Saturday, December 20, 2008

Washington Woman Faces Forgery, Theft Charges In Alleged Refinancing Scam; Accused Of Using Stolen Notary Stamp, Abusing POA In Scheme To Pocket $32K

In Bremerton, Washington, the Kitsap Sun reports:

  • A Bremerton woman was charged with forgery and theft [...] after an investigation found she'd stolen a notary stamp and taken more than $32,000 through refinancing schemes where she served as a power of attorney, according to documents filed in Kitsap County Superior Court.

  • Ebony L. Washington, 33, was found by a Bremerton police detective to have refinanced an Arsenal Way duplex twice with power of attorney given to her by a 46-year-old Bremerton man.

For more, see Woman Accused of Pocketing $32K in Refinancing Schemes.

Go here, go here, go here, and go here for other posts related to deed or refinancing scams by forgery, swindle, etc. DeedTheftAlpha

Ex-Pastor, Ex-Banker Charged With Mortgage Fraud, Forgery, Theft By Deception, Etc. In Alleged Scheme To Swindle Church Members

In Macon, Georgia, the Macon Telegraph reports:

  • A former Macon pastor and a former Macon banker were indicted [last] Tuesday by a Bibb County grand jury on RICO charges stemming from an alleged scheme to swindle church members into taking out fraudulent loans totaling more than $600,000, according to court records. The indictment names Steven Pittman, a former employee of BB&T Bank in Macon and Jimmy Collins, former pastor of God’s Worship Center on Gray Highway.(1)


  • Pittman and Collins allegedly used Pittman’s position as a bank officer to obtain loans and lines of credit for about 10 church members, according to the records. [...] Collins and Pittman provided false financial information about the church members in banking documents, submitted forged documents to the bank and misrepresented the true use of the loan funds, according to court records.

For more, see Ex-pastor, ex-banker hit with racketeering charges in Bibb County.

(1) According to the story, the indictment charges Collins and Pittman with, among other things, violation of the RICO Act, bank fraud, residential mortgage fraud, forgery, theft, and theft by deception, according to court records. DeedTheftAlpha

Mosque Leader Gets 20 Years On Deed Theft Scam Targeting The Elderly & Deceased

In Miami, Florida, The Miami Herald reports:

  • An officer at a Liberty City mosque was sentenced to 20 years in prison on Tuesday for his role in a housing scam that stole homes from the elderly -- and even from dead people. Sameer Muhammad, the vice president of Muhammad Mosque No. 29 [...] was convicted earlier this year of nine counts of grand theft, forgery, identity theft and using false identification.


  • Investigators say Muhammad, 51, and a partner, Carolyn A. Murphy, targeted elderly residents who had liens on their homes. Murphy would file fraudulent deeds showing herself as the owner of the home, and Muhammad would then sell the homes through his real estate investment company, Bar None Properties Inc.

  • In one case, investigators found a deed a couple purportedly signed, transferring their home to Murphy years after they had died. Murphy pleaded guilty last year and was sentenced to three years in prison in exchange for her agreement to testify against Muhammad.

For more, see Mosque leader jailed over scam targeting the elderly (A Liberty City mosque leader was given a 20-year sentence for stealing houses from the elderly). DeedTheftAlpha

Stolen Identities, Phony Documents Used In NYC Deed Theft; Leaves One Victim With Ruined Credit & Unwitting Widow Facing Foreclosure

In Jamaica, Queens, the New York Daily News reports on a scam where a con man was paid $1,000 by an alleged fraud ring to show up at a closing pretending to be a homeowner who has been dead for 19 years to sell a home from out from under the deceased homeowner's widow. A stolen identity, backed up with phony documents, was used by a purported buyer to obtain a $533,000 mortgage, which has since gone unpaid, leaving a widow facing the loss of her home of over 30 years, and the identity theft victim with her credit in shambles.

For the story, see Dead man gets mortgage worth whopping $533G. DeedTheftAlpha

Friday, December 19, 2008

Fannie To Extend Moratorium On Foreclosure Evictions; Freddie Mum On Further Action

The Wall Street Journal reports:

  • Fannie Mae is finalizing a national policy that will allow tenants to remain in their homes even if their landlord goes into foreclosure -- a landmark decision for tenants. The policy will be in effect Jan. 9, Fannie Mae said Sunday, and reflects growing pressure on the mortgage company from a legal-aid group that threatened to sue over recent evictions. The company said it will also ensure its current holiday moratorium on new evictions is being followed until the new policy takes effect.


  • In late November Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac said they would suspend tenant evictions temporarily during the year-end holidays. [Connecticut legal aid firm] New Haven Legal Assistance said that despite the pledge, Fannie Mae was proceeding with more than a dozen new eviction cases in Connecticut. The advocacy group said the evictions would violate legislation passed earlier this year to rescue the two mortgage-finance giants that required them "to permit bona fide tenants who are current on their rent to remain in their homes under the terms of their lease."(1)

  • In his letter Sunday to the New Haven group,(2) Fannie Mae General Counsel Curtis Lu wrote: "As far as we know, this will be the first nationwide program of its kind." [...] Freddie Mac hasn't announced a similar policy reversal, though a spokesperson said they are "currently evaluating additional actions."

For more, see Fannie Mae to End Tenant Evictions in Foreclosures.

(1) Section 109(b) of the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 may require the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury to work with the F.H.F.A. and other government entities to permit tenants in foreclosed homes to remain in their apartments after foreclosure.

(2) Fannie Mae General Counsel Curtis Lu was responding to a December 8, 2008 letter sent by New Haven Legal Assistance, demanding that FNMA immediately cease violating Section 109(b) of the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008.

Central Florida Non-Profit Loan Modification Organization Leaves Legal Aid Attorney Concerned

In Daytona Beach, Florida, the Daytona Beach News Journal ran a story on the Helping Hands Foundation, reportedly a non-profit, 501(c)(3) organization with the mission of doing loan modifications for homeowners facing foreclosure.

  • Foundation directors George and Daisy Raisler(1) gave a free foreclosure prevention/education public workshop this week in Daytona Beach with 20 attendees. They spoke of being able to form a team of experts to review "intake" packages and pick ones that may be successful in getting mortgages modified. They charged $200 for the packages and ask for a donation equal to one month's salary to try to negotiate loan modifications. [...] Anita Lapidus, an attorney with Community Legal Services of Mid Florida, sat through the 90-minute presentation and left concerned.

For more, see Mortgage fraud up as homeowners seek help.

(1) According to the story:

  • Court records show Czech-born George Raisler, 41, pleaded guilty in 1996 in South Florida to conspiracy to commit mail fraud and income-tax fraud. He was ordered to pay partial restitution of $45,000 to insurance companies and served five years of supervised probation. That was extended a year after he violated the terms. He also voluntarily filed for bankruptcy in 1997, was ordered to pay $395 after losing a civil complaint in 1996 and in 2000, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement arrested him for grand larceny, trespassing and fraud. He was acquitted, according to court records. Raisler did not respond to telephone calls Friday, asking about his past.

Mass AG Obtains Injunction Against Upfront Fee Foreclosure Rescue Operator; 1st Lawsuit Invoking New State Regs Targeting "Home-Saving" Activities

In Essex County, Massachusetts, The Boston Globe reports:

  • The office of Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley said [Friday] that she has obtained a temporary restraining order against David Coleman, "a Methuen mortgage broker who allegedly preyed upon financially distressed homeowners by representing himself to be an attorney and a bankruptcy expert who offered to file bankruptcy petitions to save consumers’ homes from foreclosure."(1)


  • A press release issued by Coakley's office said: "Coleman would target vulnerable homeowners on the brink of foreclosure by combing newspapers for victims’ contact information in foreclosure notices. He would then allegedly make unsolicited calls to the homeowners where he would offer to save their homes from foreclosure by assisting them in filing for bankruptcy in exchange for a $1,000 cash fee upfront."

For more, see Mass. AG sues mortgage broker.

Go here for the Massachusetts AG's press release: AG General Martha Coakley Obtains Restraining Order Against Methuen Mortgage Broker Who Deceived Homeowners into Believing He Could Assist Them in Saving Their Homes From Foreclosure (First Lawsuit Alleging Violations of Attorney General Coakley’s Regulations on Foreclosure-Related Services ).

(1) According to the story, the temporary restraining order that Coakley obtained in Essex Superior Court prohibits Coleman and his company, Mortgage Finders of New England, from contacting individuals to offer foreclosure related services or assisting individuals with filing for bankruptcy, Coakley's office said. loan modification

Despite Intimidating Letters To The Contrary, NJ Tenants Have Protection From Foreclosure Eviction

In Jersey City, New Jersey, The Jersey Journal reports on the growing practice by real estate agents and others of sending intimidating letters to renters in foreclosed homes in attempts at forcing them to move, despite New Jersey law protecting them from foreclosure eviction.

  • The notices the two renters received are typical of the shady "cash for keys" deals being pushed on tenants in foreclosed buildings throughout Hudson County. In each case, a lump sum is offered in exchange for the tenants agreeing to vacate the property [...].

  • But when [the tenants] turned to Jorge Aviles, a former councilman and attorney for the Housing Resource Center in Jersey City, he told them they did not have to move because New Jersey law protects tenants from eviction in foreclosure actions.

  • Aviles said the "marginally legal" notices are frightening people, especially seniors, who are not aware of their rights. [...] "This is an attempt to trick people into thinking the foreclosure has some impact on them," Aviles said, adding that in his 27 years as a lawyer, he's "never seen stuff like this."

For more, see Shady letters tell tenants to leave now.

See also: Officials acting to protect tenants:

  • [T]he notices, which are popping up more often in Hudson County and other areas hit hard by foreclosures, tell the tenants they will be kicked out if they do not take cash to vacate their apartments, despite a state law that forbids such evictions. ThetaTenantRentSkimming

Thursday, December 18, 2008

San Bernardino County Man Charged In Theft Of Elderly Couple's Home; Allegedly Pocketed $250K In Subsequent Refinance

In Southern California, the San Bernardino County District Attorney's Office announced that investigators in its Real Estate Fraud unit arrested real estate agent Anthony Vargas, 34, at his office in Rancho Cucamonga, CA.(1) According to the DA's press release:

  • [I]n February 2008, Vargas fraudulently acquired a property in Rancho Cucamonga that belonged to an elderly Rancho Cucamonga couple. Vargas completed a Grant Deed and forged the victims' signatures, granting the property into his name. Vargas recorded the Grant Deed with the San Bernardino County Recorder’s Office and became the owner of record of the residential property. The victims owned this property outright with no mortgage owed. Vargas immediately took out a loan on the property in the amount of $250,000. [...] During the loan process the property was appraised at $1,200,000.

For the press release, see Rancho Cucamonga Man Arrested for Real Estate Fraud.

Go here, go here, go here, and go here for other posts related to deed or refinancing scams by forgery, swindle, etc.

(1) Vargas faces felony counts of Grand Theft (PC 487), Forgery (PC 470), Filing a False/Forged Document with the County Recorders Office (PC 115a) and Financial Elder Abuse (PC 368d), according to the DA's press release. Links are to the relevant sections of the California Penal Code. DeedTheftAlpha

Closing Agent Get 21 Months In Prison For Pocketing Escrow Cash Intended To Pay Off Existing Mortgages; Title Underwriter Takes $877K Hit

The U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland announced Monday that Marny Arlen Bailey, age 35, of Highland, Maryland, was sentenced to 21 months in prison followed by five years of supervised release for wire fraud in connection with a scheme to steal real estate settlement funds which were intended to pay off the homeowners’ previous loans. She was also ordered to pay restitution of $877,000, to the title company who paid off the homeowners’ loans after the fraud was discovered. According to the U.S. Attorney's press release:

  • Beginning in late 2007 or early 2008, Bailey used funds which were intended to pay off mortgage lenders for her own purposes. In early 2008, she diverted whole settlement amounts to her personal accounts, and started gambling in an attempt to recoup the amounts she had stolen. [... S]he stole settlement monies from as many as four homeowners, for a total of over $877,000.

For the press release, see Settlement Officer Sentenced For Diverting Funds Intended To Pay Off Mortgage Lenders (Stole Over $877,000 in Just Three Months).

Go here, Go here, Go here, and Go here for other stories of trust account / escrow account theft of funds. EscrowRipOffAlpha

NYC Pro Bono Effort Taking Hold As Attorneys Answer The Call, Step Up To The Plate

In Brooklyn, New York, the Brooklyn Daily Eagle reports:

  • [I]n Kings County, the Volunteer Lawyers Project is spreading. And despite the economic crisis that this country is facing, the project is expanding — perhaps even surging — with new attorneys willing to work for free.


For the story, see Local Pro Bono Attorneys Forego Paychecks for Applause.


In a related story, see The AmLaw Daily - Pro Bono Picks Up in Down Times:

  • When the Association of the Bar of the City of New York hosted a session in mid-October to train commercial lawyers to handle pro bono foreclosure cases, they expected about 70 to 80 people to show up. "We ended up with 245," says Lynn Kelly, executive director of the City Bar Justice Center, the public interest arm of the city bar association. "It took us completely by surprise."

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

NY Times Considers Possible Sale Leaseback Of Its Free & Clear Interest In 52-Story Headquarters; Seeks "Rescue" From Potential Cash Flow Squeeze

In New York City, The New York Times reports:

  • The New York Times Company plans to borrow up to $225 million against its mid-Manhattan headquarters building, to ease a potential cash flow squeeze as the company grapples with tighter credit and shrinking profits.

  • The company has retained Cushman & Wakefield, the real estate firm, to act as its agent to secure financing, either in the form of a mortgage or a sale-leaseback arrangement, said James M. Follo, the Times Company’s chief financial officer.

  • The Times Company owns 58 percent of the 52-story, 1.5 million-square-foot tower on Eighth Avenue, which was [...] completed last year. The developer Forest City Ratner owns the rest of the building. The Times Company’s portion of the building is not currently mortgaged, and some investors have complained that the company has too much of its capital tied up in that real estate.(1)

For more, see Times Co. to Borrow Against Building.

(1) Unlike the average homeowner in foreclosure, The Times is affirmatively and publicly expressing its interest in a possible sale leaseback with potential funding sources, and has retained the services of professionals to seek out such a transaction. The Times, with its access to sophisticated legal and financial advisers, has the kind of bargaining power that makes it an unlikely target for an equity-stripping scam. See generally, DREAMS FORECLOSED: The Rampant Theft of Americans' Homes Through Equity-stripping Foreclosure 'Rescue' Scams.

Accordingly, such a transaction, should it take place, probably runs a minimal risk of being recharacterized as an equitable mortgage. See generally, When is a Sale-Leaseback an Equitable Mortgage?

Missouri Feds, State AG, Local Cops Raid "Contract For Deed" Operator; Firm Subject To Numerous Complaints; Company Issues Public Statement

In Springfield, Missouri, reports:

  • Springfield police, the FBI and the Missouri Attorney General's office raided the Springfield office of Greenleaf Companies Tuesday. The company, which has been accused of real estate fraud, acts as a go-between, between home buyers and sellers - some buyers say Greenleaf never submitted their payments to the seller, sending the homes into foreclosure.

For the story, see Greenleaf Offices Raided by FBI.

See also, Springfield News Leader: FBI, Attorney General's office investigating Greenleaf.


Story update:

The Springfield News Leader reports that Greenleaf Companies and its sister company, The Real Estate Co., issued a statement Wednesday afternoon addressing Tuesday's search of their Springfield offices by the Missouri attorney general's office. For their statement, see:

See also, Greenleaf defends business after authorities search its offices.


Go here for other "contract for deed" problems involving Greenleaf Companies. Arkansas

City Of Memphis, Shelby County Consider Lawsuits Against Predatory Lenders

In Memphis, Tennessee, WHBQ Fox-TV Channel 13 reports:

  • The city and county mayors are considering drastic action because of the area's foreclosure epidemic. The idea is still in the early stages, but Memphis and Shelby County leaders are heavily researching a plan to sue mortgage companies. Leaders blame these loans for Memphis having the highest foreclosure rate in the state.

  • Similar lawsuits are underway in another part of the country. The City of Baltimore is overrun with foreclosed homes. Leaders there saw predominately African American neighborhoods with extremely high foreclosure rates. The situation is similar in Memphis, where 10 percent of some neighborhoods have foreclosed homes.

For more, see Local Leaders Consider Suing Mortgage Companies.

See also, The Memphis Daily News: Predatory Lending Suit Could Gain Traction.

For lawsuits alleging predatory lending filed by officials in Baltimore, Maryland, and the state of Massachusetts, see:

Lawyer Successfully Squeezes Settlement From Insurer For Client's Damage Claim From Unknown Meth Lab

In Loveland, Colorado, the Denver Daily News reports on a story of a local couple who rented out a basement apartment to their son-in-law, only to have their entire home subsequently condemned as a result of contamination caused by the son-in-law's clandestine meth lab operation on the premises. Local officials promptly kicked the couple out of their home because, until the the contamination could be remediated, the premises was deemed uninhabitable.

Reportedly, after having their insurance claim for the damage denied, and after having their case turned down by a number of attorneys unwilling to go after the insurance company, the homeowners found legal counsel willing to take the case and who successfully obtained a satisfactory settlement from the insurer for the meth lab damage.

An excerpt from the story regarding how to handle a meth contamination claim with an insurance company:

  • The trick is showing that homeowners had been the victim of mischievous behavior or vandalism — an unknown meth lab would fall under that category, said [Attorney Brett A.] Buccheit [with the Denver-based Frankl Law Firm].

  • The contamination exclusion is solid, you can’t get around it. No amount of fancy lawyering is going to change the words of the policy,” he said. “But if the property is treated in a manner inconsistent with the homeowners’ rights, such as malicious mischief or vandalism, then that is covered.” [...] The [homeowners] say they were able to settle for an amount that paid most of their costs.

For the full story, see Lawyer fixes meth mess (Denver-based Frankl Law Firm aids family with no other options).

Go here and Go here for other posts on home-based methamphetamine labs. meth lab yak

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Texas AG, State Legislator Propose Law Targeting Upfront Fee, Sale Leaseback Foreclosure Rescue Scams

From the Office of the Texas Attorney General:

  • Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott and state Sen. Craig Estes (Wichita Falls) announced a legislative initiative that will help protect Texas homeowners from foreclosure rescue scams. If enacted, the proposal would enhance the Attorney General’s enforcement authority, provide new protections for homeowners, and place new restrictions on foreclosure prevention consultants.

For the rest of the press release, see Attorney General Abbott, Sen. Estes Propose Bill To Protect Texans From Foreclosure Rescue Scams (Foreclosure Rescue Fraud Prevention Act to strengthen penalties for scams).

AZ R/E Agent Admits Forgery On Subordination Agreement Making Seller-Held Note Junior To New Financing; Both Loans Now In Default

From the Office of the Arizona Attorney General:

  • Attorney General Terry Goddard [last week] announced that former real estate agent Roy Keith Fife, 47, of Tucson, pleaded guilty to fraud and forgery charges at a hearing in Pima County Superior Court [...].

  • At the hearing, Fife admitted forging the signature of a client for whom he served as a residential real estate sales agent. Fife forged the signature on loan documents to facilitate the sale of the client’s property. Through this sale, Fife obtained a commission of more than $100,000.

  • As a result of Fife’s forgery, his client’s carryback loan was made junior to a million-dollar equity loan taken out by the buyers. The seller specifically required in the sales contract that his carryback would be in first position. The buyers of the property have since defaulted on both loans.

For the press release, see Tucson Real Estate Agent Pleads Guilty to Fraud, Forgery.

Forged Deed & Subsequent Refinance Leaves Bronx Homeowner Facing Foreclosure, I.D. Theft Victim's Credit In Ruins

In The Bronx, New York, the New York Daily News reports:

  • Phillip Powell, who lives in Baldwin, L.I., never even laid eyes on a house on E. 215th St. in the Bronx when one day he learned that he owned it. He received mail saying he owed payments on a $370,000 mortgage he had taken out on the single-family home.


  • Paula Penrose, who lives at the east Bronx property that she bought in 2002, was equally shocked when she learned Powell owns her home.


  • In a classic case of deed theft, someone stole Powell's identification and forged a deed transferring ownership from Penrose to Powell.

  • Then, the person pretending to be Powell used the forged deed to take out a $370,000 mortgage from New Century Mortgage Co. on the E. 215th St. home. Because neither the real Powell nor the fake Powell were making monthly mortgage payments, New Century began foreclosure proceedings against the property, and Penrose and her family face eviction.

For more, see You own a house - but we're taking it. DeedTheftAlpha

Feds, State Authorities Bust Global I.D. Theft Ring For Allegedly Hijacking Homeowner HELOCs; Millions In Equity Drained Out Of Homes

The Washington Post reports:

  • Federal authorities [last month] announced a series of arrests and convictions in connection with a global identity theft ring that stole millions of dollars by hijacking home-equity lines of credit issued to thousands of consumers.


  • The cases highlight what the FBI calls an "emerging scheme" afflicting the struggling real estate and mortgage market. In such crimes, thieves target people with good credit and large, untapped home-equity lines of credit, digging through public records -- such as property deeds and mortgages -- as well as publicly available Internet databases to obtain credit applications, credit reports and victim signatures.

  • "Home-equity lines of credit are an expanding front in the battle against mortgage fraud," said New Jersey U.S. Attorney Christopher J. Christie. "Homeowners should carefully review their statements to make sure their hard-earned equity is not disappearing from under their noses."

For more, see Thieves Stole Identities to Tap Home Equity.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Subprime Loans That Lenders Knew Or Should Have Known Were Unsustainable Are Illegal, Says Massachusetts High Court

The Boston Herald reports:

  • The Bay State’s highest court has issued a landmark ruling tentatively declaring whole classes of subprime mortgages unfair under Massachusetts law. “Originating loans with terms that in combination would lead predictably to . . . default and foreclosure (is) within established concepts of unfairness,” state Supreme Judicial Court justices unanimously ruled yesterday. The decision upholds a lower-court injunction issued against subprime-lending giant Fremont Investment & Loan.

  • Suffolk Superior Court Judge Ralph Gants handed down the injunction in February, declaring - apparently for the first time in state history - that some subprime-mortgage terms automatically violate Massachusetts law.

  • Ruling in a lawsuit brought by state Attorney General Martha Coakley, Gants found that many of Fremont’s Bay State subprime loans seemed “doomed to foreclosure” from the start. The judge ordered Fremont to give Coakley’s office a chance to object before foreclosing on any of 2,700 Massachusetts subprime mortgages with terms Gants deemed “structurally unfair.”

  • Last month, the judge issued a similar injunction against Option One Mortgage, which oversees another 8,000 questionable Massachusetts subprime loans. Although Gants’ rulings are preliminary, and subject to change as cases work their way through courts, experts still see yesterday’s SJC move as precedent-setting.

  • We think this is an important milestone not just for Massachusetts, but also for other states that want to use their consumer-protection powers against unfair and deceptive (mortgage) marketing,” Coakley said.

For the story, see High court hits subprime lenders.

See also:

For posts that reference the failure of some mortgage lenders and their attorneys to prove ownership of the promissory note when starting foreclosure actions, Go Here, Go Here, Go Here, and Go Here. missing mortgage foreclosure docs gamma SloppyForeclosuresAlpha

Fear Of Investor Lawsuits Impede Loan Modification Efforts

In Bradenton, Florida, a column in the Bradenton Herald offers a view on why mortgage lenders are so reluctant to offer loan workouts on delinquent home mortgages:

  • [T]hat's because most lenders sold their mortgages, which were soon packaged with others and the packages sold in shares. Now, ownership and securitized stakes in the expected profits are in the hands of multiple institutions and retirement funds and such.

  • According to April Charney, a lawyer who teaches other lawyers about this stuff, some institutions don't even own what they invested in. It is a huge problem for our country that, systemically, a Ponzi scheme was at work as, she said in an e-mail, "originating lenders failed to legally transfer notes and mortgages, leaving the investors in these trusts (us, our states, our schools, our pensions, the Bank of China, etc.) owning air. Sliced and diced air."

  • That ownership web can make it hellish to find anyone who dares restructure a mortgage. Often no one is sure who has authority to make a deal, let alone thousands of deals. Mortgage servicers fear being sued by investors if they exceed contractual authority, and the contracts with different investors vary.
For more, see Why won't the lenders try to cut a deal? missing mortgage foreclosure docs gamma MortgageServicingIssuesAlpha

Compelling Loan Modifications A Violation Of Investors' Constitutional Rights? Not So, Says One Expert

David Dana, professor of law and associate dean for academic affairs at Northwestern University School of Law writes in The Huffington Post:

  • In recent years, mortgages have been carved up into so many pieces that the re-working of mortgages -- and the saving of homes from foreclosure -- is not happening even when there are responsible homeowners who are willing and able to make reasonable payments.

  • Regulators and politicians have done nothing yet to compel the re-working of mortgages, in part because they fear that they will be labeled as trampling upon the constitutional rights to property of the investors who own parts of these troubled mortgages.


  • Our property law and property rights tradition simply does not require, or even allow, our lawmakers to sit back while the ill-advised chopping up of property into competing interest creates a gridlock that undermines national prosperity. As Abraham Lincoln famously remarked, the Constitution is not a suicide pact.

For the case Professor Dana makes in support of his position, see The Feudal Mistake.

Ohio Homeowner Hits Jackpot; Lender Loses Right To Foreclose On Delinquent Mortgage Due To Violation Of Procedural Rule, Says State High Court

In Canton, Ohio, The Repository reports:

  • A city man took his foreclosure dispute to the state’s highest court, and according to a ruling issued today, he won. What that means for Giuseppe Gullotta is that he gets to remain in his house without a mortgage. What it means for homeowners around the state remains to be seen.

  • The case involved a rule that limits plaintiffs to one re-filing after a civil lawsuit has been voluntarily withdrawn. During a two-year period, U.S. Bank filed three foreclosure actions against Gullotta, [...]. The bank voluntarily dismissed the first two complaints.

  • In 2005, it filed a third. Gullotta said that broke the re-filing rule, but the trial court and 5th District Court of Appeals said the foreclosure was legal. In March, the Ohio Supreme Court heard arguments. U.S. Bank argued that the third case wasn’t the same as the first two because it didn’t try to collect payments and interest owed before April 2005, which the other cases did.

  • But Gullotta’s attorney said the complaints were essentially the same. The court justices agreed in a 5-2 vote.

According to the court decision, the amount owed at the time of the start of the foreclosure action was $164,390.91, plus interest at the rate of 7.35 percent per year.

For the story, see North Canton man wins foreclosure case in Ohio Supreme Court.

For the decision of the Ohio Supreme Court, see U.S. Bank Natl. Assn. v. Gullotta (2008-Ohio-6268, slip op., December 10, 2008). UndoMortgageLoans TILAdelta SloppyForeclosuresAlpha

NYS Appeals Court To Review County's Foreclosure Attempt Where Owner Failed To Include $25 Late Fee With Tendered Tax Payment; Faulty Notice An Issue

In Canandaigua, New York, the Daily Messenger reports:

  • A panel of nine judges with the state Appellate Division’s Fourth Department will hear arguments Monday in the case of a man battling Ontario County to keep his Monks Road property off the auction block.The eight-acre wooded parcel overlooking Canandaigua Lake was to be auctioned this past May 14 at Ontario County’s annual foreclosure auction for unpaid property taxes.

  • But property owner Bruce Middlebrook took the county to court, claiming he had tried to pay the amount he was told he owed by the due date, however, the county refused to accept his payment because it lacked a $24.74 late fee.

  • Middlebrook’s attorney, David Whitcomb, said he will argue two points. The first is the county failed by giving Middlebrook wrong information about the amount owed. Additionally, Whitcomb will argue, it failed to notify Middlebrook the foreclosure process had begun in January 2006, because Middlebrook did not receiving notice of the back taxes until October 2007, four months before the final date to pay his bill Jan. 18, 2008.

For more, see County, homeowner battle over auction.

For another report on a lawsuit involving the issue of giving faulty notice to a property owner in an Ontario County, NY tax foreclosure action, see Court Denies Dismissal Of Suit Accusing County Of Screw Up In Giving Proper Notice To Owner In Tax Foreclosure Action. foreclosure faulty notice

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Another "Money Store" Defendant Falls; Maryland Feds' Tally Reaches Four In Equity Stripping, Foreclosure Rescue Scam Prosecution

From the Office of the United States Attorney (District of Maryland):

  • Katisha Fordham, age 35, of Washington, D.C., pleaded guilty [yesterday] to conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud in connection with a mortgage fraud scheme that falsely promised to help homeowners facing foreclosure keep their homes and repair their damaged credit, announced United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein.(1)

For the U.S. Attorney's press release, see Metropolitan Money Store Loan Processor Pleads Guilty In Mortgage Fraud Scheme (Under the Scheme Conspirators Took Title of Homes from Financially Distressed Homeowners and Secretly Used Home Equity for Personal Benefit).

Go here and Go here for other posts on the alleged Metropolitan Money Store foreclosure rescue scam.

Go here for criminal prosecutions of foreclosure rescue operators.

(1) According to the press release, Katisha Fordham is the fourth defendant to plead guilty in the Metropolitan Money Store mortgage fraud scheme. Richard Allison, age 37, of Camp Springs, Maryland, an attorney and employee of the U.S. Census Bureau; Clifford McCall, age 47, of Lanham, Maryland, president of Burroughs & Smythe Financial Services, Inc., based in Lanham and a director of the Fordham & Fordham Investment Group, Ltd., a foreclosure consulting and credit servicing business based in Lanham and Greenbelt, Maryland and Carlisha Dixon, age 31, of Hyattsville, Maryland, vice president and a director of Burroughs & Smythe Financial Services, Inc.; each pleaded guilty to the conspiracy and are facing a maximum sentencing of 30 years in prison. joyjackson

Texas AG Gets Permanent Injunction Against Upfront Fee Foreclosure Rescue Operator; Firm To Pay $1.55M

Buried in a recent press release is the following announcement from the Office of the Texas Attorney General:

  • [A]ttorney General Abbott revealed the results of a recent enforcement action against a mortgage rescue fraud scheme. Arizona-based Abell Mediation, Inc., and its president and vice-president, Elizabeth Cory and Michael Cory, respectively, were charged with fraudulently claiming that their company could save homeowners from imminent foreclosure. Homeowners who were delinquent on mortgage payments responded to the defendants’ solicitation cards and Web site. The defendants’ cards claimed that “Abell Mediation, Inc. has saved over 7,000 homes from foreclosure,” boasted about a “staff of highly trained loss mitigation specialists” with established relationships with mortgage lenders and banks nationwide and promised to “achieve results that no one else can.”

  • Under an agreement secured by the Attorney General, the defendants are permanently enjoined from conducting a foreclosure mitigation business in the future. The defendant is also required to pay a total of $1.55 million in fines, restitution and attorneys’ fees.

Go here for the Texas AG 12-10-08 press release.

Go here for the Agreed Final Judgment with Abell Mediation, Inc.. loan modification

Disabled Michigan Woman Fighting Eviction After Being Screwed In A Sale Leaseback, Foreclosure Rescue Scam

In Sturgis, Michigan, Workers World reports the story of a disabled homeowner who is now fighting off eviction after being victimized by mortgage fraud when she attempted to save her home after she fell behind on payments due to medical expenses. From the story:

  • A bogus mortgage company, which subsequently had its license revoked, tricked Brown into signing her house over to them. She continued making what she believed were the mortgage payments.

  • Recently, after being served with eviction papers, Brown learned she had been scammed and the house was in foreclosure. She discovered she had lost her property rights and was only a tenant in her own home. She filed complaints with the FBI, police and the State Office of Financial Services.

For more, see Help stop eviction of disabled woman.

Three Face Criminal Charges In Las Vegas-Area Alleged Foreclosure Rescue Scam; Homeowners Paid Upfront Fees To Avoid Losing Homes, Says State AG

In Las Vegas, Nevada, KLAS-TV Channel 8 reports:

  • One person is under arrest and two others are still at large for allegedly operating a foreclosure scam that bilked desperate homeowners out of money.(1)


  • The alleged scheme involved the collection of upfront fees for the purpose of assisting the victims with avoiding foreclosure on their homes. The suspects, under the business of Federal Housing Aid, allegedly charged the victims between $899 to $1500 for foreclosure rescue services and offered a 100% money back guaranty, claiming their company would refund the money if the foreclosure could not be stopped. The state says the company did not follow up on its promises.

For the story, see Arrest Made in Las Vegas Foreclosure Rescue Scam.

See also, KTNV-TV Channel 13: Arrests Made in Foreclosure Rescue Scam.

(1) According to the story, Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto announced that William Vargas has been arrested and warrants have been issued for Paula Luna, who is believed to be in California and Michael Sinclair who is believed to have fled to the Philippines. KTNV-TV Channel 13 reports, the three defendants are each charged with multiple felonies including: One (1) felony count of Theft of a Person 60 Years or Older; seven (7) felony counts of Theft by Material Misrepresentation; and eight (8) misdemeanor counts of Deceptive Trade Practice. loan modification

San Antonio Feds Charge Foreclosure Rescue Operator For Allegedly Pocketing Upfront Fees & Allowing Clients' Homes To Be Lost In Foreclosure

In San Antonio, Texas, the San Antonio Express News reports:

  • On Thursday — almost 15 years after she first was put on notice over alleged fraud — FBI agents arrested [Rosario Castro - aka Rosie] Divins on charges she ran a foreclosure-rescue scam that swindled [Isaac and Christina Vela](1) and at least three other families out of thousands of dollars and sometimes vehicles. All lost their homes to foreclosure.

  • A federal grand jury Wednesday indicted Divins on four counts of mail fraud and four counts of criminal contempt for disobeying bankruptcy court orders(2) instructing her to stop her misrepresentations.


  • Janie Anderson, 58, feels the Velas' pain. Anderson, who was diagnosed with cancer, and her husband, Rene Rodriguez, who needed an operation, turned to Divins in 2006 during their medical crises to help them avoid foreclosure. They're out almost $10,000, Anderson said. Not a penny of it went to pay the mortgage debt, the indictment said. The couple, like the Velas, haven't seen any of their money returned.

For more, see Local woman is arrested in foreclosure scam.

(1) Reportedly, court records show that the Velas gave Divins $6,800, but she never made a payment to the mortgage company.

(2) Since 2000, Divins has been warned by bankruptcy judges to stop sending out fliers claiming that she could “stop” foreclosures, according to the story. loan modification