue announced that Senator Bill Cowsert, one of the Governor's Senate Floor Leaders, has introduced mortgage fraud legislation that would grant the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) jurisdiction to initiate investigations on offenses related to mortgage fraud. The legislation would create a mortgage fraud unit by partnering GBI, the Department of Banking and Finance and local law enforcement to investigate mortgage fraud crimes.
"Mortgage fraud has become one of the fastest growing criminal enterprises across the United States," Governor Perdue said. "It continues to pose a significant threat to lenders, homeowners and communities. This legislation creates a partnership to ensure we bring those guilty of mortgage fraud to justice."
Currently, Georgia ranks fourth in the nation for mortgage fraud. In the past two years, the total number of mortgage fraud suspicious activity reports has increased 64 percent nationwide. Between 2005 and 2008, mortgage fraud referrals cost Georgians an estimated $144 million. The US Department of Treasury and Financial Crimes Enforcement Network estimate losses in 2008 due to mortgage fraud incidents at $15 and $25 billion, respectively.
The Mortgage Fraud Unit will work with local law enforcement officials to combat mortgage fraud at the local level. GBI will focus their investigative resources on aiding the Department of Banking and Finance in their criminal investigations as well as direct their attention towards larger criminal enterprises that cross multiple jurisdictions.
"The GBI looks forward to partnering with state and local law enforcement by providing our investigative resources to combat this type of criminal activity that so adversely affects Georgia's economy," said GBI Director Vernon Keenan.
This legislation would give GBI subpoena power with the consent of the Attorney General for electronic communication records in mortgage fraud cases. Through the legislation, mortgage fraud will be combated on numerous fronts: investigation, local law enforcement education, public education and victim support. Residential mortgage fraud investigations are complex financial investigations that often include multiple victims, suspects and witnesses that reside or operate in multiple jurisdictions. The dramatic increase in mortgage fraud cases in Georgia necessitates more law enforcement communication and focus on combating this crime and better educating Georgians on ways to protect themselves.