By Thomas J. Edwards
Investigations of the federal government’s Troubled Asset Relief Program and its spinoff Hardest Hit Program reveal millions of hard-earned tax dollars have been squandered in a program launched by the Obama administration to help homeowners bludgeoned by the mammoth mortgage fraud scandal of 2008. An update revelation comes at a time when former President Barack Obama is extolling a “scandal free” eight-year administration.
Yet the program he launched in 2010 to help homeowners left unemployed or underemployed by the housing crisis and subsequent economic collapse and recession allowed lenders and homeowners to rip off the main program while public officials indulged in luxury travel, extravagant dinners and receptions, parties, gifts, fancy cars, and gym memberships while Obama and their Treasury Department host looked the other way in administration of the programs.
The principal culprit that led to the abuse: Obama and his Treasury Department failed to put any spending safeguards in place or establish any oversight mechanisms. That resulted in free-for-all slush funds giving rein to local officials suddenly awash in cash to spend extravagantly while no one was watching, never mind the likelihood their corruption would someday come to light.
So far, corruption investigations have recovered $10 billion while 427 participants have been criminally charged, 364 have been convicted, and 278 sentenced to prison. Those numbers included 91 homeowners who decided to scam the program, 82 bank borrowers, and 73 bankers involved in securities fraud, bank fraud, corruption, money laundering, fraud against consumers, fraud against the government, and anti-competitive acts.
The revelations are described in a 54-page report to Congress — a followup to two previous investigations by the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program. SIGTARP’s Christy Goldsmith Romero says the gouging continues at a quick pace and investigators are still trying to sort out millions of dollars uncounted for that were paid to subcontractors.
The report, available at https://tinyurl.com/y4pdmkaj, illustrates the gouging of tax dollars:
- Nevada’s HHF wasted $8.2 million on parties, a Mercedes Benz, gift cards for employees, bar tabs, flowers, cash bonuses and picnics;
- Georgia wasted $18.6 million ion similar extravagances;
- The average cost of TARP demolitions in Michigan and Ohio have skyrocketed through inflated contracts;
- State agency officials wasted more than $400,000 on prohibited travel, conference and luxury hotel costs for meetings having little if anything to do with TARP and HHF.
SIGTARP estimates it has at least five more years of investigations ahead to fully unravel the scope of fraud and waste.