OUR FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS
CID Exec Chris Swecker Talks About Frauds Committed Against Banks
Last week, the FBI
went public with "Operation Continued Action"--a national takedown
of organized groups and individuals targeting U.S. financial institutions.
They could have gotten away with billions of dollars and threatened the
nation's economy. Instead--with our law enforcement and regulatory partners--we've
identified more than 271 subjects in 158 separate investigations worked
by 47 field offices in 37 states. And we've filed more than 151 indictments,
informations, and complaints so far. Read on as FBI Assistant Director
Chris Swecker talks about the Bureau's continuing role in combatting
these kinds of crimes.
Q. Can you tell
me why the Bureau went public with "Operation Continued Action" last
A. Three words: protect the public. We want to educate
consumers about these kinds of crimes, to let them know that if it's
sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
We also think these
arrests deter wannabe white collar crime criminals--people who aren't criminals,
but could be fatally tempted by the prospect of making a lot of money so
what kinds of cases were involved in "Operation Continued Action"?
A. A whole range of schemes. Like major mortgage and
loan fraud. Identify theft. Financial institution failures. Check fraud
and check kiting. And insider fraud. We focus on dismantling organized
fraud rings, but we also go after individuals who are engaging in major
frauds. We focus our resources where they'll make the most difference
and the most savings to the economy.
Q. Two major
FBI initiatives involve mortgage fraud and identify theft--can you talk
a little about each of them?
A. Sure. Mortgage fraud really took off a couple of
years ago when interest rates began dropping and there was a run on refinancings.
The problem continues to escalate, but we're working to get out in front
of it. By its nature, mortgage fraud needs "insider" involvement,
so we're finding that undercover operations are highly effective in uncovering
them. We're also working closely with all the industry's professionals--mortgage
brokers, realtors, accountants, appraisers, loan officers, and title
companies--who are as anxious as us to weed out the bad seeds.
As for identity fraud,
we want and need the public's help in reporting these crimes. Individual
reports, though, are not enough. To get our arms around the problem, we
need to consolidate all the reports in one place and analyze them to see
the patterns, the trends, the culprits. That's why we're currently working
with several banks, credit card issuers, law enforcement, and regulatory
agencies to establish a National Joint Identity Theft Center, where analysts
would link violations, identify rings perpetrating the acts, and get that
information to the right law enforcement agency for appropriate action.
Q. Can you tell
me the numbers? How successful have you been?
A. I'd say very successful. Since 2000, our investigations
have resulted in nearly 11,500 indictments, almost the same number of
convictions, and approximately $8.1 billion in restitution orders. And
during fiscal year 2004 alone, we've managed to completely dismantle
more than 18 organized groups involved and disrupted the activities of
about 33 more.