LOS ANGELES -- A real estate fraud unit has been established in the Los Angeles County District Attorney's office.

Gil Garcetti, the district attorney, said the .unit had been staffed with three deputy district attorneys and three investigators. Mortgage insurers and the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp. (Freddie Mac) have provided $500,000 in grants.

"This is the first time in the history of the District Attorney's office that there is a unit of specially trained investigators and prosecutors assigned to exclusively help real estate fraud victims," Mr. Garcetti said.

"We now have the resources to intervene earlier to attempt to help victims save their homes, or, in the cases of real estate investment fraud, to attempt to obtain restitution."

The District Attorney's office has been seeking private support for its efforts to deal with white collar crime because of budget cuts and has gotten grants for investigating fraud in auto insurance, welfare, and workmen's compensation.

The insurance industry contribution came from a trade association, Mortgage Insurance Companies of America. The group said the Federal Bureau of Investigation had reported fraud on $12 billion of mortgages issued in the first quarter of last year in Southern California.

A Freddie Mac spokesman, vice president Gerald Langbauer, said mortgage fraud was costly to homeowners because it drove up the cost of financing and insuring.

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