FBI targets fraud in TARP, stimulus fund

FBI Director Robert Mueller in the East Room of the White House, May 29, 2009. REUTERS/Larry Downing

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The FBI is working with other U.S. agencies to prevent wrongdoing related to government bailout money and the economic stimulus package, in what could be the “next wave” of financial fraud cases, Director Robert Mueller said on Tuesday.

Mueller said in a speech to the Economic Club of New York that the FBI, U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the inspector general of the Troubled Asset Relief Program were working to track where federal money is going.

“With billions of dollars at stake -- from the purchase of troubled assets to improvements in infrastructure, healthcare, energy and education -- even a small percentage of fraud would result in substantial taxpayer losses,” Mueller said.

He also said the agency was shifting resources in New York, home of Wall Street and many financial institutions, to combat white-collar crime.

Mueller told the luncheon gathering that the agency had 1,300 securities fraud cases, including many Ponzi schemes.

The FBI is investigating more than 580 corporate fraud cases, he said.

The FBI has been bracing for a wave of fraud and corruption cases stemming from the government’s multitrillion-dollar effort to stimulate the economy and help ailing banks.

Mueller said the FBI and other agencies wanted to be proactive in making sure that government funds will be used appropriately.

“We must collect the intelligence necessary to target potential waste and abuse at all levels, and we must do so before it fully develops,” he said. “To that end, we must be able to follow the money all the way down the line.”

Reporting by Grant McCool and Martha Graybow; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn