Sixty-seven individuals ranging from mortgage brokers to attorneys have been charged in the Chicago-area portion of a sweeping nationwide crackdown on mortgage fraud, officials announced Thursday.

Sixty-seven individuals ranging from mortgage brokers to attorneys have been charged in the Chicago-area portion of a sweeping nationwide crackdown on mortgage fraud, officials announced Thursday. 2

Sixty-seven individuals ranging from mortgage brokers to attorneys have been charged in the Chicago-area portion of a sweeping nationwide crackdown on mortgage fraud, officials announced Thursday.

“The hundreds of millions of dollars of fraud, particularly home mortgage fraud, that we’re seeing around the country, not only damages financial institutions but more importantly makes like more difficult for ordinary citizens,” First Assistant U.S. Attorney Gary Shapiro told a news conference.

The announcement in Illinois came as Justice Department officials in Washington unveiled Operation Malicious Mortgage, a nationwide crackdown on an estimated $1 billion in mortgage fraud.

Illinois is in the top 10 states in mortgage fraud, said Bob Shields, the assistant special agent in charge of the FBI’s Chicago office.

The charges were unveiled at a Chicago news conference.

The first charges in the crackdown came in March and the most recent were placed within the last several days, federal prosecutors said.

The Chicago-area cases included:

–Thirty-three defendants in two companion cases with what federal prosecutors called “the same alleged ringleader,” Bobbie L. Brown, Jr., 44, of suburban Country Club Hills. The cases involved loans totaling $111 million for 183 homes stretching from Chicago suburbs to California.

–Three defendants charged with scheming to fraudulently obtain mortgages on 28 properties totaling more than $40 million from large banks and mortgage companies. Prosecutors said losses totaled $6 million.

–Twelve defendants accused of fraud and identity theft for allegedly using stolen and bogus identities to get more than $3.2 million in loans.

Brown’s defense attorney, Raymond L. Prusak, did not immediately return a message left at his office Thursday afternoon by The Associated Press.

The national crackdown comes as the nation’s housing and financial markets are being hammered by the subprime mortgage meltdown.

The charges in Chicago said nothing about subprime mortgages. But officials indicated that many of the loans involved were subprime.

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