Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Businessman: Now-Dead, Once-Trusted NJ Real Estate Broker Forged My Name As Straw Buyer On Sale Leaseback Ripoff Docs That Drained 9/11 Widow's Home Equity

In North Naples, Florida, the Naples Daily News reports:

  • Marie and Ronald Rotunda were eating lunch at Olde Cypress golf club in North Naples one day in January 2006 — at the time a lawsuit says he was in an office more than 1,200 miles away, signing a lease-back agreement for a New Jersey home.

    Court documents contend a Trenton broker forged Ronald Rotunda's signature in New Jersey that day, and that a notary swore Rotunda stood before her that day, signing a $368,000 mortgage on the New Jersey home.

    The home in question was owned by a 41-year-old widow whose husband died in the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The fraudulent transaction on the home, which said Ronald Rotunda would lease the home back to the widow after she paid $92,000, staved off the widow's impending foreclosure, a lawsuit alleges.

    The Rotundas say they had no idea what was going on in New Jersey that day in January 2006. It was two years later before the North Naples couple discovered the mortgage that Ronald Rotunda supposedly had signed and owed.

    "We didn't know anything because we'd been living here (in Naples) since 2004," Marie Rotunda said. "It was through a credit report that we found out."

    Since then, the Rotundas said, they've been hounded by two banks to pay up on the mortgage. They eventually were cleared by Countrywide Mortgage, which dropped the foreclosure against Ronald Rotunda after deciding it was a fraud. But the Rotundas were pursued again through phone calls and letters by Bank of America after it took over Countrywide.

    Those are among the allegations in a tangled 2009 lawsuit and countersuit expected to head to trial early next year in Gloucester County, N.J. The North Naples couple also are defendants in a pending 2010 foreclosure lawsuit filed by Bank of America.

    Jorge Sanchez, the Trenton broker, died in 2008. But Ronald Rotunda, Sanchez's company Landmark Mortgage Services, Sanchez's wife, and the 9/11 widow's lawyer are named as defendants in a lawsuit filed by the 9/11 widow, Charlette Thompson.

    Ronald Rotunda filed a countersuit, seeking damages against Sanchez's estate, the 9/11 widow's lawyer, the notary and her title agency employer.

    "(The 9/11 widow) is arguably a victim of a mortgage rescue scheme, but she's lived in the house for years without paying," said the Rotundas' lawyer, Daniel Graziano of Lawrenceville, N.J.

    "You just don't know how to resolve the case," Graziano said of the many involved who relied on Sanchez's word that Ronald Rotunda signed the mortgage, lease-back and promissory note. "The judge understands the case has to be settled because it's too difficult to present to a jury … That's why it's dragged on so long."
  • It was after Sanchez's death that the lawsuits and countersuits began. Court records and interviews provide this account of how the Rotundas became involved:

    On Dec. 28, 2005, the 9/11 widow agreed to sell her home to Ronald Rotunda for $460,000 and she then signed a mortgage. She agreed to provide $92,000 in financing and Rotunda supposedly signed a promissory note on Jan. 30, 2006.

    The 9/11 widow alleges Ronald Rotunda failed to hold up his end of the financial deal and that she's a victim of a conspiracy between her lawyer, Rotunda, Landmark Mortgage, Sanchez and his wife, who deprived her of most of the equity in her home.

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