Bringing justice home: Creating a Bureau of Housing and Loan Fraud in the Queens DA’s Office

Queens Borough President Melinda Katz | 2/21/2019, 11:14 a.m.
We are now 10 years out of the Great Recession, and predatory lending and housing fraud continue to threaten and ...
Queens Borough President Melinda Katz Contributed

We are now 10 years out of the Great Recession, and predatory lending and housing fraud continue to threaten and harm New Yorkers. Communities of color have been particularly impacted, and families across Queens, especially in the Rockaways and Southeast Queens, still struggle with the aftermath of a foreclosure crisis that shows no sign of abating. At the end of 2018, foreclosure rates in Southeast Queens continue to rise while they have stabilized or declined in other parts of the city. From homeowners to small-business owners to renters, predatory lending and housing fraud has devastating consequences.

In this environment, it is vital that the next Queens district attorney use the full powers of her office, both prosecutorial and educational, to protect homeowners, borrowers and renters, and to hold white collar criminals who violate the law accountable. Today, I am releasing my second position paper of my campaign for Queens DA—outlining how I will create a new Bureau of Housing and Loan Fraud to set a new standard for how these crimes are investigated and prosecuted.

I will crack down on predatory lending and give residents better tools to protect themselves from these fraudsters. Under the Bureau of Housing and Loan Fraud, my team will gather information from victims, track evidence, investigate suspicious practices and aggressively prosecute all crimes in our jurisdiction, while working with the attorney General’s office to ensure no criminals slip through the cracks. Additionally, my bureau will educate the public about these crimes; enlist the public’s help in gathering evidence; create a hotline and online portal to track and investigate predatory lenders, and allow residents to report housing fraud, predatory lending or any suspicious solicitation; and advocate for better laws to protect consumers and hold those who violate the law accountable. My office will specifically advocate for stronger laws to protect borrowers, including stricter licensing standards for online lenders, to ban “confessions of judgement,” and to require loan-like financial products to follow the same regulations as loans. With these steps, I believe we can make Queens a national leader on this issue.

For too long, white collar criminals have gotten off with little more than a slap on the wrist or a fine they can write off as a cost of doing business, while regular homeowners, borrowers, small businesses and renters have their lives destroyed. Theft is theft, whether the robber wears a mask or a three-piece suit; whether it’s stealing a car or robbing a family of their financial security through housing fraud. As district attorney, I will make it clear that predatory lending has no home in Queens.