Nevada lawmakers approve new fraud unit for Attorney General |

Nevada lawmakers approve new fraud unit for Attorney General

The Interim Finance Committee on Thursday approved spending nearly $1.3 million a year for the next five years to create a new financial fraud unit within the Attorney General’s Office.

Attorney General Adam Laxalt told lawmakers the number of financial fraud complaints received by his office has increased dramatically in the past few years. He said there were 600 complaints in 2014 but 952 complaints in 2015.

“So far this year, we’ve already received 870 fraud complaints,” he said.

He said that has produced “a compelling need to devote more resources,” to the problem.

Laxalt and his staff told lawmakers, however, none of the money to pay for the 10 person unit is tax or other public money. He said it’s all from Nevada’s share of the national mortgage settlement.

The money will pay for a total of 10 staff including criminal investigators, supervising investigators and support staff.

Chief of Investigations Rod Swanson said they will investigate all types of financial fraud from timeshare, exploitation of the elderly, telemarketing, money laundering and terrorism issues. He said the added staff will be able to greatly increase the number of complaints that can be properly investigated and enable them to partner with federal and local authorities in prosecuting often complex and time consuming cases.

The total appropriation from the mortgage settlement fund will be $1.288 million a year. That includes just under $400,000 to the Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada where most of those complaints are filed.

Laxalt said after IFC approved the expenditure at the end of the five years he will look for other revenue sources including similar settlements. But he said if the only alternative is to move the expense to the General Fund, he would end the program.