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Authorities continue to target investment fraud

Federal prosecutors have shown yet again that they are determined to go after what they perceive to be a problem with fraud and other forms of white-collar crime. The latest indicator is a series of six regional summit meetings held around the country on stopping fraud.

St. Louis was chosen to host one of these summits. But the federal enforcement priorities outlined at the meetings have implications for how federal prosecutors here may approach St. Louis white-collar crime charges.

Federal authorities say they are particularly concerned about investor fraud. It's been few years now since the infamous Bernie Madoff went to prison for his epic Ponzi scheme. But according to FBI data, the number of investor fraud cases has kept going up. The increase from 2008 to 2011 was 136 percent, according to statistics from the FBI.

The regional summits featured an array of agencies, seeking to showcase their roles in preventing and confronting fraud. In addition to the FBI and the Securities and Exchange Commission, participating organizations have included AARP and the Better Business Bureau. Local police have also been involved.

The participation of the AARP is scarcely surprising, given that seniors are often the target of fraudulent schemes. Overall, the U.S. Justice Department says more than 800 people around the country have pleaded or been found guilty in cases involving allegations of investor fraud.

No one would deny that several high-profile fraud cases have come to light in recent years. Madoff's is the most notorious case, but there have been others.

Still, it is fair to point out that just because prosecutors choose to make a certain type of crime a priority doesn't necessarily mean a particular defendant is guilty in a particular case.

Source: "Feds step up investor fraud education efforts," Reuters, Mitch Lipka, 10-23-12

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