Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden's office a sharp increase in complaints from Idaho consumers about questionable mortgage modifications in 2009 and that all complaints rose 11 percent. Wasden said during a news conference Tuesday that his office also collected a record amount of civil penalties and restitution collections for consumers and the state.
Idahoans filed 1,896 complaints with the AG's office in 2009. Of those, 353 complaints dealt with mortgage modification. "We received reports of outrageous fraud," Wasden said. The attorney general's consumer protection staff was able to turn those complaints into penalties and payments for the state and citizens. "The 13 people in our consumer protection division brought in $44 million for Idaho consumers and the state last year, while we spent only $833,000."
The attorney general and his staff aren't immune from shrinking budgets facing all state departments due to lower tax revenues. Wasden said his office is meeting a tighter budget in part by having more vacant job positions and increasing unpaid furloughs for employees. Workers are taking 13 furloughs during the current fiscal year, which ends June 30. Wasden's press secretary, Bob Cooper, said only two furloughs were scheduled before the end of December - the day after Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve. Six furloughs were added in January, when the governor released his revised budget, and five more are now scheduled, after lawmakers approved a smaller revenue projection for the current budget.
IdahoReporter.com has video of Wasden's press conference Tuesday. Part one includes the top 10 list of consumer complaints from 2009.
Part two includes the end of Wasden's prepared remarks, and some discussion on the AG's budget. Brett DeLange, chief of the consumer protection division, also speaks on issues dealing with mortgage modification and home loans.
Part three includes Wasden and DeLange discussing cooperation with other state and federal agencies.