Masto takes on flimflam artists in Silver State road trip

Chris Rizo Mar. 24, 2008, 6:51pm


CARSON CITY -- Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto jumped into a minivan Monday to begin a four-day rural road trip to discuss some "hot button issues" in the Silver State, including mortgage fraud and identity theft.

"Our intent is to get out there and let them know who we are and educate them as to how we can help them," Masto told LegalNewsLine in an interview from her Carson City office. "Because they don't have as easy of access to my office as some of the urban areas, I wanted to make sure I was out in those communities, talking to those individuals and bringing my staff to those areas."

The Democratic attorney general, along with a team of state attorneys and outreach workers, will crisscross southern Nevada, traveling hundreds of miles this week to outlying communities in sprawling Clark and Nye counties.

Among those on the road with Masto are two officials from the attorney general's office Consumer Protection Bureau to tackle issues relating to telemarketing fraud, mortgage rescue scams and identity fraud.

Nevada, which is among states leading the nation in mortgage fraud cases, is attracting flimflam artists, who prey on homebuyers, particularly the elderly, who financed their home purchase using adjustable-rate subprime mortgages.

In fact, Nevada is the No. 2 state in the nation in terms of residential mortgage fraud, according to the Mortgage Asset Research Institute's Fraud Index.

"It's amazing to me how people prey on other people," Masto said. "If there is a way to make a quick buck and take advantage on somebody they'll do it. There are more and more of these people coming into our state."

To help protect homebuyers, Masto, a former federal prosecutor, said three attorneys and two investigators in her office are working closely with federal authorities to prosecute high-dollar fraud cases, while her office is pursuing lower-level cases for state prosecution.

Masto's four-day trip, dubbed the "Putting Nevada's Families First" tour, includes stops in Boulder City, Searchlight, Laughlin, Overton, Logandale, Moapa, Pahrump and North Las Vegas.

As for building a nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain in the remote Nevada desert as a storage space for nuclear waste from dozens of states, Masto said she will continue to fight the controversial project.

"This is a concern for everyone in this state," Masto said, noting that polls indicate that about 70 percent of Nevadans are opposed to the project, which is decades behind schedule.

"There's been no proof that it is safe; there is concern about the health and welfare of the people who live here based on the contamination to the environment," she said. "The majority are opposed to it and rightfully so."

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