A House Government Operations Committee report contends that despite major funding increases, the Justice Department still lacks sufficient resources to investigate and prosecute savings and loan crime.
The report, released for publication today, says the Justice Department has ignored the needs of some rural areas -- including eastern Texas, Wyoming and Colorado -- despite urgent requests from field offices for more investigators.
"This disregard for the FBI's known resource needs demonstrates a serious apathy by the administration for the high priority which the Congress and the public wants these matters to receive in the criminal process, second only to drugs cases," the report states.
James G. Richmond, in charge of financial fraud prosecutions for the Justice Department, criticized the committee's report as "a collection of outdated, stale statistics."
The report "inexplicably ignores the bottom line, which is the Justice Department's record of prosecution of the past two years -- 519 defendants charged, 355 defendants convicted -- in major savings and loan fraud cases," Richmond said in a statement.
The committee's report highlights testimony from Robert Wortham, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Texas, who told the commerce subcommittee in March: "I just don't think there is as much emphasis given to less-populated areas.
"We have many unaddressed failures, many unaddressed institutions that have been taken over, and the reason they are unaddressed is there is no one to go out and do the work," Wortham testified.
The report also quotes from the FBI's budget request for fiscal 1991, which says that because of a lack of resources, some FBI offices have changed their criteria for what constitutes a priority case. For example, the budget request said, the Los Angeles office "is unable to effectively address" cases where fraud cost a financial institution less than $250,000.
The Justice Department, which received a $50 million boost in fiscal 1990, added 202 FBI agents and 148 prosecutors, as well as support personnel and FBI accounting technicians. But the committee report contends that department officials "misled" Congress by not requesting substantially more funds for fiscal year 1991.
The department asked for about $100 million in new funds; Congress appropriated about $160 million, according to the department.
Attorney General Dick Thornburgh testified in April that "an almost infinite amount of resources can be put into the criminal justice process" and a spokesman for the department said yesterday that $100 million was a "reasonable" request.
The report also states that the Justice Department cannot keep experienced investigators and prosecutors in high-cost areas like California and New York City.
The report recommends that Congress consider legislation to establish higher pay for investigators and prosecutors in high-cost areas of the country.