By Allan Lengel
WASHINGTON — A 3 1/2 month operation involving the nation’s “largest ever” crackdown on financial fraud, has resulted in the arrest of hundreds of people who swindled investors out of billions of dollars, the Justice Department announced Monday.
Dubbed “Operation Broken Trust”, authorities said they have taken criminal action against 343 people and civil action against 189 in a crackdown that involved more than 120,000 victims. Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. said losses exceeded more than in $8 billion in the criminal cases alone and more than $2 billion in the civil cases.
“While there is nothing new about conducting nationwide operations and sweeps – this one is different in that it brought together a broad array of criminal and civil enforcement tools, at both the federal and state level, to attack investment fraud schemes collectively,” Holder said at a press conference here.
“Operation Broken Trust is the first national operation in history to target the many different types of investment fraud schemes that prey directly on the investing public.”
“All of these victims can tell a tragic and cautionary story of being misled and exploited – often by someone they trusted,” Holder said. “In fact, many of the scam artists we’ve identified were preying on their own neighbors – and on the most vulnerable members of their communities.
“Several of those prosecuted during this operation solicited victim investors from their own churches. One man in Texas allegedly targeted his fellow parishioners, asking them to invest with him and claiming that his success in foreign exchange trading was ‘a blessing from God’.”
Holder specifically gave a shout out at the press conference to: FBI Executive Assistant Director Shawn Henry, SEC Director of Enforcement Robert Khuzami, U.S. Postal Inspection Service’s Chief Postal Inspector, Guy Cottrell; IRS Criminal Investigation Deputy Chief Rick Raven; and Commodity Futures Trading Commission Acting Director of Enforcement Vincent McGonagle.