The Real Deal Miami

South Florida’s new U.S. Attorney calls mortgage fraud a top priority

By Alexander Britell | May 18, 2010 07:00PM

U.S. Attorney Wifredo Ferrer

U.S. Attorney Wifredo “Willy” Ferrer, who was sworn in two weeks ago as the top federal prosecutor for the Southern District of Florida, called fighting mortgage fraud one of his top priorities today during a session with journalists.
Combating fraud was one of three main priorities Ferrer vowed to pursue, following terrorism and public corruption.
“There is rampant fraud in South Florida,” he said. “I think that’s unfortunate. It is embarrassing that we are known in some circles as the fraud capital of the country. I don’t like that title.”
Ferrer announced that Assistant U.S. Attorney Joan Silverstein has been named the chief of the division of economic and environmental crimes, which includes mortgage fraud cases.
“Lucky for me, we’ve got a great economic crimes section here to handle our fraud prosecutions. When it comes to real estate, housing discrimination, mortgage fraud cases, we’re leading the nation [in prosecutions]. That’s a good thing but it’s also a bad thing because it shows we have a lot of fraud here.”
Just last month, Homestead mortgage broker Yvette Valdes was indicted by a federal grand jury, charged with falsifying loan documents on two properties in Southwest Miami-Dade County. She faces up to 30 years in prison.
Ferrer had just returned to Miami from a stay in Washington at the so-called U.S. attorney school, which prepares incoming U.S. attorneys from around the nation.
Ferrer, a former Miami-Dade County Attorney, spent five years as an assistant U.S. attorney in the same office he occupies today. He was also a White House Fellow, where he was assigned as a special assistant to former secretary of Housing and Urban Development Henry Cisneros. He was also a deputy chief of staff and counsel to former Attorney General Janet Reno.
Ferrer was a judicial clerk for the Stanley Marcus, a judge with the federal Court of Appeals for the 11th circuit, which recently handed down a decision on the Interstate Land Sales Full Disclosure Act in favor of developers.
ILSA, as it is known, is a consumer protection law that requires developers of new condos to register their buildings with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. But for years, the law was ignored until buyers across the country invoked it to get deposits back after the crash.
Ferrer did not address the law in his remarks. ILSA claims are civil actions brought by private plaintiffs, not by prosecutors.
Ferrer also spent three years in private practice at Steel, Hector & Davis.

Ferrer noted that the office has a mortgage fraud task force to help prosecute real estate crimes.
“I just came from D.C. and I saw the numbers,” he said. “We can just keep doing more and more of [these fraud cases]. And we will.”