Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Officials: Financial fraud remains top priority

Financial fraud continues to be a top priority as investors scramble to rebuild their portfolios amid a shaky economic recovery, authorities said today.

More than a dozen federal, state and local officials met in Charlotte to discuss fraud cases and trends - and share ideas on how to best combat them. The team, part of the year-old Securities and Financial Fraud Working Group, includes representatives from the U.S. Attorney's Office, Securities and Exchange Commission, FBI and other enforcement and regulatory agencies.

"There's less likelihood of things falling through the cracks when there is this kind of cooperation," said Anne Tompkins, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina.

Recent highlights from the group include high-profile cases involving Ponzi schemes, mortgage fraud and other financial crimes. Going forward, members plan to focus on high-yield investment scams, corporate fraud, insider trading and other issues related to or resulting from the financial meltdown, Tompkins said.

Authorities have always been interested in those topics, they said during the meeting. But financial fraud is more important than ever these days, given the growing number of retirees - often targets of Ponzi schemes - in North Carolina and beyond, a troubled economy that has made scams easier to uncover and increasing awareness of such crimes, officials said.

"It is really in the public vernacular now," Tompkins said.

She said the group's goals include better cooperation among federal, state and local officials - which, in turn, means more resources to fight financial crimes - and a continued push to hold fraudsters accountable.

“That’s our focus,” Tompkins said. “That’s always our focus. We’re on it.”