It’s already been a banner year for white-collar crime, and it’s only going to get worse.
U.S. Attorney for New York’s Southern District, Preet Bharara, outlined the amazing opportunities crooks have today in a speech at NYU Law last week, but said his office is prepared with aggressive tactics more commonly associated with mafia investigations and HBO’s The Wire.
Bharara has had a busy first three months on the job, including the $40-plus million Galleon Group insider trading case; the arrest and indictment of a high-level political booster Hassan Nemazee for a $292 million bank fraud; and a real estate fraud case involving 41 defendants and $64 million in residential mortgages.
But there’s plenty more to come.
Bharara said three factors that – in combination – “suggest a crisis greater in potential and magnitude than anything we have seen so far.”
First, the “sheer scale of the frauds exposed in recent weeks and months has dwarfed anything we have ever seen.”
Second, the “current environment provides rich and historic opportunities for continuing fraud,” incuding $700 billion in TARP loans and; the President’s $787 billion stimulus; and looming scams from health care reform.
Finally, Bharara says fraud is increasing difficulty to detect. “Part of that is due to the growing complexity of financial systems and instruments; part of it is due to the march of technology; and part of it is due to the increasingly devious and clever methods that fraudsters are using to conceal their crimes.”
But, as the Galleon Group investigation illustrated, the Southern District is using increasingly aggressive tactics to catch white-collar criminals, especially wiretaps. Bharara lists five in particular:
- Good Old Fashioned Surveillance
- Cooperating Witnesses and Informants
- International Cooperation
- Aggressive Computer Surveillance
As we noted today, Raj Rajaratnam is challenging the legality of the wiretaps used against him; his could could a test case for the effectiveness of their use in investigations.
Here’s the full speech:
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