Saturday, July 11, 2009

Arizona Man Charged With Ripping Off Dead Man's ID, Using It To Buy Homes, Vehicles

In Anthem, Arizona, KNXV-TV reports:

  • A Valley business owner from Brazil is accused of stealing a dead man's Social Security number and using it to purchase two vehicles and two homes, one of which is in foreclosure, according to a Maricopa County Sheriff's Office press release. Raphael Libardi, co-owner of Aracruz International Granite, was booked on felony identity theft and mortgage fraud charges.

For more, see MCSO: Valley business owner, immigrant stole dead man's ID.

Foreclosure Stripping Not Yet On Radar Screen For SW Florida Law Enforcements Authorities

In Naples, Florida, the Naples Daily News reports:

  • Foreclosure stripping is a crime, and it has a victim. It’s you. Neighborhoods are losing more than just neighbors. Homeowners in foreclosure are ripping out bathtubs, wiring, countertops, sinks, windows, garage doors and even the palm trees from the front yard and selling them for cash.

  • As a result, property values are falling and the tax collections associated with them are stripped, as well. Government services depending on those taxes are thrown onto the chopping block. The victims are everywhere. Law enforcement hasn’t made any arrests.(1) Banks and mortgage companies haven’t brought anyone to court. It’s a free-for-all, and it’s happening right now.

For more, see For sale: Anything and everything inside foreclosed homes (A new trend called foreclosure stripping is against the law, but authorities and banks aren’t stopping it).

For examples of foreclosure stripping ads on

Go here for other posts on foreclosure stripping.

(1) Reportedly, Lee County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Larry King said the situation is not as clear as some make it out to be. It’s not always illegal, King said, and suggested new laws may be needed. “The gray area is it’s not officially the bank’s until it’s actually turned over to the bank,” King said. “So what the homeowner does is at their discretion, or something is in place mortgage-wise or statutorily.” In Collier County, Chief Jim Williams, the Sheriff’s Office head of investigations, expressed concern over taking resources away from other investigations, such as those into online child predator schemes, to concentrate on an as-of-yet unexplored area of the law. foreclosure fixture stripping apple

Central Florida Tenants Get The Boot As Utilities Are Shut Off In Apartments In Foreclosure; Landlord Suspected Of Stealing Electric Service

In Clearwater, Florida, My Fox Tampa Bay reports:

  • Pinellas County Code Enforcement officers closed a row of apartments Tuesday, finding the rental units lacked water and electricity -- even as tenants continued paying. "We got 15 days, they got it posted on the door," said resident Debra Turman. "This place isn't fit for humans, but I guess the roaches can stay!" Electric service to the converted homes on Westminister Avenue was shut off Thursday, when sheriff's deputies investigated claims that electric was being stolen. Residents said the water had been shut off far longer, and that the landlord had dug an illegal well. "That's part of the minimum housing code. You do need to have running water, sewer and electricity," said Todd Myers, the county's code enforcement director.


For more, see Clearwater apartments condemned (County: homes are hazardous).

See also:

Friday, July 10, 2009

Long Island Man Accused Of Hijacking Homes In Foreclosure, Renting Them Out, Filing Over A Dozen Phony Liens Faces Jury Trial

In Suffolk County, New York, the Long Island Press reports:

  • Home may be a man’s castle, but in Paul Salamone’s case, the entire fiefdom was allegedly fraudulent. The Medford man is facing a Suffolk County jury [...] after being accused of breaking into seven homes in various states of foreclosure and illegally renting some of them out in a scheme to capitalize on the failing local housing market.

  • In his defense, his attorney points out that 28-year-old Salamone, who prosecutors say had renovated some of the vacant houses before he advertised them as for rent on Craigslist, truly believes what he was doing was right. Despite Salamone’s supposed good intentions, at least two families that rented from him were caught in the crossfire and evicted after the alleged scam began to unravel.


  • It took police several months to connect the dots. A grand jury had indicted Salamone on five counts of burglary, but two more counts were added when additional houses were discovered. He was also charged with grand larceny for the “rent” he received, and criminal possession of a forged instrument for filing more than a dozen fraudulent liens.

For more, see Local Man In the Doghouse In Housing Rental Scheme (Accused Fake Landlord goes to Trial in Suffolk).

Go here, go here, go here, and go here for posts on phony landlord rent scams. KappaPhonyLandlordScam

Oklahoma Man Accused Of Hijacking Homes In Foreclosure & Renting Them To Unwitting Tenants Cops Plea, Gets Deferred Sentence

In Tulsa, Oklahoma, the Tulsa World reports:

  • A man received a three-year deferred sentence Tuesday on accusations that he rented foreclosed houses in Tulsa without the authority to do so. Michael Remington was charged in May with two felony counts of obtaining money by false pretense. He pleaded no contest Tuesday to one count, and the other was dismissed. Tulsa County Special Judge David Youll deferred the sentencing, and Remington can have the remaining count dismissed with no conviction if he completes a three-year probation. He must perform 80 hours of community service and pay about $1,100 in court-related costs, officials said.

  • He was accused in one case of obtaining $1,900 from a man who responded to an ad Remington had placed on — an online advertisement network — for a house that the defendant said he had for rent[...]. The owner of that house, which was in foreclosure, said she did not know Remington and did not give him permission to rent her house, a police affidavit states. In the dismissed count, Remington was accused of obtaining $5,200 from a man who rented a house in the 4200 block of East 78th Street. The owner of that foreclosed home also said she did not give the defendant permission to rent it, the affidavit states.

Source: Man receives deferred sentence in obtaining money by false pretense case.

Go here, go here, go here, and go here for posts on phony landlord rent scams. KappaPhonyLandlordScam

Judge's Wife Charged With Forging Court Order In Attempt To Stall Home Foreclosure

In Marion County, Indiana, The Indianapolis Star reports:

  • Forging a judge's signature. Pretending to be the victim of a vicious assault. Impersonating a co-worker at the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department. Few would expect such actions from a police employee, much less the wife of a judge. But those are the desperate and criminal steps police say the wife of Marion Superior Court Judge William Nelson took in an effort to avoid foreclosure on the couple's Geist home.

  • Kristina Nelson, 43, was arrested Friday on a preliminary charge that she forged the name of another judge -- her sister-in-law -- as part of a fraudulent scheme to stop the foreclosure, according to the police and court documents.

  • A police report said Kristina Nelson admitted under questioning that she had signed Marion Superior Court Judge Sheila Carlisle's name on a counterfeit court order. The document, sent to EverHome Mortgage Co., claimed that she and her husband had been brutally attacked -- that he had been shot and she had to have her jaw wired shut -- and needed time to recover before they could make mortgage payments. Nelson told police that her husband knew nothing about the incident, and police who interviewed the judge Friday found him surprised by his wife's reported behavior.

For more, see IMPD: Ex-staffer is arrested in fraud (Police say forged signature was attempt to avoid foreclosure).

For follow-up stories, see:

Thursday, July 9, 2009

C. Florida Man Accused Of Using POA To Secure $150K Credit Line On Alzheimers-Afflicted Mom's Home; Pocketed Cash, Left Her In Foreclosure, Say Cops

In Dade City, Florida, the St. Petersburg Times reports:

  • Thomas Davis secured a $150,000 home equity line of credit on his elderly mother's home last year, authorities said. Within seven months, he had spent it all — on drugs, a hydroponic garden for growing marijuana, even on a $40,000 party that Davis, 47, threw for himself, the Pasco County Sheriff's Office said. By March, the bank began foreclosure proceedings on the home of the woman, who has Alzheimer's. And Davis, who had power of attorney as his mother's live-in caretaker, told family members he had dug a financial hole from which he couldn't escape, the Sheriff's Office said.

  • A judge transferred guardianship of the 87-year-old mother from Davis to his sister. The sister began making mortgage payments to save the Dade City home from foreclosure. And Davis was arrested this week on a charge of exploitation of the elderly.

For more, see Pasco man spent mother's $150,000 line of credit on drugs, party, deputies say.

Go here, here, here, here, here, and here for other posts on elder financial abuse. FinancialAbuseOfElderlyAlpha

Deed Scams No Longer Flying Under The Radar In Brooklyn DA's Office

In Brooklyn, New York, a recent story in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle describing the newly formed Mortgage Fraud and Real Estate Crimes Unit of the Brooklyn District Attorney's Office referred to two recent cases in which criminal charges have been brought against alleged deed scammers:

  • One man who was arrested earlier this year had forged a deed that said he was the owner of a 39-story co-operative housing unit, where he had lived and even been president of the co-op board — almost two decades prior. He tried to take out multi-million dollar mortgages on the building before being caught.

  • Another man who was indicted recently met people in foreclosure, and told them he was an appraiser from their bank. He simply slipped documents in front of them and got the homeowners signatures down. “It was a classic rush job,” [unit chief Richard] Farrell said. “He said it was all a formality — but it’s the deed” that has been signed over.

  • To stop these types of bare-bones deceptions, [Brooklyn District Attorney Charles J.] Hynes wants more community education on these issues. “P.T. Barnum famously said that there’s a sucker born every minute,” Hynes said.(1)Most of the fraud is preventable.”

Source: Brooklyn Prosecutors Responding to Increased Gang and Real Estate Crime.

(1) Using the term "sucker" in a way that could reasonably be construed as an indirect reference to the victims of deed scams appears to be a rather poor choice words on the part of the Brooklyn DA. DeedContraTheft

NJ AG Announces Mortgage Fraud Indictments In Three Unrelated Cases; Among Charges Are Use Of Stolen IDs To Fradulently Obtain Loans

From the Office of the New Jersey Attorney General:

  • Attorney General Anne Milgram announced [Tuesday] the indictment of six people charged in three separate, unrelated mortgage fraud cases, including two women charged with spearheading a conspiracy to use stolen identities to obtain more than $1 million in unauthorized mortgages, lines of credit and credit cards.


  • Charged in a 17-count State grand jury indictment with conspiracy, eight counts of theft by deception, seven counts of identity theft and one count of money laundering are Yi Feng Reid, 48, of Closter, Bergen county, and Yu Jane Chen, 42, whose last known address was Philadelphia. Charged in the same indictment with one count each of conspiracy, theft by deception and identity theft are George Liu, 33, and Ji Gang Chen, 53. Both men once lived in New York, and now reside in China.

  • According to Division of Criminal Justice Director Deborah Gramiccioni, defendants Reid and Yu Jane Chen both were involved in the mortgage and small business loan industry in the Bergen County area, and unlawfully used the identities of other people to obtain mortgages, other types of loans and unauthorized credit card accounts from 2004 through mid-2007.


  • In an unrelated indictment, commercial loan broker Ramon Coscolluela, 30, of Union, was charged by a State grand jury with one count each of theft by deception (second degree) and attempted theft by deception (second degree). Coscolluela, owner of Templar Group LLC of Newark, allegedly falsified five loan applications submitted to Commerce Bank in 2007 and 2008 on behalf clients who paid him fees ranging from $1,000 to $6,000.


  • In a third mortgage-fraud indictment, Terrance Givens, 32, of East Orange, was charged with one count of theft by deception (second degree). According to Criminal Justice Director Grammicioni, Givens lied about his employment history on a mortgage application in 2005. [...] In addition to misrepresenting his employment history to the New Century Mortgage Company, Givens allegedly submitted false W-2 forms for the years 2002, 2003 and 2004 showing annual wages of between $67,000 and $72,000.

For the entire New Jersey AG press release, see Attorney General Announces Mortgage Fraud Indictments.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Oakland Settles Suit Charging Lender, Subsidiaries, Real Estate Agents With Illegal Foreclosure Evictions

From the Office of the City Attorney for Oakland, California:

  • A City of Oakland lawsuit accusing JPMorgan Chase Bank of wrongfully evicting tenants from foreclosed homes has been settled. The lawsuit was one of five filed by the city in recent months accusing banks, their subsidiaries and several local real estate agents of violating an Oakland law that protects tenants from unjust evictions.(1)

  • In February and March of this year, Oakland’s Neighborhood Law Corps filed the lawsuits against JPMorgan Chase and Fidelity National Financial, along with their subsidiary companies and the local agents who are paid to remove tenants from properties the banks have acquired through foreclosure.

  • Tenants in foreclosed homes and apartments provided numerous examples of improper eviction notices served by those agents. Oakland’s "Just Cause" ordinance allows landlords to evict tenants for specific reasons such as failing to pay rent or damaging property. However, foreclosure is not a "just cause" for eviction under the city’s law.

  • JPMorgan Chase agreed to a settlement that includes a $35,000 payment to the city. The settlement also includes an example of a legal notice that banks can use to determine the occupancy of a foreclosed property in Oakland. "Evictions resulting from the foreclosure crisis continue to cause extraordinary hardship for working families here in Oakland and across California," City Attorney John Russo said. "I congratulate JPMorgan Chase and other defendants for quickly stepping up to settle these lawsuits and for recognizing the law in Oakland. We hope these settlements send a strong message to other banks and agents who do business in our community."

  • Russo also praised real estate agents Joseph McNulty and Percy Cheung, the first defendants to agree to settlements.(2) The City Attorney’s Office is in settlement negotiations with other defendants named in the complaints.

For the Oakland City Attorney press release, see Oakland reaches settlement with JPMorgan Chase on eviction lawsuit.

Go here for other posts on illegal foreclosure evictions in violation of Oakland, California's Just Cause Ordinance.

(1) For more from the Oakland City Attorney's Office on these illegal foreclosure eviction lawsuits, see:

(2) According to a San Francisco Chronicle report, Joseph McNulty will pay $3,000 and Percy Cheung of Smart Choice Realty will pay $2,500, said Alex Katz, spokesman for City Attorney John Russo.

Facing Foreclosure? Need To Buy Some Time? Simply Go Into Court & Ask For It

In Sarasota, Florida, the Sarasota Herald Tribune recently ran a story on homeowners facing foreclosure being urged not to abandon their homes but, instead, to stay put and fight back. The following excerpt shows how easy it was for one homeowner in Florida (a state that requires lenders to file a court action in order to foreclose on a home) to buy at least six months time by simply filing one document with the court in a foreclosure action:

  • [E]ven homeowners who cannot afford an attorney have been able to successfully buy more time. Many of the required documents can be found online. One Manatee County couple simply asked for a 45-day extension to file an official response to the foreclosure.(1) Six months later, the court finally heard arguments on why they might deserve the extra time.

For the story, see Attorneys advise clients to stay in their homes.

(1) A legal document known as a Motion to Enlarge Time is often used by homeowners and their attorneys to request additional time to file an official response to a foreclosure lawsuit filed against a homeowner. Go here for a sample of a Motion to Enlarge Time. This request for additional time should be filed within 20 days of being served with a foreclosure lawsuit.

Go here for other links to Sample Foreclosure Defense Legal Documents that some use when fighting foreclosures. EpsilonMissingDocsMtg

Use Of Short Sale Promissory Notes To Squeeze Underwater Home Sellers Gaining In Popularity With Lenders?

In Seattle, Washington, the Puget Sound Business Journal reports:

  • When her Edmonds condo went on the market, Mindy Moore thought she had managed to avoid foreclosure. Moore listed the home in Edmonds for about $30,000 less than she owed on the mortgage. She thought the “short sale” agreement signed with the bank meant the bank would absorb the loss. Then she discovered that her lender, Bank of America, might still come after her for the difference. That means she may have to let the bank take back her property, or file for bankruptcy because she can’t afford to pay up.

  • Experts say the wording,(1) which was recently and quietly added to Bank of America’s short-sale agreement, could have major ramifications for a large group of distressed homeowners in Washington and across the country.


  • Bank of America said in a statement that it asks for a promissory note from sellers — the term used to describe the written promise to pay back the difference — to protect its “investors and shareholders from the losses in a short sale.” [...] While Bank of America’s short-sale agreement wording appears new, Kevin Kim, a short- sale consultant in Seattle, said other lenders have similar wording in their agreements that would require homeowners to pay the money left on their loan amount.

  • Bank of America’s short-sale agreement illustrates the financial complexities facing hundreds of Washington homeowners struggling to deal with underwater mortgages (in which the owner owes more than the house sells for). It also shows the tug-of-war between banks and borrowers as banks try to recoup as much money as they can from their failed loans.

For the story, see BofA wording may cause more foreclosures.

(1) According to the story, at issue is a sentence in Bank of America’s agreement that says its mortgage servicing arm “and/or its investors may pursue a deficiency judgment for the difference in the payment received and the total balance due unless agreed otherwise or prohibited by law.” That means Bank of America could pursue a court order against a homeowner after the short sale is completed.

Minnesota Title Closer Charged With Illegally Pocketing $220K+ By Paying Her Family Bills Out Of Real Estate Closing Funds

From the Office of the County Attorney for Dakota County, Minnesota:

  • Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom announced that Kuntee Singramdoo, age 49 of Lakeville, has been charged with five counts of Theft and three counts of Theft by Swindle (all felonies), in connection with the theft of over $220,000 while she worked as an independent closer for a Burnsville title and real estate company.


  • Singramdoo admitted to the Department of Commerce that she embezzled her client’s funds by issuing checks for her own benefit and her licenses were suspended in March of this year. She claimed to have had overwhelming personal debts for which she used the embezzled funds.

According to the County Attorney press release, the investigation revealed that Singramdoo used several methods to accomplish her thefts:

  1. she would write checks for her personal bills or bills of other family members as part of a real estate closing and then enter those payments directly on mortgage forms as if the obligation was owed by the buyer or seller in the transaction;
  2. she would accurately prepare documents for purposes of real estate closings and subsequently change the forms at a later date to reflect fraudulent payments; and
  3. she would issue valid checks for payment as part of closings, but would never tender them to the payee and would subsequently reissue the checks to pay her own or her family member’s creditors.

For the entire press release, see Lakeville Woman Charged in Thefts Exceeding $220,000.

For the criminal complaint filed in this case, see State of Minnesota v. Singramdoo.

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

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Title Insurer's Lack Of Action On Subcontractors' Mechanics Liens Filed Against Bankrupt Developer Leaves Recent Homebuyers In Refinancing Limbo

In Woodstock, Illinois, the Chicago Sun Times reports:

  • Woodstock resident Deborah Sinnett's taste of the American dream has turned sour big-time, and she blames bankrupt Streamwood-based home builder Kirk Homes. Since Sinnett moved into her $355,000 Kirk home in December, 11 liens have been placed against the property by companies claiming they weren't paid by Kirk.(1) She faces the threat of foreclosure because of the liens, according to a local attorney. But her title insurance should cover her.

  • Sinnett said the liens also have complicated her plans to refinance at lower rates. Kirk says she's protected. But the title insurer, First American Title Insurance Co., hasn't taken court action to remove the liens, and Sinnett doesn't know how long the liens will remain on her property. It could be a couple of years, according to state law.


  • Sinnett said she received the first lien notice shortly before Christmas. She contacted First American Title and was told by letter that her title is insured, but "because there has been no action taken by the lien claimants to enforce their claims through a court proceeding, there is no action for First American to take at this time." [...] First American declined to comment on Sinnett's case, but said it "stands behind its policies of title insurance." But the company indicated Sinnett and others could be in for a long wait.(2)(3)

For more, see Kirk Homes bankruptcy leaves homeowners in limbo (STUCK IN MIDDLE With Kirk Homes in bankruptcy, many homeowners can't refinance because of contractors' claims).

For more on homeowners left in the lurch due to actions by builders/contractors, go here, go here, go here, go here, and go here.

Go here for other posts involving legal issues related to title insurance.

(1) Reportedly, Sinnett's situation isn't unique as builders across the country fold or file Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

(2) Reportedly, Sinnett shared documents showing liens totaling more than $140,000. "It's costing us hundreds of dollars per month to not be able to refinance. No mortgage company wants to talk with us about refinancing with all those liens," she said.

(3) If faced with a lien on your home, attorney Mark Nora, vice chair of the Chicago Bar Association's real property committee, provides this advice in the article:

  • Homeowners can "make demand" on the title insurer to take appropriate action to discharge the lien. The insurance policy will specify how soon a homeowner must make that demand.
  • Alternately, homeowners can demand in court that the filer of a lien either file a lawsuit to enforce the lien or be barred from proceeding with one.
  • Those in the process of building a home can require in the contract proof that subcontractors are being paid as work has been completed and lien waivers to prevent those companies from filing liens on the property related to that work.
  • Work with a qualified attorney, make sure you have title insurance from a company with sufficient reserves to handle claims and read the fine print. title insurance legal issues StiffingContractorsTheta

Washington AG Intervenes On Behalf Of Mobile Home Residents Alleging Property Titles Were Never Properly Transferred By Park Owner

From the Office of the Washington State Attorney General:

  • Residents of a Spokane mobile home park were bewildered to learn they didn’t own the homes they live in. When an investigation by the Washington Attorney General’s Office revealed that the owner of West Prairie Village never properly transferred the titles, the business agreed to make things right. West Prairie Village owner, Vito Enterprises, U.S., Ltd., cooperated with the state’s investigation and signed an agreement submitted [...] for filing in Thurston County Superior Court.


  • Some of West Prairie Village’s residents are seniors who were denied property-tax exemptions because they didn’t own their homes,” Assistant Attorney General Jackie Findley said. “After the Spokane Assessor’s Office alerted us to the problem, we investigated and found that the titles hadn’t been properly transferred and the sales contract terms were vague.”(1) [...] The Attorney General’s Office alleged that Vito Enterprises’ sales practices were unfair and violated Washington’s Consumer Protection Act.

For the entire press release, see Stumped Spokane seniors told they didn’t own their homes (Mobile-home park owner changes sales terms after Attorney General’s Office steps in).

(1) The purchase agreements and promissory notes required new West Prairie Village homeowners to make monthly payments with 9 percent interest amortized at 15 years. Although the agreement referenced a “5-year term,” it wasn’t clear to purchasers that they were responsible for a balloon payment. At the end of five years, owners were told they needed to pay off the remaining balance or renew their contracts at a 12-percent interest rate. rent to own lease purchase option scams yellowstone

NY AG Scores Big Win As Supremes Reverse Lower Courts, Give Go-Ahead To States To Pursue Probes Of National Banks For Lending Discrimination

The Wall Street Journal reports:

  • In a surprise win for state regulators over the banking industry, a divided U.S. Supreme Court on Monday gave New York prosecutors the green light to investigate national banks for lending discrimination. The high court, in a 5-4 opinion by Justice Antonin Scalia, said federal banking regulations didn't pre-empt the ability of states to enforce their own fair-lending laws.

  • The ruling was a win for the New York attorney general's office, which had been seeking to investigate the banks' residential real-estate lending practices since 2005.(1) Scalia said New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo couldn't issue executive subpoenas to the banks but could bring enforcement actions against them in court. The decision was a surprise because decades of U.S. Supreme Court rulings have favored federal banking regulation at the expense of state regulation. [...] Cuomo said the ruling "reaffirms the vital role state attorneys general play in protecting consumers from illegal and improper practices by our country's biggest and most powerful banks."


  • The divided ruling didn't split along the court's normal ideological lines. Justice Clarence Thomas, whose views often align with Scalia's, wrote the court's dissent.(2)


  • All of the other 49 states backed New York in the case, saying they have historically had the power to enforce consumer-protection laws against national banks. That power, the states said, was particularly important now because of the widespread mortgage abuses that contributed to the nation's economic crisis.

For the whole story, see US High Court: States Can Probe Natl Bank Lending (subscription required; if no subscription, try here, then click link for the story).

For the court's ruling, see Cuomo v. Clearing House Assn., L.L.C., Docket # 08-453 (June 29, 2009).

(1) According to the story, former New York Attorney General and Governor Eliot Spitzer launched the probe, saying mortgage data showed black and Hispanic borrowers received a larger percentage of high-interest home loans than white borrowers. Spitzer asked several banks, including Wells Fargo & Co., JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Citigroup Inc., to voluntarily produce non-public information about their mortgage-lending practices in New York. In response, the federal Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and a consortium of national banks each sued to block Spitzer's investigation.

(2) Justice Scalia was actually the swing vote in this ruling, aligning himself with Justices Stevens, Souter, Ginzburg, and Breyer, the four justices on the court widely considered to be politically "left of center". DiscriminationPredatoryLendingAlpha

Legal Advocates To Homeowners Facing Foreclosure: Stay Put & Fight Back; Clogged Courts, Budget Cuts Have Cases Moving At Snail's Pace

In Central Florida, the Sarasota Herald Tribune reports:

  • Phil Agnes and other lawyers have two words for homeowners facing foreclosure: Stay put. The flood of foreclosures has clogged the courts, allowing homeowners to stay in their homes while the paperwork goes through the system. Many homeowners are unaware that they can remain at home for months while the foreclosure is in court, attorneys say.

  • And homeowners willing to challenge the foreclosure sometimes can remain in their homes for more than a year, sometimes more than two years, just by filing a few basic legal documents. "It's in everyone's best interest to stay in the home," said Agnes, an attorney who volunteers at Gulf Coast Legal Services Inc.


  • The Manatee and Sarasota court records are full of cases in which the banks waited months to move forward, even if the owner did not respond. Agnes said he has two cases where he responded for the homeowners, and the bank has not filed anything in almost a year. "And they're still in the house," he said.


  • Adding to the clog, the lenders often pay law firms a flat fee for each judgment they obtain, so they focus on the easier cases, foreclosure defense attorneys who work in the system say. When a homeowner files paperwork(1) that takes the case out of the fast track and into the traditional court, lender attorneys sometimes seem to put the case aside. "They don't have time to necessarily fight these cases," Agnes said. [...] And any motion that requires the banks to produce information can delay the case for months. The more difficult the request, the longer the delay. The going time lag for banks to respond when a homeowner asks to see some types of paperwork? Up to six months.


  • Requesting records from the lenders is more than just a stalling tactic, attorneys say. Homeowners have every right to force lenders to prove they really own the home loan. An unprecedented number of mortgages were repackaged together and sold as securities, which provides the best opportunities to homeowners trying to fight. The facts in every case differ, so there are no guarantees on how long a homeowner can stay after they stop paying the mortgage.

For more, see Attorneys advise clients to stay in their homes.

For a story that reflects the massive budget cuts and personnel layoffs being imposed on court systems throughout Florida, see The Florida Times Union: Florida court clerks face stiff budget cuts (A new law slashes budgets, leading to some counties' layoffs and office closings):

  • Pointing to stacks of foreclosure [...] cases waiting to be filed, [Duval County Clerk of Courts Jim Fuller, who is president of the Florida Association of Court Clerks] said fewer employees probably will mean a longer lag time in filing cases.

(1) Go here for links to Sample Foreclosure Defense Legal Documents that some use when demanding that lenders produce the proper paperwork (ie. promissory notes, etc.), and who are otherwise fighting foreclosures. EpsilonMissingDocsMtg

Monday, July 6, 2009

Litigation In Baltimore City's "Ghetto Loans" Case To Go Forward As Judge Denies Wells Fargo's Request To Dismiss Suit

In Baltimore, Maryland, The Maryland Daily Record reports:

  • The city of Baltimore’s mortgage-lending discrimination lawsuit against Wells Fargo Bank N.A. may proceed to what will be a “time consuming and expensive” discovery process, a federal judge ruled Thursday afternoon. Chief U.S. District Judge Benson E. Legg rejected the bank’s motion to dismiss the suit, four days after hearing arguments about the city’s alleged damages. The decision means the city will get access to more details about Wells Fargo’s lending practices since 2000; it had previously relied solely on publicly available information and information from a few industry insiders.

  • The city claims the bank targeted black borrowers for subprime loans, a practice known as reverse-redlining, and that the resulting foreclosures have cost it tens of millions of dollars in lost property revenues and police, fire, and rehab expenditures.


  • Based on the new affidavits submitted by former Wells Fargo employees Elizabeth Jacobson and Tony Paschal, the City has proffered sufficient proof to proceed with its claim for disparate treatment discrimination under the Fair Housing Act,” Legg wrote in a 4-page memorandum.(1)(2) [...] The ruling represents a big victory for the city, since its suit was the first of its kind when filed in January 2008. A similar suit brought by the city of Cleveland under a public nuisance theory was dismissed in May.

For more, see Judge won’t dismiss City’s suit against Wells Fargo (if link expires, try here).

Go here for Judge Legg's 4-page order.

For earlier reports on this case, see:

(1) In addition to denying Wells Fargo's Motion To Dismiss the lawsuit, the court, in footnote 1 of this order, grants the City of Baltimore's Motion To Amend its Complaint.

(2) According to an earlier report, the two whistleblowers claimed their co-workers targeted black ZIP codes and churches, used software to “translate” marketing materials into African-American vernacular, and referred to subprime loans in minority communities as “ghetto loans” and to borrowers as “mud people.” The loan officers, who worked for Wells Fargo in the Baltimore-Washington area from the late 1990s until 2007, also reportedly alleged that bank employees deceptively steered prime borrowers into subprime loans for their own financial benefit and joked that they were “riding the stagecoach to Hell.”

Central Florida Judges Hit With Federal Suit Over Implementation Of "Rocket Docket" Foreclosure Hearings

In Sarasota, Florida, the Sarasota Herald Tribune reports:

  • Gregory Dixon and Maria Goldberg expect to lose their homes to foreclosure, so they have not appeared in court or tried to defend themselves. But they also think the way the judicial system handles uncontested foreclosure cases such as theirs violates the constitutional rights of all Sarasota and Manatee county residents, and they are asking a federal judge to step in.

  • Their lawsuit against 12th Circuit Chief Judge Lee Haworth and two judges handling foreclosure cases argues that the courts should review cases to prevent lenders from taking homes based on incomplete or incorrect information. Their attorney, Richard Kessler, says judges have a responsibility to verify documents filed by lenders, and not doing so violates foreclosure defendants' rights to due process in court.(1)


  • Kessler's lawsuit argues that a new "rocket docket," where up to 250 uncontested foreclosures are heard in one day to help unclog the congested court system, only accelerates the problem. But, judges say, it is the defendants' job to challenge the documents being used by lenders to take their property.

For the story, see Homeowners contend courts must review documents.

For earlier stories on Sarasota's foreclosure "rocket docket," see:

For posts that reference the failure of mortgage lenders and their attorneys to file the proper paperwork when bringing foreclosure actions, Go Here, Go Here, Go Here, Go Here, Go Here, Go Here, and Go Here.

(1) Reportedly, Kessler conducted a study of 180 Sarasota County cases and found only one in four had complete paperwork. EpsilonMissingDocsMtg

Lawyers Bellyaching Over Exclusion From Fannie, Freddie "Assembly Line Foreclosure Attorney List"

The Connecticut Law Tribune reports:

  • To most Connecticut foreclosure attorneys, it's known as "the list." Inclusion is supposed to guarantee not only prestige in the legal community but, more importantly, a massive flow of foreclosure cases at a time when there's money to be made in volume work.

  • So what's the big deal?

For more, see Elite Lists for Foreclosure Work Under Scrutiny (Firms frustrated over difficulty in qualifying for work on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac foreclosures; Connecticut attorney general is investigating).

For more on the Connecticut attorney general inquiry on how Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and mortgage-processing services company Lender Processing Services Inc. select law firms for foreclosure services, see:

Bankruptcy Judge Hammers Mass. Money Lender Accused Of Predatory Practices In Piling Up Loan Charges, Wrestling Property Ownership Away From Borrowers

In Worcester, Massachusetts, the Worcester Telegram & Gazette reports:

  • A loan repayment demanded at gunpoint, effective interest rates exceeding 41 percent and a near decade-long litany of coercion and strong-arm tactics left two borrowers “between the proverbial rock and a hard place,” according to a federal judge’s ruling that comes down hard on a controversial Marlboro lending firm and its president.

  • U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Joel B. Rosenthal’s decision last week in favor of two corporations controlled by area real estate developers David D. Depietri of Southboro and Robert Depietri Jr. of Worcester marked the first time complaints against LBM Financial LLC and its owner, Marcello M. Mallegni, were aired in a trial and ruled upon by a judge. In his decision, Judge Rosenthal declared that LBM and Mr. Mallegni used a variety of “unscrupulous, to say the least” tactics to ensnare the Depietri brothers’ corporations, 201 Forest Street LLC and 219 Forest Street LLC, into a cycle of ever-increasing default interest and late fees.


  • The ruling had been anxiously awaited by those who have filed more than a dozen state and federal lawsuits that accuse LBM and people associated with it of using similar tactics — including loan sharking, racketeering, extortion and fraud — in transactions they had with the firm.(1) The underlying intent of LBM and its principals, the lawsuits allege, was to wrest control of development projects through foreclosure, or, at the very least, force delays to run up the cost of those loans by piling on fees, penalties and default interest rates.(2)This is exactly what they did to me,” said Barnstable developer Robert M. Bradley, who has a pending federal racketeering lawsuit against LBM, Mr. Mallegni and others. His experiences, he added, “absolutely mirror those made in this case, only tenfold.”

For more, see ‘Unscrupulous’ loan tactics cited (LBM Financial and owner Mallegni fined $1.1M).

For Judge Rosenthal's recent ruling in this matter, see 219 Forest Street LLC et al v. LBM Financial, LLC et al (6-30-2009).

Go here for Judge Rosenthal's April 8, 2009 ruling resulting in the discharge of one of the mortgages in this case pursuant to the application of Massachusetts "Obsolete Mortgages Statute" - M.G.L. ch 260, section 33.

Go here for other posts on accusations of strong arm money lending practices made against these "hard money" lenders.

(1) According to the story, many of the state and federal lawsuits filed against Mr. Mallegni and LBM also name David G. “Duddie” Massad, chairman and primary owner of Commerce Bank, as a defendant.

(2) An earlier Worcester Telegram & Gazette story (see Strong-arm tactics are alleged - LBM Financial target of complaints) reports, in the following excerpt, how LBM Financial routinely dodges the application of the Massachusetts criminal usury statute in lending transactions by availing itself of a huge loophole in the state's law that allows a lender to charge more than the maximum interest rate, provided that it notifies the state attorney general in writing ahead of time about it (see M.G.L. Chapter 271: Section 49(d). Criminal usury). Keep in mind that actually obtaining approval to make these loans from the state attorney general (or any other government authority, for that matter) is not necessary; you merely have to let the AG's office know, in writing, that you're going to do so.

  • The state usury law dating back to the 1970s ostensibly caps the maximum legal interest rate at 20 percent, but also allows lenders to charge higher rates if they notify the state attorney general’s office in writing. LBM filed notifications announcing its intention to charge interest rates above the usury limit on loans in 1997, 2000, 2002, 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008, according to records on file at the attorney general’s office. The one- or two-page notification letters, signed by Mr. Mallegni, don’t say exactly how far above the usury limit the company intended to set its interest rates. “All that the statute requires is that if a business is going to lend above a certain rate, they must file with this office,” said Melissa Sherman, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Martha Coakley. “We do approve these, but serve more as a depository for such notices.”

Go here for an example of an LBM Financial letter informing the Massachusetts AG it will be charging usurious rates.

Northern Florida County Clerk Stops Issuing Summonses To Tenants In Foreclosure Actions

In Alachua County, Florida, The Gainseville Sun reports:

  • Clerk of Court Buddy Irby said the Clerk's Office stopped issuing the summonses [to tenants in foreclosure actions] on Jan. 15 on the advice of the clerk's attorney because of concerns that they show the tenants as being sued in court records. "If you were a renter, I'd think you'd be upset that the court records show that you are being sued in a foreclosure suit," he said. Irby said the summonses also created a lot of paperwork at considerable time and expense, with taxpayers footing the bill. He said it would be easier for the lenders or their attorneys to send letters informing any tenants of the foreclosure.(1)

Source: What if your apartment complex forecloses? New law may ease the big surprise.

(1) In judicial foreclosure states, basic foreclosure law says that unless all parties holding legal interests in real property (including leasehold interests, liens, etc.) that are subordinate to a mortgage in foreclosure are served with notice of the lawsuit, those subordinate interests are not cut off and will survive the foreclosure action. For this clerk of the court to decide not to issue summonses to tenants in possession of property in foreclosure actions (and thereby abridging their due process rights) to save money seems pretty ridiculous. I also find it hard to believe that the clerk's attorney advised him to do this.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Ohio Lawsuit Against County Sheriff, Others Alleges Appraisal Improprieties In Connection With Foreclosure Process

In Youngstown, Ohio, The Vindicator reports:

  • A local attorney feels something is amiss with Mahoning County Sheriff Randall Wellington and those appointed to appraise county property, and he is taking the matter to court. Atty. Brian P. Kish filed a civil lawsuit in common pleas court [...] against Wellington and county appraisers Daniel Battisti, Gail Battisti, Geraldine Damico and Richard Jeren, alleging improprieties in the appraisal practices for property in the county.


  • Kish said for the purposes of foreclosure and sheriff’s sale, every appraisal in the county is to be done by three independent appraisers. After each appraiser has appraised the property, an average of the three assessments is calculated and sent to all parties involved. Kish said he collected a list of sheriff’s return of appraisals on file since 2006 and randomly checked the documents. He said in every case he checked, all three appraisers listed on the document came up with the same value for each piece of property being appraised.


  • Kish said he believes the appraisers are not independently checking the properties being appraised but are instead sending only one person to do an appraisal while the other two simply agree with the assessment and collect the appraisal fees.(1)

For the story, see Suit alleges improprieties in property appraisal (The suit names the sheriff and six others).

(1) If these charges are true, I wonder if there is a basis for voiding foreclosure sales in those cases where this conduct may have taken place?

Complaints From Homeowners, Former Company Employees Raise Questions About Activities Of Southwest Florida Foreclosure Rescue Firm

In Lee County, Florida, WINK News reports:

  • The Florida Attorney General's Office has nine complaints against a Bonita Springs foreclosure rescue company, alleging that it may be breaking the law. Elite Financial Management Group, also known as Home Protection Agency, claims to help homeowners who are facing foreclosure by either mediating their mortgages or helping them with short sales.


  • Three complaints from former Elite employees are also on file at the Attorney General's Office. One man, who worked for the company for a little over a month, said he quit because he was not comfortable with how it was operated. Another former employee asked the Attorney General's office if he would be held liable criminally or civilly for any practices that go on at the company. A third employee complaint came from a woman who said her final paycheck bounced.

  • Elite Financial claimed they are not breaking the law because they collect fees in payments as they are performing services. When asked how that was legal given the specific language of the law,(1) they said they would prepare a written response.

For more, see CALL FOR ACTION: Helping or hurting homeowners? (WINK News investigates a foreclosure rescue company).

For story update, see Elite Financial Responds to Call For Action Investigation.

(1) Governor Charlie Crist signed a law in May, 2008 making it illegal for foreclosure rescue companies to collect payments from customers before completing the entire service. That law went into effect October 1, 2008. loan modification