Mortgage fraud ring busted in Illinois nets 37

Thirty-seven people have been charged with operating a mortgage fraud ring in Illinois worth at least $48 million.

According to Associated Press, the latest in a nationwide series of mortgage fraud rings involved five different cases with houses in several different Chicago neighborhoods.

Among those charged in this particular bust are mortgage brokers, loan officers, real estate investors, appraisers and an attorney. Together, the group obtained at least $48 million in fraudulent mortgages.

In many of the instances, the buyers in this scheme had no intention on making payments on the houses. Some buyers used fake names, and in some cases, actual buyers were shown photos of homes much nicer than they actually were in order to obtain higher mortgages.

Scareware firms settle with FTC

Two “scareware” firms have settled fraud charges with the Federal Trade Commission.

Rather than pay nearly $2 million in fines, defendants James Reno and ByteHosting Internet Services LLC have agreed to forfeit more than $116,000 in revenues they got illegally from consumers over the Web.

The firm in question scammed Web surfers by offering a “free” scan of their hard drives and then claimed to find an undetermined amount of viruses, spyware and pornography on the computer. The scan would then offer consumers programs like WinFixer, WinAntivirus, DriveCleaner, XP Antivirus and others to rid the computers of the problem. These really just added more trouble to hard drives, and didn’t remove anything.

The FTC previously ordered these defendants from making this claim in 2008 and received an injunction to shut them down.

Regulators say they settled the original charges because the defendants could not afford to pay back their customers.

Corrupt Ingenix database used by insurers nationwide

The Senate Commerce Committee has determined that health insurers nationwide were basing their out-of-network costs on the flawed and corrupted Ingenix database created by UnitedHealth Group.

UnitedHealth faces legal action from New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, who believes the Ingenix system is over-charging customers for such services. The fact that it served as the template for other insurance companies to determine their out-of-network costs means that people nationwide were likely paying too much for health care.

UnitedHealth Group agreed to stop using two databases within Ingenix as part of a deal reached with Cuomo.

By using this flawed and corrupted system, insurance companies did not have to pay out nearly as much as they normally would have for out-of-network care. This leaves the patient left with a larger-than-expected medical bill.

Cuomo wants the Ingenix system abolished completely and expects UnitedHealth and other insurers to contribute to a fund that would establish a non-profit database which could be used in the future to determine these costs.

TJX will pay nearly $10 million to settle data theft lawsuits

Retailer TJX, which operates TJ Maxx and Marshall’s stores nationwide, has settled on charges it stole the personal data from customers for several years.

The settlement forces TJX to pay more than $9.75 million to states which sued it following the revelation that it stole customer data. TJX admitted no wrongdoing in settling the numerous lawsuits it faced, according to a report from Chicago Tribune.

In 2007, TJX allowed the payment card numbers of tens of thousands of its customers to become available to hackers through a loophole in its security system. More than 45 million card numbers were available to hackers. Experts believe the breach in security actually happened in 2005 but TJX did not report it or notice it for an entire year.

SEC Files Action Against Madoff Recruiters

The SEC has brought a civil enforcement action against Cohmad Securities Corp. with securities fraud.

Also included in the action are Cohmad chairman Maurice Cohn, chief operating officer Marcia Cohn and registered representative Robert Jaffe.

They are charging that the brokerage firm raised money from investors to feed Bernard Madoff’s Ponzi scheme.

Separately, the SEC has accused investment adviser Stanley Chais of operating feeder funds that poured money into Madoff’s Ponzi scheme.

Both SEC complaints seek injunctions, financial penalties and court orders requiring the defendants to turn over ill-gotten gains.

Stanford indicted on fraud charges

Fraudulent billionaire Robert Allen Stanford has been indicted on federal criminal charges of conspiracy to commit mail, wire and securities fraud.

The head of his own Stanford Group Co. turned himself into authorities late last week, according to a CNN report. In total, Stanford faces 21 separate charges in the indictment.

Stanford believes he is innocent despite a mountain of evidence aired when his company was determined to be built on risky loans and money is off-shore accounts. Estimates have the money Stanford gained illegally at more than $7 billion.

He and three other executives at Stanford Group face federal charges alleging they misappropriated investor money.

Investigators Seek Delay on Madoff Restitution

Investigators of Bernard Madoff’s Ponzi scheme want more time to calculate the amount of money lost and the number of investors defrauded as they seek to determine restitution.

They have asked U.S. District Judge Denny Chin to delay a decision on restitution by three months.

However, the investigators see no need to delay Madoff’s June 29 sentencing.

So far, Madoff trustee Irving Picard has identified 1,341 account holders who collectively lost about $13 billion as of December 11, 2008, when the FBI arrested Madoff.

SEC Looks Deeper at Madoff-Like Firms

The SEC is conducting a nationwide “sweep” of investment advisers that hold client assets and hedge funds that share characteristics with Bernard Madoff’s firm.

The SEC also is scrutinizing money managers that employ an “unknown auditor”.

The Commission is overhauling the process for handling examinations and tips on suspicious trading after it drew fire from lawmakers for missing Madoff’s fraud.

They are also planning a surveillance program that relies on a “constant flow of timely and reliable information” from the firms it inspects.

More than 10 years later, checks get sent for those scammed for Web services

More than 400,000 people who were charged illegally on their credit or debit cards for Web services are finally getting their money.

The Federal Trade Commission said it has sent out that many checks to consumers on June 12 for people who were charged by J.K. Publications and other defendants in the case back in 1998.

The FTC said it took more than a decade to get this money back for consumers because the defendants in the case moved their money off-shore and it was difficult to track.

Regulators say if you’re due a restitution check from this scam, cash it immediately and don’t accept any e-mail offers regarding this money.

Obama set to create consumer credit “regulators”

President Barack Obama is set to create a branch of government with its keenest eye set on protecting consumers from fraudulent loan, bank, or non-bank payment institutions.

The Consumer Financial Protection Agency will oversee checking accounts, savings accounts and other deposit accounts at banking institutions as well as home, credit card and other loans like payday loans. This new agency would share duties with the Federal Trade Commission, according to a San Francisco Chronicle report.

This new agency will redirect some of the responsibilities of other regulators that oversee banks. The CFPA would strictly limit its focus to consumer products and their legitimacy.

Some of the tasks it would focus on would be ensuring lenders are clear and precise in their practices, meaning they are up-front and direct with consumers about the potential pitfalls of certain loans or other payment deals.

Critics of more regulation argue that under current protocol, each individual regulatory agency doesn’t communicate with others. Adding more, they say, will only add to that deadlock.