Saturday, January 19, 2013

After Saving Home From Bank Foreclosure, Homeowner Blows Off HOA Over Two Years Of Unpaid Fees, Loses Home At Court-Ordered Auction Anyway

In Jacksonville, Florida, First Coast News reports:

  • Ken Baxley lived in his East Arlington house four years, but in 24 hours, it was no longer his home. "I called the police and said 'Is this for real?' and they said 'Yes,'" he said.

    It was real, but Baxley says still hard to believe. Checking the court files only added to his nightmare. "The court records said my house is no longer in our name but it is in the name of some Duval trust group," said Baxley.

    Baxley lives in a deed restricted community. Like all the other homeowners he has to pay Homeowners Association fees. For two years, he didn't.

    "I didn't think they were that threatening," said Baxley. "I basically blew them off. That was my mistake. I blew off the homeowners association."

    Baxley saved his home from a mortgage foreclosure in 2009, but ignored the HOA notices. A few days before Christmas, the HOA evicted Baxley from his home. The HOA and filed and won a foreclosure lawsuit against him.

    "I had no clue in my mind that for $532, they would take my house from under me and make me move," said Baxley.

    Baxley is now leasing an apartment, but attorney Fred Elefant said the chances of Baxley getting his home back are remote.
  • The court record reveals Baxley can recover the difference between what he owed the HOA and how much the home was sold for, but he has to file with the Clerk of Courts.

    Elefant said it is not over for Baxley. If the buyer fails to pay the mortgage, Elefant said the bank will file a mortgage foreclosure lawsuit against Baxley even though he no longer owns the house.

Disbarred Lawyer Recently Released After Doing 3 Years For $4M Client Trust Account Ripoff Pinched Again On New Charges In Unrelated Straw Buyer Scam; Latest Case Spurred By Two Alleged Co-Conspirators Turned Stool Pigeons

In Lyndhurst, New Jersey, The Record reports:

  • A disbarred attorney from Lyndhurst was arrested [], four months after he was charged in connection with a long-running mortgage-fraud scheme that caused losses of more than $30 million, authorities said.

    Michael Rumore, 54, was charged in September with conspiracy to commit bank fraud and money laundering, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman said in a statement.
  • Rumore handled real estate closings, falsely indicating that the buyers were making substantial down payments when they never did, and diverted funds to the co-conspirators, authorities said.

    The scheme was aided by a tax preparer and document creator who became one of two cooperating witnesses in the case, authorities said.

    The unidentified cooperator also operated several shell companies that were used to create between 75 and 150 bogus tax documents and employment verification forms for the straw buyers, authorities said.

    The second cooperator specialized in making phony bank statements, driver’s licenses, permanent resident cards and Social Security cards.

    Loan companies funded more than 60 fraudulent mortgages worth more than $30 million, authorities said.

    Rumore was initially charged in September along with seven alleged co-conspirators. Another Lyndhurst resident, Klary “Patty” Arcentales, 44, a loan officer at Premier Mortgage Services, was among co-conspirators arrested in September.

    Rumore was released in September from South Woods State Prison in Bridgeton, where he served three years after pleading guilty to state charges in an unrelated scheme to steal more than $4 million entrusted to him for real estate closings. Rumore transferred the $4 million to his personal and business accounts and used the money to gamble at casinos in Atlantic City, state officials said.

Driver For Corrupt Mayor Cops Guilty Plea For Role In Rigging Public Housing Lottery That Landed Him 2-Family Home

From the Office of the New Jersey Attorney General:

  • Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa announced that a man who served as personal driver to former Perth Amboy Mayor Joseph Vas was sentenced [] in connection with a scheme involving Vas to rig a public housing lottery.

    Anthony S. Jones, 51, of Perth Amboy, was sentenced to five years of probation by Superior Court Judge Anthony J. Mellaci Jr. in Monmouth County. Jones pleaded guilty on Aug. 18, 2011 to a criminal accusation charging him with third-degree falsifying or tampering with records.

    In pleading guilty, he admitted that he falsified personal financial information that he submitted in order to qualify to buy an affordable two-family home on Market Street in Perth Amboy through the Perth Amboy Home Program. Previously, Vas admitted that he rigged the public lottery for the home so that Jones won the opportunity to buy it. Jones forfeited his job with the city and is permanently barred from public employment in New Jersey.

    Jones was ordered, as a condition of probation, to refrain from entering the property, which he has vacated, to perform 100 hours of community service, and to pay various amounts as restitution related to his illegal acquisition of the property. The home is currently in foreclosure.

    Jones was ordered to pay $147,600, representing principal and interest on a second mortgage which secures HUD grant funds that were provided to make the property affordable housing. He must pay $2,000 to reimburse the City of Perth Amboy for closing costs it paid when Jones took title to the property. He must pay the state $127,123, representing rent he collected by leasing the second unit of the property. Finally, he must pay $6,020 in rent for his occupancy of one unit of the property for four months after he was supposed to have vacated the property. Jones entered a consent judgment to pay all of those amounts.

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.

Philly Cops Bag Four In Alleged Home Title Hijacking Racket That Swiped Deeds To 22 City Houses

In Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, WPVI-TV Channel 6 reports:

  • Four men, including the son of a former Philadelphia police commissioner, have been arrested for forging the deeds of 22 properties in Philadelphia, enabling them to effectively steal the houses.

    "All too often, people who are unsuspecting were buying properties and the people selling them had no right to be selling them," Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams said.

    A lengthy investigation by the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office revealed that the deeds of 22 uninhabited properties across the city were forged and recorded, transferring the properties from the true owners to the codefendants or fictitious persons.

    Officials say, in many instances, the signature of the Notary Public on the deed was forged and a counterfeit stamp used. "As with everything, people find ways to lie, cheat and steal and these four defendants were caught," Williams said.

    Authorities allege the following four men were the orchestrators of the home theft ring: 55-year-old Zachary Stokes, 42-year-old Oscar Ketter, 48-year-old Elhadi Ibrahim and 49-year-old Steven Johnson, a son of former Philadelphia Police Commissioner Sylvester Johnson:

    "I have a lot of respect for Commissioner Johnson. I have three children. He has one son that is a former FBI agent, but this son is allegedly involved with this crime," Williams said.

    The properties were being sold to innocent buyers, and in some cases, the purchase price was just $1.

    "If criminals were rational, I'd be out of business. I hope one day to be out of business, but people do stupid things for a lot of stupid reasons," Williams said.

    The men face a number of charges including Criminal Conspiracy, Theft, Forgery and Tampering with Public Records.

Wanna-Be Real Estate 'Moguls' Continue Getting Their Heads Handed To Them When Trying To Buy 'Profitable' Foreclosure Steals & Deals Online

In Miami Shores, Florida, The Miami Herald reports:

  • Billy Makedonsky thought he’d found the perfect retirement home for his 75-year-old mother. Better yet, buying it required just a few mouse clicks.

    His only concern about the bank-owned house with the terracotta driveway and barrel-tiled roof — other than the fact he’d never bought a home online before — was this caveat on GoHoming, the site auctioning off the property as is: “Please DO NOT DISTURB the occupant.”

    Turns out he had good reason to be worried.

    For $159,000, what Makedonsky got was a house wrapped up in multiple bankruptcies, foreclosed in protested proceedings, and shrouded by allegations of fraud. The home is also the residence of El Portal’s former mayor, Joyce A. Davis, who said she wasn’t about to leave it in the middle of her comeback campaign.

    “There were signs up all over El Portal: ‘Elect Joyce Davis for Mayor,’ and she was squatting in my home,” marveled Makedonsky, a 41-year-old flight attendant.

    Makedonsky’s tale is just one buyer-beware among many in the digital age, when reams of distressed and bank-owned properties are added daily to online auction sites, making the business of vulturing real estate cheaper and more accessible.

    The flipside: Establishing clear title and control of the home, which some cash buyers have never set foot in, can mean sorting through a thicket of foreclosure filings, fraud allegations, bankruptcies, other mortgages, association liens, creditors and combative tenants.

    People don’t realize there’s a lot more to it than ponying up some money,” said Dennis Donet, a Miami foreclosure defense attorney.
  • While Makedonsky bought his home on a private auction, attorneys say more horror stories come from the clerk’s foreclosure auction in Miami-Dade, a county where there is a backlog of 53,000 foreclosure cases.

    Nearly 100,000 properties have been listed on the clerk’s online auction since it opened three years ago. Last year, an average of 100 properties were sent to auction each day.

    Properties can be pulled off of auction or purchased at the last minute by the distressed home’s owner, so not every property listed was auctioned. But Donet, the foreclosure attorney, said the vast new real estate frontier is attracting a new clientele, many of whom haven’t done the proper research on the properties they’re trying to buy.

    “There are riches for sure,” he said. “But you may be opening up a can of worms that’s very expensive to get out of.”

    Attorney Ferrer Shane said the most common mistake buyers make is not understanding what it is they’re buying. Many clients drop thousands on a home thinking they’re buying a foreclosed mortgage when they’re actually buying an association lien that will be trumped by the lender when the bank finally forecloses.

    That’s what happened to Maria Alonso, who spent $9,100 in May on a 2,600-square-foot home in The Hammocks. The home was at auction because of a $7,482 judgment held by the Panache Homeowners Association over unpaid assessments by the previous owner.

    Alonso, however, thought she’d bought the home outright and after fighting for three months to evict the previous tenants, she leased the home out, according to daughter-in-law Dayana De Latorre. And then they got a notice that their new property was to be auctioned again on Dec. 13, this time due to a judgment held by Wells Fargo.

    De Latorre said her in-laws, who bought the house with settlement money from a personal injury claim, have challenged the sale and have a court date set for Wednesday. But they’re not sure what will happen next.

    “It’s been very confusing. There’s not a lot of help out there,” she said.
For more, see The perils of buying a foreclosed home online (It could go fine. Or the ex-mayor could live in the property and refuse to vacate, as happened to Billy Makedonsky).

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Feds Tighten Mortgage Lending Rules; Banksters Get Some Wiggle Room In Making Loans, Phase-In Period To Lessen Chances Of Getting Hammered By Homeowner Lawsuits For Screw-Ups

The New York Times reports:

  • Homeowners got their first big chance to judge the fledgling regulator charged with policing abusive lending after the introduction of a broad set of mortgage rules on Thursday.

    The regulator, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, gets mostly high marks for the policies, which are intended to prevent the practices that fueled the subprime debacle and the foreclosure crisis. But the agency made a few concessions to banks that consumers advocates say could leave borrowers vulnerable.

    "While the bureau's new rules promote" affordable loans and better products, "they still leave the door open for abuses," said Alys Cohen, a lawyer at the National Consumer Law Center.

    The new rules, broadly outlined in the Dodd-Frank regulatory overhaul, will have enormous influence on the mortgage market. They are intended to ensure consumers don't receive home loans with deceptive terms or onerous debt burdens.

    In short, banks have to make affordable mortgages, and if they don't, they face a greater legal liability. Under the new rules, it will be much harder for banks to give out mortgages without properly checking income, or with interest payments that suddenly jump to much higher levels.

    "These rules now require lenders to determine that borrowers have enough income to repay loans," said Michael D. Calhoun, the president of the Center for Responsible Lending. "This common-sense requirement would have prevented much of the damage of the mortgage and financial crisis."

    Even so, lenders managed to put their stamp on the regulation, winning some important features.

    As part of a fervent lobbying effort, banks warned repeatedly that strict regulations could crimp lending at a time when the housing market was just starting to get back on its feet. Regulators seemed to give some credence to that concern. Citing the "fragile state" of the housing market, the bureau said it would allow new mortgages to meet more flexible standards for affordability during a phase-in period of up to seven years.

Florida Bar Finally Disciplines An Attorney For Foreclosure Mill Irregularities; Gets Firm Head To Accept 91-Day Suspension For Allegedly Paying Another Lawyer $1 Each For Robosigning 150,000 Fee Affidavits, Among Other Things

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

  • The owner of the Fort Lauderdale-based Law Offices of Marshall C. Watson has agreed to plead guilty to offenses found during a Florida Bar investigation in what is believed to be the first disciplinary action taken by the regulatory group against a so-called foreclosure mill.

    The consent judgment, which still requires approval by the Florida Supreme Court, would suspend attorney Marshall C. Watson for 91 days _ a move that means the closure of his firm _ and require him to pay $30,000 for a record-keeping analysis, plus $5,931 for the Bar investigation.

    All suspensions of 91 days or greater require proof of rehabilitation and approval of the Florida Supreme Court before a lawyer may be reinstated to the practice of law.

    Signed in December, the agreement accuses Watson of failing to develop foreclosure policies for firm employees and includes charges that the firm routinely filed court documents alleging a mortgage note was lost without confirming that its clients had in fact lost the note.

    Filing a “lost note count” was a time-saving tactic for lender firms. The note was typically found before final judgment.

    Foreclosure defense attorneys concerned that no one would be held accountable for shoddy and fraudulent foreclosure practices in Florida lauded the Bar’s action. Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi’s investigation into several of the companies was shut down last year after a state Supreme Court decision upheld a ban on her ability to subpoena the firms.

    “What is groundbreaking about the plea agreement is that it holds Mr. Watson accountable, not for doing these things himself, but for failing to supervise and train his associates and control firm policies so that others didn’t do these things,” said Royal Palm Beach-based foreclosure defense attorney Tom Ice. “It acknowledges that many of the practices we have been complaining about were actually taking place.”

    A message left at the Law Offices of Marshall C. Watson was not returned Monday. The Florida Department of State website shows the firm officially changed its name to Choice Legal Group late last month.

    Watson’s firm was the only one of those investigated by Bondi’s office that settled its case with the attorney general. In March 2011, the firm signed a $2 million consent agreement while admitting no wrongdoing.

    Charges against Watson in the Bar’s 12-page “conditional guilty plea for consent judgment” include that an attorney contracted by the firm was paid $1 each for signing approximately 150,000 fee affidavits. Of those, an unknown number of which were fraudulently notarized.

    In “numerous instances” only the last sheet of the fee affidavit was given to the attorney to sign despite the fact that he was swearing to the truth and accuracy of the entire document, according to the judgment.

Video: Mortgage Crisis In A Nutshell

From the video Mortgage Crisis In A Nutshell:

  • In this one-hour video, Attorney John E. Campbell explains the main aspects of the mortgage crisis that has devastated the U.S. housing market and the economy.

    This video was produced by John Campbell and Erich Vieth, who are both attorneys with the Simon Law Firm in St. Louis, Missouri. A substantial part of their law practice concerns issues pertaining to mortgage fraud and unlawful foreclosures. They have filed numerous individual and class action lawsuits on behalf of behalf of homeowners.
For the video, see Mortgage Crisis in a Nutshell.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Suspect Pinched For Fraudulently Operating As Loan Broker; Cops Say Operator Pocketed Thousands Of Fees For Unmet Loan Modification Promises

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

  • Nelson Posada offered struggling homeowners his expertise to help them avoid foreclosure. But authorities say the Wellington man’s company instead took thousands of dollars in fees without getting the mortgage loans modified in return.

    Posada, 45, was arrested Saturday on one count of fraudulently operating as a loan broker, authorities said. Posada was released from the Palm Beach County jail on Sunday on $3,000 bail.

    Posada was a managing member of Loss Mitigation Professionals, a purported loan-modification company that incorporated in West Palm Beach in April 2008, the state Office of Financial Regulation said.

    From January 2010 to March 2011, Posada and an unidentified partner operated the company without a proper license, according to the probable-cause arrest affidavit. The company received a final cease-and-desist order on March 8, 2011.

    According to the affidavit, Posada and his partner engaged in an advanced fee scheme targeting Hispanics. They persuaded customers that their experience and knowledge of the industry could help them save their homes through some form of loan modification, such as a lower interest rate, a lower payment or a reduction in principal.

    A review of bank records provided by the company showed that about $375,000 in advanced and processing fees and commissions had been collected from clients and affiliates, according to the affidavit.

    Investigators contacted about 100 people from the company’s client list and interviewed 22 of them. Those 22 had paid more than $49,000 in advanced fees were collected for loan modification services.

    Loss Mitigation Professionals appears to have made contact with banks in some cases but not all, the affidavit said. It doesn’t appear that any customer received a loan modification as a result of its services, the affidavit said.

Wisconsin Feds Convict Scammer Accused Of Using 'Sewer Service' Racket To File Small Claims Lawsuits, Score Default Judgments, Then File Wage Garnishments Against Multiple Unwitting Victims

In Madison, Wisconsin, The Chippewa Herald reports:

  • A scheme involving small claims courts has resulted in an Eau Claire man being found guilty of 50 counts of mail fraud in federal court, including cases from Chippewa County.

    Bernard C. Seidling, 61, was convicted by Judge Barbara B. Crabb on Dec. 26 for the scheme that ran from 2003 through 2009. He will be sentenced at 1 p.m. March 21. Seidling could face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison on each of the 50 charges.

    According to the U.S. Department of Justice, Seidling filed suits in small claims courts where he lied about the defendants addresses and his attempts to serve them with court papers.

    Prosecutors said Seidling knew the attempt to serve papers either had not been made or could not be made, because the defendants didn’t live at the address Seidling gave.

    Seidling claimed $5,000, the maximum allowed, in each of the lawsuits and obtained default judgments. He would then use the judgments to file wage garnishments against the victims and their property.

    The victims included a couple who were renting a farm in Chippewa County in 2002 until moving in 2003. Seidling filed a lawsuit in Iron County and a transcript was sent to the Chippewa County Sheriff’s Department. Seidling eventually asked for an earnings garnishment of $5,141.79.

    Another victim was a man who owned an engineering firm that contracted with another company for surveying and subdivision design in Chippewa County in 2002. Six years later, a company run by Seidling filed a lawsuit against the engineering firm, claiming its address was now in Hayward. That wasn’t the case.

    Another Seidling company in 2009 sued Footsmart, a shoe retailer in Norcross, Ga. However, Seidling listed Footsmart’s address as Main Street in Chippewa Falls, and claimed a representative tried to serve papers to Footsmart there. The address he used for Footsmart in Chippewa Falls was instead a property in foreclosure.

    A nurse for the Barron County Public Health Department was sued in 2009 by Seidling, but listed the nurse’s address as East Columbia Street in Chippewa Falls. The nurse never lived in Chippewa Falls.

    Another victim was a lawyer working for the Legal Aid Society of Milwaukee. She and her son lived in a rental house.

    One of Seidling’s companies filed a lawsuit and listed the woman and her son’s address as Second Avenue in Chippewa Falls. Neither the woman or the son ever lived in Chippewa Falls. The property Seidling listed was in foreclosure at the time of the lawsuit.

    He filed notices of lawsuits with various publications, including some with Chippewa Valley Newspaper publications.

Slick Real Estate Operators Peddling Crappy Houses Using 'Contract For Deed' Conveyances Lead To Continuing Horror Stories For Unwitting Homebuyers

In Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota, the Star Tribune reports:

  • A year after moving into her white brick house in suburban Robbinsdale, Jennifer Gaines got a letter that turned her life upside down.

    She was facing foreclosure -- even though she was current on her monthly payments. She was also about to lose the $25,000 she paid on the home because the seller, who was responsible for paying the mortgage, had gone bankrupt.

    Gaines bought the property through an unusual, but increasingly common, option known as "contract for deed." Unlike a traditional home sale, the transactions typically take place with no bank, no Realtor, no appraisal -- and little government oversight.

    Instead, the seller finances the sale and then collects monthly payments, much like a landlord.

    Across the Twin Cities, many homes sold through contract for deed have been beset by inflated prices, high interest rates and other terms that almost guarantee the buyer will default, according to a Star Tribune investigation of 1,330 such deals dating back to 2007.

    In hundreds of cases, records show, sellers failed to provide mandated home inspections that would have revealed code violations and safety hazards. Some buyers said they were misled about outstanding debts attached to the properties. Others thought they were signing a lease.(1)

    "This is the first place that ever felt like home to me, and now I have to move," Gaines said. "I was so naive."

    In the aftermath of the housing market crash, contract-for-deed sales in the metro area have soared more than 50 percent in the past five years, as families with low income or bad credit are lured by the promise of homeownership.

    "There is a lot of abuse out there," said Connie Sandberg, who oversees St. Paul's housing sale inspections. "People are being victimized."

    Regulators in several cities said they are alarmed by the Star Tribune's findings and frustrated by their inability to do more to protect buyers. Local officials are vowing to push state legislators this year to require greater disclosure from sellers.

    "They are clearly taking advantage of a certain segment of the population that needs housing," said Kellie Jones, manager of Minneapolis' problem properties unit.

    The purchase price can be twice what the property is worth, records show. On average, contract-for-deed sales were about 10 percent above the estimated market value as set by county assessors.

    To get a handle on the growing business, Minneapolis officials recently began their own examination of contract sales. They believe many rental property owners are using contracts for deed as a way to avoid maintenance rules, shifting the cost of expensive repairs onto their buyers. Indeed, hundreds of contract sales in the Twin Cities involve former rental properties, many with a history of problems.

    "People are signing a contract for deed and thinking it is a synonym for a lease, and they don't recognize the seriousness of what they are agreeing to," said Henry Reimer, assistant director of regulatory services for Minneapolis.

    Many properties were sold again after buyers defaulted, allowing sellers to pocket down payments ranging from $1,000 to $25,000, plus any monthly payments already collected.
  • For rent or for sale?

    In the past five years, nobody sold more former rental properties on contracts for deed in the Twin Cities than Brooklyn Park homebuilder Leslie Reynolds.

    But Reynolds' online advertisements continue to promote the properties as rentals, not homes for sale. Reynolds acknowledged the bait-and-switch tactic during a recent interview.

    "We put them in 'houses for sale' and we never got a call," Reynolds said.

    Several people who responded to the ads said they didn't find out Reynolds wanted to sell them a home until they walked into his office to sign what they thought was a lease. By then, the buyers said, they had already toured the properties and agreed on the size of the monthly payment, not realizing other financial obligations would follow.

    Natasha Osborn said she didn't know how much she agreed to pay for her property until she moved in and the contract arrived in the mail. She thought she was renting a house for $900 a month with an option to buy. Instead, she must pay $145,000 by 2014.

    "I kind of lost my mind," Osborne said. "My house is not worth $145,000."
  • So far, not one of Reynolds' 160 buyers has been able to refinance their deals, which typically require six-figure balloon payments in three years. Many walked away, allowing Reynolds to retain ownership. In the past three years, 40 of Reynolds' former rental properties have sold more than once through contract for deed.
  • Many of Reynolds' buyers went to Brooklyn Park officials for help, said Curt Raymond, who handles enforcement for the city's building department. City officials believed Reynolds may have violated laws against deceptive marketing, so they contacted state, local and federal prosecutors, Raymond said.

    "We've run this past everybody we can -- including the FBI -- to see if there is something predatory here, but we couldn't find anything criminal to go after him on," Raymond said. "There is nothing much we can do."(2)
For more, see Contract for deed can be house of horror for buyers (High-risk housing often is sold on such contracts, with little or no oversight).

(1) See Detroit Feds Pinch Notorious Area R/E Operator Suspected Of Screwing Over Naive Homebuyers With Land Contracts On Homes In Some Stage Of Foreclosure for a post on a Detroit-area real estate operator who got bagged in June, 2012 on federal wire fraud charges for allegedly engaging in a similar pattern of unloading crappy houses to naive homebuyers using 'land contracts', a form of deferred title transfer used in Michigan that is essentially the same as the 'contract for deed' form of deferred title transfer used in Minnesota (and not unlike two other forms of transfer often favored by ripoff artists, the 'rent-to-own racket' and the 'lease/option' deal).

See also Co-Owner Of Racket That Ran 'Contract For Deed' Scam Cops Guilty Pleas To Multiple Charges Of Securities Fraud, Unlawful Merchandising Practices for a post on a Missouri case where the ripoff artists failed to advise their gullible homebuyers when their homes were in danger of foreclosure.

Go here for other posts on:
(2) Make no mistake - if prosecutors (either the feds, or state prosecutors) were motivated enough to bring criminal charges against these real estate operators, they can find something to slam them with, even if they bring charges for something basic, like theft by deception/ false pretensesobtaining property by deception/false pretensessecuring writings/execution of documents by deceptionengaging in a pattern of corrupt activityorganized scheme to defraudtheft/exploitation of the elderly/vulnerable adultsunlawful merchandising, etc., etc. depending on the specific facts of each scam and the laws of the jurisdiction in which the ripoffs are taking place (to the extent the scammers use the U.S. mail, UPS, Federal Express, etc. or telephone when pulling off any of these scams, federal jurisdiction may be triggered through the mail fraud & wire fraud statutes).
    As a reminder to those who mistakenly assume that these apparent ripoff deals are nothing more than civil cases, it is clear that all the sophisticated paperwork in the world (ie. business/purchase contracts, leases, closing statements, etc.) isn't enough to permit scammers to insulate themselves from criminal prosecution when they target their victims with legitimate-looking business propositions when screwing their victims over. Criminal prosecutors have the authority to "pierce through" such attempts to disguise a blatant criminal real estate ripoff as a common, legitimate business deal.
    Clear precedent exists for such a "pierce through" approach to overcome any objections that will certainly arise when the scammers make the argument that the arrangement was just a civil transaction that, if challenged, should be done with a civil lawsuit, not a criminal prosecution. See, for example:
    • People v. Frankfort, (1952) 114 Cal.App.2d 680, 700; 251 P.2d 401:

      The simple answer to this argument is that "The People prosecuting for a crime committed in relation to a contract are not parties to the contract and are not bound by it. They are at liberty in such a prosecution to show the true nature of the transaction." (People v. Chait, 69 Cal.App.2d 503, 519 [159 P.2d 445]; People v. McEntyre, 32 Cal.App.2d Supp. 752, 760 [84 P.2d 560]; People v. Jones, 61 Cal.App.2d 608, 620 [143 P.2d 726]; People v. Pierce, supra, p. 605.)

    • People v. Jones, (1943) 61 Cal.App.2d 608, 620 [143 P.2d 726]:

      Defendant argues that the deal with each "seller" was a civil transaction; [...] Cloaked in the draperies of his corporation and pretending to act in its behalf, he boldly approached his unsuspecting victims.


      Although each deal in its incipiency bore the color and trappings of a normal, civil contract, yet when subjected to a postmortem it exhaled the stench and disclosed the carcass of a fraud. (People v. Epstein, 118 Cal.App. 7, 10 [4 P.2d 555].) There appears no sign of good faith at any turn. Each taking and appropriation was a grand theft.

      The use of the corporate name and the promises made in accomplishing his purpose were a camouflage of such common variety that no excess of genius was required to discern the fraud. Parol evidence of all that occurred was admissible to show the intention of defendant. (People v. Robinson, 107 Cal.App. 211, 221 [290 P. 470].)

    Tuesday, January 15, 2013

    Lawsuit Settlement To Cost Landlord $22.5K Over Alleged Discrimination Against Potential Tenant Who Intended To Use Section 8 Subsidy For Bulk Of Rent

    From the Office of the New Jersey Attorney General:

    • The Division on Civil Rights announced [] that a Middlesex County apartment complex has agreed to pay a total of $22,500 to resolve allegations it discriminated against a potential tenant who intended to pay the bulk of his monthly rent with federal Section 8 housing assistance.

      The Glenwood Apartments and Country Club, owned by the Brunetti Organization and located in Old Bridge, has agreed to pay the mother of the late Lyle Rosen $15,000 to settle Rosen’s discrimination Complaint. The Complaint was rooted in Rosen’s attempt to lease an apartment and pay about 70 percent of his rent using Section 8 housing vouchers. Lyle Rosen, of Old Bridge, has since passed away, and his mother Irene Rosen is the administratrix of his estate.

      In addition to paying $15,000 to Irene Rosen, Glenwood also has agreed to pay the State $7,500. Along with the monetary terms of settlement, Glenwood has agreed to require training in the Law Against Discrimination (LAD) for any rental or management company it employs to screen applicants. Glenwood also must keep detailed records of rental applications and rental inquiries for three years -- including an explanation for any applicant’s rejection -- and make those records available to the Division on Civil Rights.

      “The importance of this settlement goes beyond the dollars because of the issue involved,” said Division on Civil Rights Director Craig Sashihara. “First and foremost, it's illegal for any landlord to refuse to rent to someone simply because he or she is receiving a rent subsidy. Landlords want assurance that prospective tenants will have sufficient funds to make rent, and that’s perfectly understandable. But federal rent subsidies are like guaranteed payments – it's money sent directly from the federal government to the landlord. So a landlord can't ignore those funds when calculating whether a potential tenant has enough money to pay the rent.”

      Lyle Rosen filed a Complaint with the Division on Civil Rights after he applied to rent an apartment at Glenwood in October 2005 and was rejected within days of applying.

      The Division issued a Finding of Probable Cause against Glenwood in March 2007. The Finding meant that DCR had determined, in effect, that Glenwood’s denial of Rosen on the basis of its $40,000-a-year annual income requirement was likely discriminatory, because Section 8 housing vouchers guaranteed payment of most of Rosen’s rent, and he’d shown sufficient assets to pay the rest.

      Lyle Rosen passed away in July 2007. In August 2009, an Administrative Law Judge issued an Order allowing his Complaint to be amended to include his mother, Irene, as a Complainant.

    JPM Chase Abandons Home In Foreclosure Limbo; Bankster's Handiwork Leaves Homeowner With 'Zombie Title', Dying & Ineligible To Get Social Security Disability Benefits Needed In Effort To Dodge Early Grave

    Reuters reports:

    • Joseph Keller doesn't expect he'll live to see the end of 2013. He blames the house at 190 Avondale Avenue.

      Five years ago, Keller, 10 months behind on his mortgage payments, received notice of a foreclosure judgment from JP Morgan Chase. In a few weeks, the bank said, his three-story house with gray vinyl siding in Columbus, Ohio, would be put up for auction at a sheriff's sale.

      The 58-year-old former social worker and his wife, Jennifer, packed up their home of 13 years and moved in with their daughter. Joseph thought he would never have anything to do with the house again. And for about a year, he didn't.

      Then it started to stalk him.

      First, in 2010, the county sued Keller because the house, already picked clean by scavengers, was in a shambles, its hanging gutters and collapsed garage in violation of local housing code. Then the tax collector started sending Keller notices about mounting back taxes, sewer fees and bills for weed and waste removal. And last year, Chase's debt collector began pressing Keller to pay his mortgage, which had swollen, with penalties and fees, from $62,100.27 to $84,194.69.

      The worst news came last January, when the Social Security Administration rejected Keller's application for disability benefits; the "asset" on Avondale Avenue rendered him ineligible. Keller's medical problems include advanced liver disease, hepatitis C and inactive tuberculosis. Without disability coverage, he can't get the liver transplant he needs to stay alive.

      "I can't make it end," says Keller. "This house, I can't get out."

      Keller continues to bear responsibility for the house because on December 23, 2008 - about two months after he received Chase's notice of sale - the bank filed to dismiss the foreclosure judgment and the order of sale. Chase said it sent Keller a copy of its court filing on December 9, 2008. Keller says he never received any notification. Either way, his name remained on the property title.


      The Kellers are caught up in a little-known horror of the U.S. housing bust: the zombie title. Six years in, thousands of homeowners are finding themselves legally liable for houses they didn't know they still owned after banks decided it wasn't worth their while to complete foreclosures on them. With impunity, banks have been walking away from foreclosures much the way some homeowners walked away from their mortgages when the housing market first crashed.

      "The banks are just deciding not to foreclose, even though the homeowners never caught up with their payments," says Daren Blomquist, vice president at RealtyTrac, a real-estate information company in Irvine, California.

      Since 2006, 10 million homes have fallen into foreclosure, according to RealtyTrac, a number that in earlier, more stable times would have taken nearly two decades to reach. Of those foreclosures, more than 2 million have never come out. Some may be occupied by owners who have been living gratis. Others have been caught up in what is now known as the robo-signing scandal, when banks spun out reams of fraudulent documents to foreclose quickly on as many homeowners as they could.

      And then there are cases like the Kellers, in which homeowners moved out after receiving notice of a foreclosure sale, thinking they were leaving the house in bank hands. No national databases track zombie titles. But dozens of housing court judges, code enforcement officials, lawyers and other professionals involved in foreclosures across the country tell Reuters that these titles number in the many thousands, and that the problem is worsening.

      "There are thousands of foreclosures in limbo, just hanging out there, just sitting, with nothing being done," says Cleveland Housing Court Judge Raymond Pianka, whose pending court cases tied to derelict properties have doubled in the past two years, to 1,000. He says the surge is due largely to homes vacated by people who fled before an imminent foreclosure sale, only to learn later that they remain legally responsible for their house.

      When people move out after receiving a notice of a planned foreclosure sale and the bank then cancels, municipalities are left to deal with the mess. Some spend public funds on securing, cleaning and stabilizing houses that generate no tax revenue. Others let the houses rot. In at least three states in recent months, houses abandoned by owners and banks alike have exploded because the gas was never shut off.


      Unsuspecting homeowners have had their wages garnished, their credit destroyed and their tax refunds seized. They've opened their mail to find bills for back taxes, graffiti-scrubbing services, demolition crews, trash removal, gutter repair, exterior cleaning and lawn clipping. At their front doors they've encountered bailiffs brandishing summonses to appear in court.

      In some cities, people with zombie titles can be sentenced to probation - with the threat of jail if they don't bring their houses into compliance.

      "These people have become like indentured serfs, with all of the responsibilities for the properties but none of the rights," says retired Cleveland-Marshall College of Law Professor Kermit Lind.
    • Cases against zombie-title holders are rising due to everything from sewer bills to tilting chimneys, and they are clogging the courts. In Milwaukee, Wisconsin, about 900 cases in the foreclosure process involve zombie titles. In South Bend, Indiana, the number is 1,275, up from 600 in 2006. In Memphis, Tennessee, cases have doubled in the past two years to 1,500.

      In Cleveland, 15 percent of foreclosures between 2005 and 2009 stalled out in foreclosure limbo, more than a third of them involving homeowners who had fled foreclosure notices, according to the Case Western Reserve study.
    • Once a bank walks away from a foreclosure, the real rot begins. Living rooms turn into meth labs. Falling shingles menace passers-by. Squatters' cooking fires turn into infernos. The latest iteration of the trend: gas explosions.

      Electric companies usually shut off the juice when homeowners tell the utility they are moving. But natural-gas companies usually don't. In recent months, abandoned homes have exploded in Chicago, Cleveland and Bridgeport, Connecticut. In all cases, foreclosed homeowners had moved out. With no one home to smell the gas, it went undetected - until the houses blew.

      "We are seeing more and more close calls," says Mark McDonald, a former natural gas public safety worker who now runs the New England Gas Workers Association. "These houses are a formula for disaster."
    • In Columbus, Ohio, Joseph Keller recently paid a visit to the empty house on Avondale Avenue. In the living room, the floor was littered with dirty diapers, pill bottles, condoms, sooty mattresses and soda cans. In the kitchen, squatters had hung pink curtains.

      "They tore it to hell and back," Keller said, kicking at a dirty mattress. "We never would have left the home if we weren't told to get out."

      The Kellers live in their daughter's dining room, where their queen-size bed leaves little room to maneuver. Joseph can't sit, stand or sleep for more than 15 minutes at a time. He can't take pain medication because of his diseased liver. Every few months, he makes a trip to the emergency room, where doctors drain his abdomen of excess fluid.
    • At a hearing in early December, a Social Security administrative judge told the Kellers that he would review their appeal of the original denial of benefits, a process that he said could take two months. Joseph Keller responded that he might not be around that long. Earlier this month, the judge sent the case back to the local office after it determined that the house was virtually worthless. Keller still has no benefits.

      A Social Security Administration spokesperson declined to comment on the case.

      "He's dying," says Keller's daughter, Barbara. "He needs his name off this house."

    Michigan High Court Justice Suspected Of Illegal 'Short Sale Shuffle' Announces Retirement From Bench

    In Lansing, Michigan, WXYZ-TV Channel 7 reports:

    • Amid an accusation of fraud and a move by the state's Judicial Tenure Commission to suspend her, it has been revealed that Michigan Supreme Court Justice Diane Hathaway will retire January 21.

      Her attorney Steve Fishman confirmed the development to 7 Action News. He says Hathaway began the process of retiring back in December.

      The Michigan Supreme Court released the following statement about Hathaway's retirement:

      "This afternoon, through her counsel, Justice Hathaway advised the court that she is retiring effective January 21. In the meantime, she has agreed not to participate in any matters before the court."
    • The revelation of Hathaway's retirement comes not long after she was hit with the formal complaint by the state's Judicial Tenure Commission, which asked that she be suspended from the bench.

      The JTC complaint accuses Hathaway of fraud and money laundering and comes on the heels of a November civil complaint filed by the U.S. Attorney, which also accused Hathaway of fraud.

      The feds began forfeiture proceedings to go after Hathaway's $750,000 Florida home, which they alleged she hid in a stepdaughter's name in order to have a short sale approved on her Grosse Pointe Park home. Last month, they put a stay on those forfeiture proceedings.

      The JTC has asked that Hathaway be suspended pending the resolution of their formal proceedings. Hathaway has 14 days to respond to the JTC's complaint.

      A short sale allows a homeowner to sell his or her property at a loss rather than go into a foreclosure. It can save the owner hundreds of thousands of dollars in mortgage payments, but he or she needs to prove a hardship to their bank, like a loss in income.

      But prior to Hathaway’s short sale, she shuffled two homes out of her name: a Florida home valued at almost three-quarters of a million dollars went to her stepdaughter, and one in Grosse Pointe Park went to her stepson.

       After the bank agreed to the short sale on Hathaway’s Lake St. Clair home, that Florida house went back into Hathaway’s name.

      The home where the Justice currently lives was recently put into her name, but its first owner was Hathaway’s stepdaughter. According to records, she bought it for $195,000 cash around the same time Hathaway’s bank was mulling over the short sale that they ultimately approved.  Hathaway won’t say whose cash was used to buy that home.

    Monday, January 14, 2013

    Use Of Eminent Domain To Bail Out Underwater Homeowners Coming To Bay State?

    In Brockton, Massachusetts, The Huffington Post reports:

    • In a move that’s pitting grassroots housing activists against Wall Street interests, the City Council of Brockton, Mass., decided this week to commission a study into the feasibility of using eminent domain powers to seize the mortgages of local residents struggling to pay off their loans.

      The plan being studied would essentially use municipal government’s prerogative of eminent domain to take possession of foreclosed residential mortgage notes, selling them back to residents, as the City Council resolution put it, “for the purpose of removing blight and restoring family home-ownership within the city.”

      The city would also focus on seizing the mortgages of “underwater” homeowners, those who owe more on their homes than their current appraised worth and would greatly benefit from a new loan that resets the value of their property.

      Such a framework would amount to “using government power to do social good,” Steve Meacham, an organizer with non-profit advocacy group City Life/Vida Urbana said, adding that such “social good is something the banks should have been doing in the first place anyway.”

      Brockton's move is the latest revival of an idea that has been unevenly embraced by some of the communities worst hit by the collapse of the housing bubble in 2007. Fittingly enough, using eminent domain did not have its genesis with the community organizers now pushing it forward in places like Brockton, San Bernandino, Calif., or Detroit, but in high finance, where a firm called Mortgage Resolution Partners -- which hopes to make a tidy profit providing financing for the schema -- first suggested the plan.

    MERS' Role In Non-Judicial Oregon Foreclosures Now In Hands Of State Supremes

    In Salem, Oregon, the Statesman Journal reports:

    • The Oregon Supreme Court heard arguments Tuesday about whether a mortgage-industry database can stand in for lenders on real estate deeds under Oregon law — and in effect trigger out-of-court foreclosures.

      The court’s responses in a pair of actions will be awaited by lenders and homeowners facing foreclosures.

      The central question in both actions is whether Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems can be considered a “beneficiary” under a 1959 law governing real estate deeds in Oregon. The national database was launched in 1997 to track home mortgage loans — about two-thirds of the nation’s loans are covered by it — but it does not lend or collect money itself.

      The Oregon Court of Appeals decided July 18 that individual lenders — not the national system — must file deed assignments with counties before they can begin out-of-court foreclosures. The decision would compel lenders to file each change of ownership of a loan.

      Coupled with new state legislation during the 2012 session, it put a halt to most out-of-court foreclosures.

      Based on how the 1959 Oregon Trust Deed Act defines “beneficiary,” the database “cannot be a beneficiary under any circumstances,” said Jeff Barnes, a California lawyer representing Rebecca Niday, who is challenging a foreclosure action brought by GMAC Mortgage.

      Only the lender or a successor can be a “beneficiary” under the law, Barnes said. “What MERS does is provide a service,” he said, but it has limited legal powers.
    • The justices are considering similar questions put to them by the U.S. District Court in Portland, which has four other foreclosure cases before it. The federal court is seeking how the Oregon Supreme Court interprets the 1959 state law.

      A month after the Oregon Court of Appeals decision, which reversed a judgment against Niday in Clackamas County Circuit Court, the Washington Supreme Court decided a case against the national database.

      But the Oregon Supreme Court will have to decide based on Oregon law, and justices had plenty of questions for the lawyers Tuesday.

      “Our goal is not to figure everything out today, but to get information from you so that we can figure everything out later,” Chief Justice Thomas Balmer said.

    Feds Admit Fumbling Ball When Establishing Independent Foreclosure Review; New $8.5B 'Replacement' Settlement With Banksters Includes $5.2B In 'Phantom' Homeowner Relief

    Investigative reporter Paul Kiel of ProPublica writes:

    • The Independent Foreclosure Review was supposed to be a full and fair investigation of the big banks' foreclosure abuses, and it was trumpeted as the government's largest effort to compensate victimized homeowners. Federal regulators, who designed the review, forced banks to spend billions to carry it out. Millions of homeowners were eligible and hundreds of thousands submitted claims. But Monday morning, the very regulators who launched the program 18 months ago announced that it had all been a massive mistake and shut it down.

      Instead, 10 banks have agreed to pay a total of $3.3 billion in cash to the 3.8 million borrowers who had been eligible for the review. That's an average of around $870 per borrower. But typical of a process that's been characterized by confusion, delays and secrecy, regulators said the details of how the money will be doled out were not yet available.

      The headline number for the settlement is $8.5 billion, but that includes $5.2 billion in "credits" the banks will receive for actions they take to avoid foreclosures, such as providing loan modifications. That's very similar to the separate $25 billion settlement reached last year between five banks, 49 states and the federal government. That settlement has been criticized for awarding credit to banks for things they were already doing.

    Sunday, January 13, 2013

    Recent Court Ruling May Signal Go-Ahead For Thousands Of New Jersey Foreclosures

    In Paterson, New Jersey, The Record reports:

    • Thousands of New Jersey foreclosures that were held up by faulty paperwork are expected to move forward this year, after a recent decision in Superior Court in Paterson.

      The case involved Wells Fargo, which has been cleared to resume foreclosures on about 3,300 New Jersey homeowners under an order signed by Superior Court Judge Margaret M. McVeigh in Paterson.

      The impact may be felt beyond those 3,300 homeowners because the Wells Fargo case "provided an example for other big lenders to follow procedurally," according to Kristi Jasberg Robinson, a lawyer with the state judiciary. Foreclosure activity could begin this year on 15,000 or more homeowners affected by the same faulty paperwork that was at issue in the Wells Fargo case, she said.
    • The Wells Fargo case hinges on the "notice of intent to foreclose" that mortgage companies send to delinquent borrowers. Many of these notices named the mortgage servicing company — the company that collects the monthly payments — not the actual owner of the mortgage. Since many mortgages were packaged and sold as investments, the servicing company often is not the owner of the loan.

      In a decision last February, the state Supreme Court ruled that the state's Fair Foreclosure Act requires that the notice to delinquent homeowners must name the owner of the loan, not the mortgage servicing company. The ruling came in a case involving Maryse and Emilio Guillaume of East Orange, who defaulted on a $210,000 mortgage but challenged their foreclosure because the paperwork named the mortgage servicing company, a subsidiary of Wells Fargo.

      After the Guillaume case was decided, state Chief Justice Stuart Rabner set guidelines under which mortgage companies could send out corrected notices, so they could move forward with foreclosures. McVeigh and a Trenton judge were appointed to hear arguments as to why the mortgage companies should not be allowed to re-send the corrected paperwork and foreclose in these cases. McVeigh reviewed those arguments with respect to Wells Fargo, and rejected them, writing in her order, "Wells Fargo may resume any foreclosure where the foreclosure defendant has not reinstated the loan."

    Banksters Score Another Major Win In Effort To Buy Their Way Out Of Foreclosure Fraud Hot Water; 10 Outfits Agree To Fork Over A Mere $3.3B To Screwed Over Borrowers, Another $5.2B For Purported Deficiency Waiver 'Credits' For Future Short-Selling Underwater Homeowners

    The Los Angeles Times reports:

    • A mortgage is a contract. You agree to pay a certain amount of money to the bank each month, and the bank, in turn, agrees to finance your purchase, play fair and not jeopardize your ability to keep a roof over your head.

      Ten big banks said Monday that they'll shell out $8.5 billion to settle federal complaints that they wrongfully foreclosed on hundreds of thousands of homeowners who should have been allowed to stay in their homes.

      They got off cheap. The average compensation for each homeowner who faced foreclosure in 2009 and 2010 will run about $2,000.

      That's a couple thousand bucks for having been deceived and pushed around — and possibly thrown out onto the street — by a bank that was knowingly breaking regulatory procedures in handling distressed properties.

      That's a couple thousand bucks for having your life turned upside-down and dealing with a take-no-prisoners financial system that refused to acknowledge, at least at first, that it was behaving duplicitously.

      Alys Cohen, a staff attorney for the National Consumer Law Center, called Monday's settlement "wholly inadequate in light of the scale of the harm."

      By ponying up a few billion dollars, Chase, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Citibank and a half-dozen smaller banks will close the books on a federal investigation into accusations that they mishandled people's paperwork and skipped required steps in the foreclosure process.

      Among the banks' abuses: They routinely assigned employees to approve foreclosures without giving homeowners' documents a thorough going-over. In some cases, according to investigators, they signed foreclosure papers without even reading them.

      Some bank workers admitted signing more than 10,000 foreclosure affidavits a month. That's about four per minute for any bank staffer working a 40-hour week.

      Think of that: As millions of families were grappling with job losses and the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, banks were devoting all of 15 seconds to deciding the fate of people's homes.

      And this followed months of requiring homeowners to file reams of documents to make their case for why they should be given just a little leeway on their obligations.
    • Before Monday's settlement, the banks had paid about $1.5 billion to private consultants to help them deal with the mess, officials found, while making little effort to assist mortgage holders.

      The latest settlement requires the banks to spend $3.3 billion to compensate borrowers whose homes were unfairly foreclosed upon, plus $5.2 billion in mortgage assistance to others.

      Citi, for its part, said the bank is "pleased to have the matter resolved." Chase said it was "pleased to have it now behind us," as if everyone can now live happily ever after.

      The banks certainly will. In 2011, the year after the period covered by Monday's settlement, Citigroup pocketed $11.3 billion in profit. JPMorgan Chase saw record profit of $19 billion. Wells Fargo posted almost $16 billion in profit.

      BofA was the poor relation of the family. It earned only $1.4 billion in profit in 2011 as the bank continued dealing with its acquisition of troubled Countrywide Financial.

      These four banks alone accounted for almost $48 billion in annual profit on the heels of subjecting borrowers to some of the most despicable behavior imaginable.

      Now they'll join other banks in collectively paying just $3.3 billion to homeowners they abused, plus an additional $5.2 billion to do what they should have done all along — help customers deal with extraordinary circumstances.

      Separately, BofA agreed to pay more than $10 billion in cash and loan buybacks to mortgage financing giant Fannie Mae to settle Countrywide-related claims.
    For the story, see Banks shortchanging consumers in mortgage settlement (Ten big banks say they'll shell out $8.5 billion to settle federal complaints that they wrongfully foreclosed on hundreds of thousands of homeowners).

    See also, The Associated Press: US banks try to clean up remaining mortgage mess:
    • [C]onsumer advocates complained that regulators settled for too low a price by letting banks avoid full responsibility for foreclosures that victimized families and fueled an exodus from neighborhoods across the country.

      The settlement ends an independent review of loan files required under a 2011 action by regulators. Bruce Marks, CEO of the advocacy group Neighborhood Assistance Corp. of America, noted that ending the review will cut short investigations into the banks' practices.

      "The question of who's to blame — the homeowners or the lenders — if you stop this investigation now, that will always be an open-ended question," Marks said.

      The banks, which include JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America and Wells Fargo, will pay about $3.3 billion to homeowners to end the review of foreclosures.

      The rest of the money — $5.2 billion — will be used to reduce mortgage bills and forgive outstanding principal on home sales that generated less than borrowers owed on their mortgages.
    • The companies involved in the settlement announced Monday also include Citigroup, MetLife Bank, PNC Financial Services, Sovereign, SunTrust, U.S. Bank and Aurora. The 2011 action also included GMAC Mortgage, HSBC Finance Corp. and EMC Mortgage Corp.

    BofA To Cough Up $4.9B, Buy Back $6.75B In Crappy Loans It Unloaded On Fannie To Settle Claims Related To Its Mortgage-Backed Investment Peddling Activities

    The Associated Press reports:

    • Bank of America reached an $11.6 billion settlement with government mortgage agency Fannie Mae to settle claims resulting from mortgage-backed investments that soured during the housing crash, bringing it a step closer to clearing up its legacy of bad home loans.

      Under the deal announced Monday, Bank of America will pay $3.6 billion in cash to Fannie Mae and buy back $6.75 billion in loans that the bank and its Countrywide Financial unit sold to the agency from Jan. 1, 2000 through Dec. 31, 2008. That includes about 30,000 loans. The bank is also paying $1.3 billion to the agency for failing to deal with foreclosures fast enough.

      Also Monday, a separate settlement was announced between federal regulators and ten major banks and mortgage companies, including Bank of America, over wrongful foreclosure practices. That $8.5 billion settlement covers up to 3.8 million people who were in foreclosure in 2009 and 2010. Of those, about 400,000 may be entitled to payments, advocates estimate.

      For Bank of America, its own settlement with Fannie Mae over the mortgage investments represents a “a significant step” in resolving the bank’s remaining mortgage problems, Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan said in a statement. Moynihan’s predecessor, Ken Lewis, bought Countrywide, a troubled mortgage-lending giant, in July 2008 just as the financial crisis was taking hold.

      The settlement represents “another step closer to normal,” for Bank of America, Wells Fargo analyst Matt Burnell wrote in a note to clients. Burnell said the deal was good for the bank because it resolved a dispute with a government agency and will likely reduce the provisions it has to set aside to cover claims from investors over faulty mortgages that were sold with incorrect data on home values or income.

      Bank of America’s acquisition of Countrywide was initially praised by lawmakers because the lender was seen as stepping in to support the mortgage industry. However, instead of boosting Bank of America’s mortgage business, the purchase has drawn a drumbeat of regulatory fines, lawsuits and losses.