A new civil fraud unit will look into financial fraud, including any related to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and the Troubled Asset Relief Program, Preet Bharara, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced last week.

The unit will have six full-time prosecutors that will initiate civil cases. The office already has a securities and commodities task force and a complex-fraud unit that deal with criminal cases.

“The assistant United States attorneys in the civil frauds unit, working side by side with the prosecutors in our complex frauds unit, will be charged with using every weapon in our diverse arsenal to combat financial fraud and to vindicate its victims,” Bharara said in a press release.

Standards of proof under civil law are less stringent than in criminal fraud cases and civil cases offer prosecutors the ability to freeze assets sooner than in criminal cases, Bharara noted in a press release.

The new unit will work in coordination with the federal financial fraud enforcement task force on which Bharara serves as a co-chair of the securities and commodities fraud working group.

The attorney’s office has handled a number of high-profile financial cases in recent years, including the prosecution of Bernard Madoff, who is now serving a 150 year sentence for defrauding investors in a massive ponzi scheme.

A spokeswoman for the attorney’s office declined to comment on whether the unit would look into bond deals that used ARRA programs.

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