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‘There are thousands and thousands of these cases;’ firm doubles to 11 attorneysSANTA ROSA – By the time the mortgage debacle really hit, Sonoma County law partner Rachel Dollar was already well-established in the lending fraud niche, having closed numerous complex, federal cases and publishing a book and widely followed blog on the topic.

Last month, the Smith Dollar law firm garnered a highly regarded contract to solve cases for the FDIC and continued the firm’s growth with the addition of a new attorney that worked most recently as a federal deputy counsel.

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“The complexity of mortgage fraud is something that really fascinates me — these intricately creative schemes for stealing money. It’s like solving a puzzle,” Ms. Dollar said in an interview enroute to Texas, were she is leading a seminar on fraud cases for the Houston district attorney and state bar association.

Since Ms. Dollar partnered with 28-year legal veteran Glenn Smith in 2006, the firm has grown from two to 11 attorneys, more than half of which joined since last year. Of the recent recruits, former FDIC official Robert Russell joined the group in July.

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“When I retired from the FDIC, I wanted to go back into practice, and Smith Dollar had moderated a really impressive panel several years ago with a senior justice department official, a person from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, so I was really impressed with them to begin with,” Mr. Russell said.

“Then when I started to do some research on mortgage fraud cases, Rachel Dollar just came up again and again, and she became a professional and personal friend of mine, and it just seemed like a natural fit.”

Mr. Russell served as deputy to the vice chairman of the FDIC as well as a director of the Office of Policy Development and senior council to the legal division. He also provided counsel to the federal Office of Thrift Supervision, where he developed banking policies and prepared congressional testimonies.

With the recently signed federal contract, Mr. Russell will work primarily in Washington, D.C., for Smith Dollar and concentrate on recovering and working out failed loans.

“There are thousands and thousands of these cases, and it’s a very daunting and challenging task, but we are very excited. There is this strong demand from the public that these people that caused problems be held accountable, and in that way we are honored to do the work,” Mr. Smith said.

He said the federal contract will also position the partners front and center to the financial regulatory restructuring that has continued in the wreckage of the mortgage collapse.

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Mr. Smith specializes in business, real estate, commercial disputes and complex litigation and is a past Sonoma County Bar president and Judge Pro Tem for the Sonoma County Superior Court. Additionally he is a co-founder, vice president and director of DriWater Inc., a Santa Rosa-based irrigation company focused on slow-release, water-saving solutions.

Ms. Dollar said she hopes to continue to grow the practice both in mortgage fraud and other areas during the next few years. She is also a past president of the Sonoma County Bar, and since 2005, she’s spoken at more than 60 meetings and conferences related to mortgage fraud and was quoted in close to 100 articles.