And he doesn’t let Wall Street and the banks’ weak-sauce excuse stand, batting it down in the very next sentence:

Some lenders and investors who bought the securities say they were clueless about fraud and other problems occurring at the street level. But some other people find that hard to believe.

“They knew what the hell was going on and they didn’t care,” said Rodney Cubbie, a former federal prosecutor who, as a defense lawyer, has defended people charged with mortgage fraud. “They’d take these loans, bundle them and sell them off as investments” in order to spread the risk from future defaults.

Cubbie’s comments were not aimed at the Lytle-Valadez case but rather the overall attitude in the subprime mortgage market that lasted until it crashed in 2007. That hear-no-evil, see-no-evil approach allowed unscrupulous local brokers to game the system and feed the demand created by national lenders and securities dealers.

“If you’re going to prosecute any of these guys on the local level, you need to prosecute those guys too,” Cubbie said, referring to the national players.

Good stuff.

Attention, ambitious reporters in other states: the Herald and Journal-Sentinel series have set up a template for you. Apply it to your state and rake in the awards.

Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at rc2538@columbia.edu.