MN’s U.S. Atty. Forms Unit to Fight Financial Fraud

The new Civil Frauds Unit will focus on financial fraud, including fraud related to mortgages, health care, pharmaceuticals, banks, government procurement, and federal grants.

Minnesota's U.S. Attorney B. Todd Jones announced on Tuesday that his office has formed a new unit-dubbed the Civil Frauds Unit-that will focus its efforts on fighting financial fraud.

The new unit, which will operate within the office's civil division, will combat financial fraud-including fraud related to mortgages, health care, pharmaceuticals, banks, government procurement, and federal grants.

“Fraudsters can be found in almost every community in the country. No area is immune from these people, who prey on the trust or vulnerabilities of others,” Jones said in a statement. “Over the past several years, the U.S. Attorney's Office has prosecuted a number of such individuals and will continue to do so. It is our hope that this new Civil Frauds Unit, where combating fraud will be the focus each and every day, will enhance our efforts.”

The Attorney's Office said that the unit will pursue investigations and civil enforcements in federal court. It will also focus on stopping ongoing fraud by freezing assets prior to indictments being filed-as well as seizing money in pending criminal cases to help pay restitution to victims.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jerry D. Wilhelm will coordinate the new unit, which includes three lawyers. Wilhelm said in a Wednesday phone interview that the unit will prosecute only cases in which the government has been defrauded.

Civil enforcement can result in higher damages and monetary penalties than most criminal cases, according to the Attorney's Office. The U.S. Attorney's Office in Minnesota has recovered more than $139 million in fraud cases since 1996, when a nationwide Affirmative Civil Enforcement program was started.

Wilhelm said that civil cases can result in the recovery of three times the amount of money involved in a fraud, while criminal cases can lead to jail time and restitution equal to that which was defrauded.

There has been an increase of financial frauds surfacing as of late. According to Wilhelm, many of the fraud schemes took place during “flush times” and have surfaced during “this time of fiscal austerity.”