For the first time in recent memory, white-collar crime is going to be a top priority of the Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s office.
That’s the word from newly named Santa Barbara County District Attorney Joyce Dudley, who already has designated one of her deputies, attorney Gordon Auchincloss, as her point person on the white-collar crime issue.
We raised the subject of white-collar crime in an earlier editorial during the hotly contested campaign for Santa Barbara County DA. We noted at the time that mortgage fraud, elder financial abuse, Ponzi schemes and frauds affecting business were a big issue that had been ignored by the candidates.
The process of investigating white-collar crime can be expensive and time-consuming, and it’s too early to say exactly how Dudley will approach it. Auchincloss, though, laid out a few ideas in a conversation with the Business Times.
He said Dudley will dedicate additional resources to white-collar crime, but the DA’s office can’t tackle the job alone. That means getting cooperation from police and sheriff’s departments to investigate possible crimes, as well as an outreach effort to the business community.
One of the best examples of this kind of cooperation happened recently in Ventura County, where members of the real estate brokerage community helped investigators uncover a mortgage fraud ring that operated in Oxnard and Camarillo. As a result, 14 people were indicted on federal fraud charges.
Real estate organizations have since formed a working group to spot fraud and to advocate for best practices.
The economic chaos that we’ve been through has created plenty of opportunity for fraud — and opportunities are ongoing, as elderly people try to figure out how they are going to survive on diminished savings, and as homeowners who are underwater on their mortgages look to professionals for workout and restructuring advice.
This is a propitious time for Dudley to tackle the white-collar crime problem in Santa Barbara County. We look forward to seeing how her plans unfold.