Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Agencies to Investigate 64 Cases of Financial Fraud in Oklahoma

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Agencies to Investigate 64 Cases of Financial Fraud in Oklahoma

Article excerpt

Journal Record Staff Reporter Federal agencies are gearing up to investigate a backlog of 64 cases involving alleged financial fraud in Oklahoma.

In February, 69 cases languished between anonymous tip and conviction at the U.S. Attorney's office in Oklahoma City. But since receiving funding in January, U.S. Attorney Tim Leonard has created a five-person financial fraud unit, which has collected 15 convictions and opened 10 new investigations.

The U.S. Attorney's office is working through the 64 cases with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which has been allocated 10 additional agents to investigate financial fraud in western Oklahoma.

The last of the five assistant U.S. attorneys was hired Monday, Leonard said. The other four were transferred from other areas in the office. Robert McCampbell, an assistant U.S. attorney who has handled financial fraud cases in the past, was brought in to head the unit. On loan to the district office are two Justice Department attorneys from Washington, part of the department's financial fraud strike force.

McCampbell's first step in organizing an all-out legal assault on financial fraud was to pull all those cases scattered among attorneys in the office into one central area for assignment to the designated attorneys. It also meant prioritizing the cases and "fast-tracking" simpler cases. About a dozen were placed on the fast track, and most have been resolved either through guilty pleas or trial.

One of the frustrating facets to prosecuting financial fraud is that a seemingly simple case involving one bank official can hide a deceptively complex scheme requiring the knowledge and consent of the upper eschelon of a financial institution, Leonard said.

"We'll start with one case and it will lead to five other ones," Leonard said. "A particular case is simple, but it's opened a Pandora's Box."

"From the (FBI) agent's standpoint, the trail can't be too cold, because the cases are complicated and many times the assets have dissipated the longer a case goes," Leonard said.

In the oldest of the 69 cases, the alleged crime was committed five years ago.

The fast-tracked cases are typically loan fraud cases that are quickly discovered and involve one defendent who pleads guilty immediately, McCampbell said. …

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