LIES: Eric Holder Owes the American People an Apology
When Holder first trotted out these figures last October, he bragged during a press conference about the results of the government’s “Distressed Homeowner Initiative,” which he called “a groundbreaking, yearlong mortgage-fraud enforcement effort” and “the first ever to focus exclusively on crimes targeting homeowners.”
The Justice Department made a long-overdue disclosure late Friday: Last year when U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder boasted about the successes that a high-profile task force racked up pursuing mortgage fraud, the numbers he trumpeted were grossly overstated.
We’re not talking small differences here. Originally the Justice Department said 530 people were charged criminally as part of a year-long initiative by the multi-agency Mortgage Fraud Working Group. It now says the actual figure was 107 — or 80 percent less. Holder originally said the defendants had victimized more than 73,000 American homeowners. That number was revised to 17,185, while estimates of homeowner losses associated with the frauds dropped to $95 million from $1 billion.
The government restated the statistics because it got caught red-handed by a couple of nosy reporters. Last October, two days after Holder first publicized the numbers, Phil Mattingly and Tom Schoenberg of Bloomberg News broke the story that some of the cases included in the Justice Department’s tally occurred before the initiative began in October 2011. At least one was filed more than two years before President Barack Obama took office.
After their initial story, the Justice Department spokeswoman, Adora Andy, promised repeatedly to provide a list of criminal defendants. Her e-mails to Bloomberg News reporters were priceless. On Oct. 19, Andy said: “We’ll have a list to you — it will take some time to pull it together.” On Oct. 26, she said: “You will get a list,” explaining that “this is a labor-intensive process.” On Nov. 5, she said: “It looks like we should have the list to you by the end of the week if not sooner.” On Nov. 13: “Hold tight. Finalizing things on this end. Should have something to you tonight.” Again, no list. “I assure you I’m working as hard as I can to get this to you along with the lead agency on this matter, FBI,” she said later that same day. “It’s just very laborious with so much going on and so little staff.”
The Justice Department's refusal to come clean ran a few days later last fall. And it seems obvious now why the list was not provided. The government would have been handing over the proof that the numbers it was touting were false.
In an updated press release, which corrected its initial release of last October, the Justice Department said a review of the cases found that the inflated figures included defendants who had been sentenced or convicted in fiscal year 2012 -- not just people who had been criminally charged, as originally reported. Its original, lofty tally also included cases in which the victims weren't distressed homeowners.
"As a result, the announcement overstated the number of defendants that should have been included as part of the Distressed Homeowner Initiative, as well as the corresponding estimated loss amount and number of victims," the Justice Department said.
When Holder first trotted out these figures last October, he bragged during a press conference about the results of the government's "Distressed Homeowner Initiative," which he called “a groundbreaking, yearlong mortgage-fraud enforcement effort” and “the first ever to focus exclusively on crimes targeting homeowners.” Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan joined him at the press conference.
What a charade!
This was the second time that Holder's Justice Department had pulled a stunt like this. In December 2010, Holder held a press conference to tout a supposed sweep by the president’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force called "Operation Broken Trust." (The mortgage-fraud program was part of the same task force.)
As with the mortgage-fraud initiative, Broken Trust wasn’t actually a sweep. All the Justice Department did was lump together a bunch of small-fry, penny-ante fraud cases that had nothing to do with one another. Then it held a press gathering.