Friday, January 18, 2013

Dubious Mortgage Cancellation Outfit Loses Key Battle To Unfreeze Assets, Remains Target Of Heavy Judicial Scorn

In West Palm Beach, Florida, The Palm Beach Post reports:

  • A South Florida company that persuaded scores of troubled Palm Beach County homeowners to give up their property deeds is facing more legal problems as state and federal judges challenge its plan to help borrowers beat the bank.

    In three recent court decisions, the firm’s actions were condemned.

    Fidelity Land Trust, which was shut down by the state in September, lost a key battle in circuit court last week to unfreeze its operations.

    The Jan. 7 order from Broward Circuit Judge Michael Gates follows a blistering report issued last month by a federal magistrate that said the company’s legal theories attempting to cancel underwater mortgages are meritless, frivolous and have “absolutely no chance of success.” That conclusion was affirmed by a federal judge in a Dec. 27 order.

    The company, along with an affiliated firm, the Sunshine State Land Trust, owns about 84 homes in Palm Beach County, deeded to them by homeowners believing that they offered a solution to the borrowers’ housing woes. The properties range from a million-dollar Boca Raton mansion on the Intracoastal Waterway to a $60,000 condominium west of Florida’s Turnpike.

    Statewide, an estimated 250 homeowners signed over their deeds to the trusts, whose operations were halted in September by the Florida Attorney General’s Office. The civil complaint brought by the office under Florida’s Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act said the land trusts wrongfully guaranteed they could cancel the homeowner’s mortgage, misrepresented that homeowners can void their mortgage through a quiet title action that purports the land trust is a third-party buyer, and charged an advance fee before completing foreclosure rescue services.

    Defendants have offered various defenses. Some have said Fidelity’s legal theories should be allowed to run their course in court, not curtailed by the state. At stake are dozens of properties in Fidelity’s possession whose homeowners are in legal limbo — no longer title owner, and either trying to regain their property or hoping Fidelity still will triumph.

    The recent orders, however, reflect disdain for Fidelity’s arguments.

    “A state judge has told plaintiff (Fidelity) that its legal theory is meritless; a federal judge has told plaintiff its legal theory is frivolous; and the Florida Attorney General has obtained injunctive relief against plaintiff,” wrote federal District Judge Roy Dalton in the Dec. 27 order. “Yet even in its objection, plaintiff clings to the notion that its claims have merit. They do not.”

    Dalton also warned Fidelity’s attorney, Boca Raton-based Howard Feinmel, that if he continued to prosecute claims based on the theories presented, he may be referred to a grievance committee. A message left at Feinmel’s office was not returned.

No comments: