Saturday, August 3, 2013

Two NYC Landlords Outslick, Bust Tenant For Illegally $ubletting Rent-Regulated Apartment As 'Hotel Room'; Use Private Investigator Posing As Tourist To Nab Renter Who Now Faces The Boot

In New York City, the New York Post reports:

  • Two Nolita landlords went the extra step to nail a tenant they suspected of illegally renting out her pad online to strangers — by hiring a private eye to pose as a tourist to catch her in the act.

    Building owners and siblings Ken and Susan Podziba shelled out $20,000 for the ploy — and say it was well worth the dough.

    They found that tenant Amy Parness has been flagrantly flouting a recent legal ruling that declared short-term online sublets illegal, by pulling in $4,500 a month for her rent-stabilized one-bedroom pad — for which she pays $1,400 — according to Manhattan Housing Court papers.

    Parness — the 38-year-old niece of a retired Manhattan Supreme Court judge — rents out her walk-up unit for $220 a night to strangers through travel Web sites, the court documents state.

    Meanwhile, Parness, who owns the Web site SparkleLabs, which sells gadgets to tech geeks, lives with her Parsons professor husband, Ariel Churi, in Montclair, NJ, the Podzibas said.

    In May, a judge ruled that such online hotelier practices violate city codes and state law. Still, industry leaders estimate 3,000 New Yorkers rent out their apartments to visitors, making an expected $1 billion in profits this year.

    The Podzibas said Parness reaped a total estimated $500,000 from illicit rentals in the past four years.

    They said in court papers seeking her eviction that she not only rents out her own apartment, but had handled the subletting of two other tenants’ pads in the eight-unit building, taking a cut for her services.

    “She’s the tenant from hell,” Ken Podziba said.

    Parness — who allegedly uses her middle name, Magdalena, on the Web sites — is the leaseholder of Apartment No. 3 at 250 Elizabeth St., but the Podzibas say they have documented evidence that she lists the unit on Airbnb and as a “Nolita Nest” at 250 Mott St.

    When the private investigator, posing as a tourist, queried her about the discrepancy, Parness claimed it was an error by the travel sites, legal papers say.

    Her apartment is fully booked through the end of the summer, online records show.

    On July 9, Parness’ lawyer told Housing Court Judge Sheldon Halprin that Parness’ stepbrother was staying in the unit through August.

    But the Podzibas seemed to have caught her in a lie — they confronted the tenant, who admitted in an affidavit that he’s a Stanford University student interning in New York for the summer.

    “I’m not a friend or relative of Magdalena,” the tenant said in the statement, adding that he rented the place through Airbnb.

    Parness replied to e-mail messages but declined to answer questions about the apartment.

Dozens Of Long-Term Motel Tenants Get Short Notice Boot As Pending Foreclosure, Code Violations, Water & Power Shutoff Force Premises Shutdown

In Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, WPDE-TV Channel 15 reports:

  • People who had been staying at motel in Myrtle Beach must find a new place to live. Friday afternoon they were told the Golden Sands Inn was shutting its doors.

    "He just pretty much left us stuck holding the bag," said Rodney Rohan. Rohan has been staying at the motel for two years now. The property isn't in the best condition. He showed WPDE NewsChannel 15 a gaping hole in the ceiling, and Rohan said it used to leak water.

    Rohan and others staying at the Golden Sands Inn were living there long term and paying weekly. They include families and foreign exchange students. Friday, the owner told them that the water and electricity are going to turned off on Monday.

    Myrtle Beach police responded to the property Friday, because the people staying there were upset with the short notice.

    According to Horry County online court records there's a pending foreclosure on the property.

    "The police told me that he's known since January the place will be shut down. He failed to meet code and they owe taxes on the building," said Heather McCall. She's been staying there for the last few months with her fiance and four children.

    "Most of us this past week have paid him for the last week of June through July and have no more money left to go anywhere. I don't," McCall added.

Single Mom, Two-Year Old Dodge Unexpected Boot, Score Security Deposit Refund With Help From Media Outlet After Unwittingly Renting Out Home On Verge Of Foreclosure

In Virginia Beach, Virginia, WTKR-TV Channel 3 reports:

  • Emotionally drained, Courtney Gourgoulianis broke down on Monday.

    She says earlier that morning, a sheriff’s deputy came to evict her and her two-year-old daughter from their Virginia Beach home. “He’s like, ‘You are the victim of this and I’m really sorry, but I have to execute,” explains Gourgoulianis.

    That’s because, she says, she signed a one-year lease in early May to rent a property on Governors Way. Days later though, she says, the house went into foreclosure and the Virginia Housing and Development Authority (VHDA) took over ownership. She had no clue any of this happened until she was served with an eviction notice last Wednesday. It gave her five days to get out.

    “I pull it out and I read it and I was like, wow, are you kidding me like what is this? Who calls a leasing company when they know their house is getting foreclosed on? Then, what leasing company doesn’t investigate a house that they’re going to put out there?” Gourgoulianis said.

    Gourgoulianis got in touch with the leasing company, At first, she says, they were trying to help. The woman she spoke with says they had no idea this was going on either.

    The woman even made her aware of the federal law, “Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act”, which gives tenants at least 90 days’ notice before evicting them. But when Gourgoulianis called the lawyer representing VHDA, she says, she was told that federal law doesn’t apply to her. “She went completely dead silent and said that’s not true, and I’m like, ma’am, please don’t. I’m not stupid,” says Gourgoulianis. She was told prior notices were sent out. And, court documents show, an Unlawful Detainer was posted on her door in late May. But, Gourgoulianis says, she never saw anything.

    Apparently, the rental agency also told her the owner of the house is MIA, and supposedly living outside the country. “I don’t know how people like that sleep at night. They’re human they know the situation they know that they’re putting a mom and baby out and I didn’t do anything wrong,” says Gourgoulianis.

    So NewsChannel 3 took action and got results. We got an outside attorney involved, Jason Messersmith, in Newport News.

    Within a couple hours, he managed to come to an agreement with VHDA and their lawyer allowing Gourgoulianis to move back into the home and giving her through the end of September to find a new place to live. [...] NewsChannel 3 also reached out to the leasing agency, who now says, they will refund Gourgoulianis for her security deposit, pet deposit and one month’s rent totaling $2,750.

    It’s money Gourgoulianis never thought she’d get back. “I don’t think any of this would have happened the way it did if you guys hadn’t have helped me.”

Friday, August 2, 2013

Bar Boots San Diego Lawyer For Ripping Off Homeowners While Running Upfront Fee Loan Modification Scam

From the July 2013 issue of the California Bar Journal:

  • TIMOTHY CLARENCE BRYSON [#140798], 61, of San Diego was disbarred May 10, 2013, and was ordered to comply with rule 9.20 of the California Rules of Court and to make restitution.

    Bryson’s default was entered after he failed to respond to charges of misconduct in a matter involving four clients. Because he did not attempt to have the default vacated within 180 days, the charges were deemed admitted as required by rule 5.85 of the State Bar’s Rules of Procedure. Bryson was found culpable of accepting an advanced fee and failing to provide adequate notification in a loan modification matter, failing to deposit and maintain funds in trust, improperly withdrawing disputed funds from trust, failing to promptly disperse or return client funds, failing to account, failing to cooperate in a disciplinary investigation, failing to perform legal services with competence, charging an illegal fee and misappropriation. He was ordered to pay $13,320 in restitution, plus interest.

Lawyer Loses Bar Ticket, Gets The Boot After Admitting To Ripping Off Ten Clients While Running Loan Modification Racket

From the July, 2013 issue of the California Bar Journal:

  • JERRY ALONZO STEVENSON [#262798], 43, of San Diego was disbarred May 10, 2013, and was ordered to comply with rule 9.20 of the California Rules of Court and to make restitution.

    Stevenson stipulated to misconduct in 11 client matters, the majority of which involved home loan modification services. Practicing law using the business names Platinum Law Center, Platinum Law Group, Principal Law Group and La Brea Law Group, Stevenson mailed out letters to homeowners offering loan modification services that sought to confuse, mislead or deceive the public, took advanced fees from 10 clients before performing all the loan modification services he agreed to, failed to return unearned fees, failed to perform legal services with competence, shared fees with a non-lawyer, and failed to respond to reasonable inquiries from clients about their cases, among other misconduct.

    Stevenson also stipulated to similar misconduct in a case he handled on behalf of a woman seeking to restructure her credit card debts. He was ordered to pay more than $26,000 in restitution, plus interest.

Attorney/Defendant Halts Trial, Cops Guilty Plea In Mortgage Fraud Case; Participated In Racket After Having First Ripped Off Clients Of $30K+ From Trust Account

From the Office of the U.S. Attorney (Charlotte, North Carolina):

  • A former Charlotte lawyer pleaded guilty mid-trial [...] to mortgage fraud related charges, announced Anne M. Tompkins, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina. The former lawyer’s plea of guilty is the latest conviction in Operation Wax House, a mortgage fraud investigation which began in 2007 and has netted 91 defendants to date, 72 of which have pleaded guilty.

    Michelle V. Mallard, 46, of Charlotte, pleaded guilty to mortgage fraud conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy and embezzlement in violation of the wire fraud statute.
  • Mallard, a/k/a Michelle Crawford, was charged with embezzlement and with serving as a mortgage fraud lawyer for a mortgage fraud cell in the Operation Wax House investigation. According to evidence introduced at trial, Mallard agreed to use her law license to further mortgage fraud primarily in South Charlotte and Waxhaw, N.C. According to trial testimony, the co-conspirators purchased houses at inflated prices in exchange for large kickbacks representing the difference between the true price and the inflated price. Trial witnesses testified that Mallard agreed to pay such kickbacks to other members of the conspiracy and, among other things, accepted bogus checks to make it appear as though buyers had provided money when they had not.

    According to trial evidence and statements made by the prosecutors, Mallard participated in the mortgage fraud after having stolen over $30,000 from clients by embezzling from her trust account.

Paralegal To Oakland Feds: 'I Settled Lawsuits & Illegally Pocketed $327K In Settlement Proceeds Without My Boss' Or Injured Clients' Knowledge!'

From the Office of the U.S. Attorney (Oakland, California):

  • Ana Lissa Reyes pleaded guilty in federal court in Oakland [] to mail fraud and tax evasion, announced United States Attorney Melinda Haag.

    In pleading guilty, Reyes admitted to having worked as a secretary, office manager, and paralegal for a Bay Area law firm. Reyes admitted that from about 2006 through June 2011, she, without authorization, settled claims without the knowledge of the law firm or its clients and stole the settlement proceeds.

    Reyes admitted to engaging clients without the law firm’s knowledge and to stealing clients’ retainer fee payments. Reyes also admitted that in carrying out the scheme to defraud, she created a bogus company, Lincoln Litigation, to correspond with clients without the law firm’s knowledge, and to defraud the clients into believing that their cases were ongoing. Reyes admitted to embezzling a total of $327,795.05 from the law firm and its clients.
  • Reyes is currently on pre-trial release on a $100,000 bond. Reyes’ sentencing hearing is scheduled for October 10, 2013 at 2:00 p.m. before the Honorable Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers, U.S. District Court Judge, in Oakland.
For the U.S. Attorney press release, see Bay Area Law Firm Paralegal Pleads Guilty To Fraud.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Tenant In Foreclosed Home Gets Boot, Estimates $5K In Personal Items Taken By Trash-Out Outfit Despite Scoring 11th Hour 30-Day Stay Of Eviction

In Jacksonville, Florida, First Coast News reports:

  • A Jacksonville man said he was told to get out in 24 hours. He said he never saw it coming. Now, he is fighting.

    Ryan Burns and a couple roommates said they have been renting a modest home on Post and Rubel streets since October 2012. "I loved having my own house," Burns said.

    Until a final notice of eviction reportedly showed up on his front door June 25th. It said in part they had 24-hours to leave, which is standard under Florida law. "I was surprised," Burns said. "We had no other indication that was happening."

    Burns claims he paid rent on time, but he also claims the landlord didn't tell him the home was facing foreclosure. FCN scoured court documents and found an order to stay in the home was granted, on June 26th, by a circuit court judge for 30 days.

    That order was filed on the June 27th, which was the same day as the eviction. The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office confirms the eviction was done June 27th.

    Burns claims a company came in and removed roughly $5,000 in personal items from the home. The company claims it followed all the rules. "A wallet, containing driver's license social security card," Burns said, as he went through a list of what he said was taken. Burns' mother, Cathie, said "The social security card, that's a big deal because...I mean, you can do anything with that. that's identity theft."

    Even with the judge's 30-day extension, unfortunately for Ryan, the house is sold. In the meantime, JSO is still investigating.

    FCN tried several times over the past few days to reach the previous homeowner with no success. FCN will continue to try to do so.

    First For You, real estate attorney, Francis Boyer, said these are your rights:

    1) Renters can stay in the property until a notice to vacate runs out.

    2) Property owners do not have the right to take the renter's property. It must be stored and notice given. If that is not done - consider hiring legal help.

    3) The Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act says in part, if your landlord is foreclosed upon, and does not inform you and you are a bona fide tenant (meaning you are not related) you have a right to 90 days notice to move.

Broken Tail Light In Georgia Leads To $425K Bail In California For Extradited Suspect Accused Of Squeezing Banksters In 'Cash For Keys' Scam By Illegally Occupying Vacant Foreclosures, Then Applying For & Pocketing Relocation Assistance

From the Office of the San Bernardino County, California District Attorney:

  • A Roseville man wanted for real estate fraud was extradited last week from Georgia.

    On July 3, 48-year-old Eimbari Kemet was extradited from Lawrenceville, Georgia, back to California by San Bernardino County District Attorney investigators. Kemet was arrested in Georgia for an outstanding warrant following a traffic stop for a broken tail light.

    After being brought back to San Bernardino County, Kemet was booked into West Valley Detention Center in Rancho Cucamonga and bail was set at $425,000.

    In Feb. 2012, investigators from the District Attorney's Real Estate Fraud Prosecution Unit issued a felony arrest warrant for 48-year-old Eimbari Kemet who was suspected of taking part in an alleged “cash for keys” scam in Rancho Cucamonga. Also charged in the scam is Quddusa Lynette Anderson, 38, of Patton, who was sentenced last year to 252 days in County Jail and ordered to pay $10,000 restitution to the victims.

    Anderson and Smith are accused of conspiring to defraud mortgage giants, Freddie Mac and Bank of America, and taxpayers, by illegally occupying foreclosed homes and applying for relocation assistance known as "Cash for Keys.” To avoid a lengthy eviction process, mortgage lenders like Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae, and Bank of America offer legitimate tenants what is known as "Cash for Keys," to move out of the residence by a specific date and leave the property in turnkey condition.

Wanna-Be Homeowner Claims She's Out Several Thou$and After Buying Foreclosed Home On Craigslist From Seller That Wasn't Real Owner

In Evansville, Indiana, Tristate reports:

  • Evansville Police are investigating a very bizarre scam. A woman is out thousands of dollars after buying a home on eBay.

    Letitia Melendrez claims she spent just under $2,000 to buy the North Third Avenue home on eBay. She then drove thousands of miles and moved in. "I thought that was a pretty good deal, wouldn't have to pay rent the rest of my life," she says. She thought she'd settle here, have family visit.

    "We bought it so that his son would have a home the rest of his life, and we were going to fix this place up and do something with it," Melendrez says. "Me and my son put about three to four thousand dollars into the house after we bought it."

    That good deal has turned into a bad and costly experience. Realtor Angela Bullock saw the home listed, but knew it had been foreclosed upon and is set to be auctioned off next month. "There were a lot of back assessments and back taxes that were owed," Bullock says. "It was a very substantial amount." Police say she drove by, saw people inside and called 911.

    "Police showed up to my house and said I didn't own it my home," Letitia says. "I showed them the paperwork I had."

    Melendrez's story checked out and she knows the sellers weren't the real owners. Now although she doesn't face any charges...She's out a home and thousands of dollars.

    This was a scam. I got scammed," she says.

    Bullock says the foreclosure crisis created plenty of opportunities for scammers. She adds if you're buying a home, make sure to know who you're buying it from and check for any unknown back taxes or fees owed.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Woman Admits To Forging Hubby's Signature, Submitting Fraudulent Documents To Illegally Pocket Proceeds From Home Loan

From the Office of the U.S. Attorney (Billings, Montana):

  • The United States Attorney's Office announced that [...] ANGELA CORSON SMITH, a 32-year-old resident of Billings, pled guilty to bank fraud. Sentencing has been set for October 28, 2013. She is currently released on special conditions.

    In an Offer of Proof filed by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jessica T. Fehr, the government stated it would have proved at trial the following:

    On October 23, 2009, SMITH submitted an application for a home equity loan to Altana Federal Credit Union. Altana Federal Credit Union is federally insured and was at the time of the conduct.

    In support of the home equity loan SMITH presented a power of attorney purporting to give her authority to sign for her husband, B.S. The power of attorney contained a forged signature of B.S. as well as his father who was listed as a witness to the document.

    The document was notarized by Angela Corson, SMITH's maiden name. The bank would not have authorized the home equity loan with B.S.'s consent so the forged power of attorney was material to the decision of the bank. In addition to forging the power of attorney, SMITH also forged all of the loan documents for the bank, some of which were not signed until May of 2010.
For the U.S. Attorney press release, see Angela Corson Smith Pleads Guilty In U.S. Federal Court.

Lawsuit: Banksters Illegally Snatched Cash From Sunshine State Man's Bank Account To Partially Satisfy Out-Of-State Foreclosure Judgment Without First Registering Judgment In Florida & Requesting Garnishment Summons From Local Court

In St. Clair County, Illinois, The Madison-St. Clair Record reports:

  • A Florida man claims two Illinois banks illegally obtained more than $3,000 from his bank account to satisfy a portion of the more than $80,000 he owed them.

    Jermaine Johnson filed a lawsuit June 18 in St. Clair County Circuit Court against First Collinsville Bank and Wells Fargo Bank.

    In his complaint, Johnson alleges he owed First Collinsville Bank more than $80,000 as part of a mortgage foreclosure case that had been filed in St. Clair County Circuit Court.

    In order to partially satisfy payment of the debt, First Collinsville issued a garnishment summons, which would have required any money held by Johnson to be applied toward the $80,000 settlement in the mortgage foreclosure, according to the complaint.

    First Collinsville Bank had the summons served on Wells Fargo Bank in Florida on May 24. In turn, a Wells Fargo process server withdrew $3,590.39 from Johnson’s two accounts, the suit states.

    Johnson claims the move was illegal because First Collinsville issued the summons across state lines.

    “Illinois courts may not enforce Illinois judgments outside the state of Illinois,” the suit states. “If defendant First Collinsville Bank wished to serve a garnishment summons on a garnishee located in Florida, it was required to first register the Illinois judgment in Florida under the Florida Uniform Registration of Foreign Judgments Act, then request issuance of the garnishment summons, to be served in Florida, from the Florida court.”

    Shortly after First Collinsville’s garnishment, Johnson visited Wells Fargo in an attempt to withdraw the money from his accounts, but was not allowed to do so, the complaint says.

    Because of the banks’ actions, Johnson claims he has suffered extreme emotional and mental distress.

    In addition to the money that was allegedly taken from him, Johnson seeks $150,000 in attorney’s fees, punitive damages of $3 million and court costs.

Notorious National Foreclosure 'Trash-Out' Contractor Tied To Another Allegedly Illegal Lockout; Lawsuit-Filing Homeowner Says He's Current On House Payments & Is Still The Owner

In Carmel, Indiana, WRTV-TV Channel 6 reports:

  • A Hamilton County family is taking legal action after they were locked out of their Carmel townhouse.

    Michael, who is father of three and husband, asked RTV6 not publish his last name. His family has lived at 11889 Esty Way for 10 years until April, when they decided to move to a bigger home and rent out their townhouse.

    Michael found a tenant, but he was forced to refund the money when their townhouse was locked and the utilities were turned off. "Our lender changed the locks on us," Michael said.

    A notice was left on the Esty Way townhouse from Safeguard Properties , a company that works with mortgage lenders in securing homes being returned to the banks. Safeguard's posting alerted the family that, "all persons entering this property (must) provide an explanation of their visit, sign and date the form."

    Michael was locked out, even though his bank statements show he is current with his mortgage and his loan doesn't mature until 2033.

    "That's the glitch. That's the problem and that's why we're hoping you can help," Michael told Call 6 Investigator Rafael Sanchez. "We try to do everything honestly on the up and up. It's been very stressful. It's been hard."

    The family hired lawyer Kathy Davis to deal with their mortgage servicer Green Tree Financial.

    "The woman told me -- this is something that I will never forget, honestly -- she told me that they were the mortgage company, and if they wanted to change your locks, they could," Davis said.

    Davis has handled more than 100 cases involving mortgage companies. "This is something I have never heard of, ever," she said. "(It's the) first time I've seen something like this." Davis has filed a lawsuit in Hamilton County seeking damages.

    The family was unable to regain access into their property until late June. "In this case, I don't know if they don't want to admit they made a mistake," Davis said.

    Green Tree Financial and Safeguard Properties declined to comment on this story due to the pending litigation.
For more, see Family mistakenly locked out of home even though mortgage payments current (State foreclosure rules overlooked).

See Report: Insider Says Allegations Of Incompetence, Malevolence & Larceny Are All In A Day's Work For Trash-Out Contractor That Screws Over Distressed Homeowners for an earlier post on the now-notorious foreclosure trash-out contractor Safeguard Properties.

(1) For those homeowners who've been screwed over by wrongful lockouts by foreclosing lenders (and their confederates) and seek some possible guidance on how much their cases might be worth if they seek to sue, see:
For examples of filed lawsuits involving illegal bank break-in, "trash-out" lockout cases, see:

Forging Signatures To Obtain Fraudulent Mortgage Secured By Unwitting Elderly Couple's Home Among Scams That Land Loan Officer 35-Month Sentence In Federal Slammer

In Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the Journal Sentinel reports:

  • A commercial loan officer was sentenced to 35 months in federal prison [] for creating and approving multiple fraudulent loans while working at financial institutions in Burlington and northern Illinois

    James Scalzo, 46, was also ordered by U.S. District Court Judge Lynn Adelman to serve three years of supervised release following his prison term. Restitution will be computed later.

    Scalzo pleaded guilty in January to bank fraud and money laundering for creating more than $1.4 million in phony loans while working at Fox River State Bank in Burlington and Consumer's Credit Union in Round Lake Beach, Ill.

    The bulk of the fraudulent loans — or nearly $1 million worth — were written while he was at Fox River State Bank, records show. The loans were written using the names of people — including some of Scalzo's relatives — who were not qualified to receive the funds or did not know Scalzo was using their names on loan documents.

    The scheme ran from April 2008 until October 2009. Money generated from the fraudulent loans went into Scalzo's accounts or was used to make payments in order to keep scheme afloat.

    Among Scalzo's victims was an elderly couple whose home he used as collateral for a fraudulent loan by forging the signatures of the owners. The home later went into foreclosure.
Source: James Scalzo sentenced to 35-month prison term for bank fraud (Former commercial loan officer created more than $1.4 million in phony loans).

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Florida Trial Judge Kiboshes Desperate Bankster's Last Minute Prank To Salvage Foreclosure Action On Multi-Million Dollar Mansion; Homeowner's Attorney: Attempt To Refile Now-Dismissed Case May Face 'Statute Of Limitations' Trouble

In Boca Raton, Florida, The Palm Beach Post reports:

  • A Boca Raton homeowner whose waterfront mansion has been in foreclosure since 2008 had her case voluntarily dismissed by her lender Thursday in Palm Beach County court after a legal misstep during trial.

    Because the case is so old, homeowner attorney Roy Oppenheim said the bank may run into trouble trying to refile it. There is a 5-year statute of limitations on foreclosures.

    Homeowner Valerie Kaan bought the 13,000-square-foot home in 2003 for $8.4 million. Her loan was for $6.8 million from Washington Mutual Bank, which was later purchased by JP Morgan Chase. The outstanding balance as of Thursday was up to about $10 million with late fees, taxes and insurance, Oppenheim said.

    “I always tell my clients that a good settlement is usually in everyone’s best interest but in this case, for some reason, the bank did not recognize their own foibles,” Oppenheim said. “Maybe this will send a message to banks that when people come to the table in good faith with a reasonable offer, they should more seriously consider it.”

    Oppenheim said Kaan was in negotiations for a short sale and loan modification for two years before negotiations broke down. Chase declined comment.

    At Thursday’s foreclosure trial, Oppenheim said the bank tried to introduce the original “wet ink” note, which had allegedly been lost previous to the 2008 foreclosure filing.

    But because the bank did not amend its pleadings to include the note or notify the borrower and the court that it existed, the move violated civil procedure, Oppenheim said.

    The court docket reflects that the original note was filed in the case in 2009, but its existance wasn’t included in Thursday’s pleading.

    The voluntary dismissal was signed by Circuit Judge Roger Colton. He also gave Kaan attorneys’ fees and costs.(1)

    “Our firm _ three lawyers _ were saddled up ready to go to trial and they sprung on us at the last minute a new set of facts,” Oppenheim said. “It was trial by ambush and judges won’t put up with that.” Associate lawyers Jeff Sherman and Jacquelyn Trask worked on the case with Oppenheim.
Source: Boca Raton homeowner wins multi-million dollar foreclosure suit after legal misstep.

(1) Go here for the court order sticking the losing bankster with the tab for the homeowner's attorney fees and costs. For earlier posts on the right of Florida homeowners to stick a foreclosing bankster with the tab for their legal fees when successfully defending against a foreclosure action, see:
For those lawyers who handle these cases on a pro bono or contingency fee basis (ie. non-profit, legal aid attorneys, some private attorneys), see:

Hubby Pinched For Allegedly Filing Billion$ In Fraudulent Retaliatory Liens Against Two Federal Judges, U.S. Attorney, Others Involved In Earlier Conviction Of Wife

From the U.S. Department of Justice (Washington, D.C.):

  • The Justice Department announced [] that Tyree Davis Sr. of Flossmoor, Ill., was arrested on an eight-count indictment charging him with obstruction of justice and filing fraudulent multi-billion dollar liens against government employees. The indictment was returned on July 24, 2013, by a federal grand jury in Chicago.

    According to the indictment, Davis obstructed justice by sending correspondence threatening to arrest two federal judges: the chief judge of the Northern District of Illinois and the judge who presided over the 2010 tax trial of LaShawn Littrice, whom Davis refers to as his wife. Littrice was convicted by a jury in June 2010 and sentenced to 42 months in prison in December 2010. Davis also filed false liens, titled Notice of Maritime Liens, against both judges and notified others that he had filed the liens.

    In addition to the two judges, Davis filed false liens against the U.S. Attorney and Clerk of Court for the Northern District of Illinois, an Assistant U.S. Attorney and an Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation Special Agent. All the liens were publicly filed with the Cook County Recorder’s Office and claimed that each individual owed $100 billion. The liens were re-recorded two and three times in order to add property descriptions to them.

Whistleblower: Colorado Foreclosure Mill Padded Billing Hours, Destroyed Evidence Sought By State AG In Probe Into Suspected Inflated Fee Racket

In Denver, Colorado, The Denver Post reports:

  • An attorney turned whistle-blower at Colorado's second-largest foreclosure law firm has detailed to state investigators a pattern of abuses that stretch beyond the scope of their investigation into alleged overbilling practices.

    Susan Hendrick testified at a hearing Thursday that she told the state attorney general's office about bill-padding she witnessed while a lawyer at Aronowitz & Mecklenburg in Denver, conduct that investigators say needlessly cost homeowners facing foreclosure millions of dollars. She then laid out a number of other alleged abuses she says happened.

    The abuses ranged from the padding of attorney hours to allegations that the law firm destroyed evidence that prosecutors were seeking in their investigation into billing practices by foreclosure law firms, according to testimony in Denver District Court.

    The hearing before District Judge R. Michael Mullins was to determine whether Hendrick, an associate at Aronowitz since 2007, was a special counsel to the firm in its efforts to clean up the problems she exposed.

    Attorney Robert Aronowitz, 65, testified he was "absolutely shocked" by Hendrick's revelations and that he had hired her as a special counsel to give advice on how to fix the issues she raised in several e-mails. "I'd never seen anything like (the allegations Hendrick made) in my entire practicing career" that spans nearly 40 years, he testified.
  • Hendrick hotly denied ever representing Aronowitz as a special counsel, telling Mullins that she was preparing to file her own whistle-blower lawsuit against the firm, mostly because she said she was threatened with the loss of her job if she refused to sign confidentiality agreements to silence her.

    Aronowitz said the agreements were standard for the industry after nationwide investigations into robo-signing and other misdeeds by the nation's largest mortgage banks and servicers.

Foreclosure Mill Law Firm Accused Of Running Inflated Fee Racket In Connection With Charges For Serving Legal Notices On Homeowners; Colorado AG: Firm Pocketed $5M+ In Profits

In Denver, Colorado, The Denver Post reports:

  • By charging up to six times the market rate for serving foreclosure notices on property owners, Colorado's second-largest foreclosure law firm generated millions of dollars in profits on the backs of homeowners and taxpayers, according to a state attorney-general lawsuit.

    Attorney General John Suthers said his office is investigating whether Aronowitz & Mecklenburg in Denver "misrepresents its posting costs" when it bills homeowners for its foreclosure expenses — charges that hit $150 while the person who does the posting is paid $7 plus mileage, according to the lawsuit filed last week in Denver District Court.

    "The subpoena is necessary to aid the investigation of possible deceptive conduct" under the state's consumer-protection act, Suthers said in the lawsuit.

    By owning Xceleron, the company that posts a pair of notices on a property advising homeowners of their rights during the foreclosure process — notices that are required by law — Aronowitz & Mecklenburg "has generated millions of dollars personally to the three partners (of the firm) by charging a posting fee five to six times the market rate," Suthers' office said in the lawsuit.

    When compared with its actual cost, the mark-up is even higher, Suthers' office said in the lawsuit.

    Investigators with the attorney general's office estimate the profits top $5 million, according to a court affidavit.

    Attorneys at the law firm did not respond to requests for comment.

    The lawsuit seeks to force the law firm to comply with investigative subpoenas that Suthers' office issued in April for detailed documents explaining the charges. The law firm — headed by Robert Aronowitz; his daughter, Stacey Aronowitz; and his son-in-law, Joel Mecklenburg — provided some documents, Suthers said, but has withheld many more, citing attorney-client privilege.

    "The law firm should not be able to charge such costs to the public but then refuse to provide the authority to charge those costs," the attorney general's office said in its court filing.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Florida Homeowner Facing Foreclosure Scores Big Win; Appeals Court Throws Out Case On Technicality, Expiring Statute Of Limitations Prevents Bankster From Refiling

In Jupiter, Florida, WPEC-TV Channel 12 reports:

  • Too many people in our area know the pain of losing their home to foreclosure, but a Jupiter woman is sharing with CBS 12 her story of beating foreclosure.

    Susan St. Claire faced losing her town home in The Estuary at Jupiter Dunes. She says several lawyers told her to start packing.

    But St. Claire's new attorney, Mark Johnson, realized the bank suing St. Claire had filed a motion to substitute the suing party. The 4th District Court of Appeal had ruled the suing party had to really have the mortgage.

    St. Claire's foreclosure was old enough, explained attorney Johnson, the statute of limitations had expired for filing a new foreclosure suit against St. Claire.

    "As long as they're alive, they can stay in (the home)," said Johnson. "But they can't sell it... because there's a lien on it."

    Not the ideal way to live, admits St. Claire, but at least she has a roof over her head in a desirable location.

    "It's a miracle," exclaimed St. Claire. "I keep telling you, it's a miracle. I do believe, I do believe."

    Johnson says St. Claire's case is not typical, though. And going forward, he says, even fewer people will be able to beat foreclosure like St. Claire because the banks have adapted to the new court rulings.

Bankster Breaks Into Wrong Home In Another Foreclosure Trash-Out Gone Wrong; Innocent Homeowner Estimates $18K In Personal Items Are Missing; Cops Refuse To Pursue Case

In McArthur, Ohio, WBNS-TV Channel 10 reports:

  • An Vinton County woman is looking to get her belongings back after a bank incorrectly broke into her house and took them.

    Katie Barnett says that the First National Bank in Wellston foreclosed on her house, even though it was not her bank.

    They repossessed my house on accident, thinking it was the house across the street,” Barnett said.

    Barnett, who had been away from the house for about two weeks, said she had to crawl through the window of her own house in order to get in after she used her own key that did not work.

    Some of the items in her house had been hauled away, others were sold, given away and trashed.

    It turns out the bank sent someone to repossess the house located across the street from Barnett’s house, but by mistake broke into hers instead.

    “They told me that the GPS led them to my house,” Barnett said. “My grass hadn’t been mowed and they just assumed.”

    She called the McArthur Police about the incident, but weeks later, the chief announced the case was closed.

    Barnett said that according to the bank president, this was the first time something like this has happened.

    She presented him with an $18,000 estimate to replace the losses, but the president refused to pay.

    “He got very firm with me and said, ‘We’re not paying you retail here, that’s just the way it is,’” Barnett said. “I did not tell them to come in my house and make me an offer. They took my stuff and I want it back.”

    The shock of having her house broken into and belongings taken by mistake has now turned into anger.

    “Now, I’m just angry,” Barnett said. “It wouldn’t be a big deal if they would step up and say ‘I’m sorry, we will replace your stuff.’ Instead, I’m getting attitude from them. They’re sarcastic when they talk to me. They make it sound like I’m trying to rip the bank off. All I want is my stuff back.”

    No one from the bank would go on camera with 10TV about the incident. The bank president told 10TV News that the bank is trying to come to terms with Barnett.
Source: Vinton County Woman Wants Possessions Back After Bank Tried To Repossess Wrong House.

(1) For those homeowners who've been screwed over by wrongful lockouts by foreclosing lenders (and their confederates) and seek some possible guidance on how much their cases might be worth if they seek to sue, see:
For examples of filed lawsuits involving illegal bank break-in, "trash-out" lockout cases, see:

NH Sale Leaseback Peddler Invokes "Bad Businessman" Defense As His Trial Begins For Alleged Fraud In Connection With Equity Stripping, Foreclosure Rescue Outfit; Says Company Was Nothing More Than "Failed Business Model", Not Criminal Enterprise

In Concord, New Hampshire, The Associated Press reports:

  • Lawyers for Michael Prieto, who is charged with bilking financially distressed homeowners and lenders out of $13 million, say his mortgage rescue company amounted to a "failed business model" not a criminal enterprise.

    "My client was a bad businessman," defense attorney Jaye Rancourt told jurors in her opening statement Tuesday in federal court in Concord. "Being a bad businessman is not a crime."

    Prosecutors say Prieto persuaded people who were having difficulty making their mortgage payments to turn their homes over to him, continue living in the homes and pay rent with the prospect of buying back the homes in two years.

    Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Gunnison told jurors Prieto paid others to buy the homes to mask his role as both the seller and buyer.

    Gunnison said Prieto then remortgaged the homes — sometimes at interest rates as high as 14 percent — then defaulted on the loans.

    "Mr. Prieto was the boss, the controller of all the money and the arranger of all the fraudulent transactions," Gunnison told jurors. He said Prieto left lenders, homeowners and the "straw" buyers he paid to purchase the homes "holding the bag."

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Ex-Mogul Sentenced For Murdering Wife To Score Life Insurance Proceeds In Last Ditch Effort To Save Mansion From Foreclosure, Real Estate Empire From Financial Collapse

In San Mateo, California, The Daily Journal reports:

  • The Woodside man convicted of shooting his wife twice in the head and staging the bloody bedroom of their foreclosed mansion to look like a suicide to activate more than $30 million in life insurance policies that eradicated a mountain of debt was sentenced [] to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

    But before Pooroushasb “Peter” Parineh, 67, received the sentence, he read a lengthy handwritten letter to his three grown children, by turns telling them the monetary value of family items, describing his wife’s facelift and blaming them for what he said was his wife’s suicide.
  • Jurors deliberated nearly full four days in May before convicting Parineh of first-degree murder with the special allegation he did so for financial gain. Prosecutors opted against seeking the death penalty but the sentence imposed Friday means Parineh will die behind bars.
  • Parineh, who testified in his own defense, steadfastly maintained his innocence in his wife Parima Parineh’s April 13, 2010 shooting. Defense attorney Dek Ketchum told jurors Parima Parineh, 56, killed herself because she was bipolar, depressed and making a last-ditch effort to stave off the collapse of the family’s fortune while her life insurance policies were still valid. Ketchum also introduced evidence that she had overdosed on pills just six weeks before her death.

    Prosecutor Jeff Finigan built a case focused on the Parineh family’s financial collapse, from real estate empire to five properties in foreclosure — including the Fox Hill Road mansion where the crime happened — a commercial building that had been taken over for lack of payment and a legal judgment.

    The life insurance policies on Parima Parineh wiped out the debt, put an extra $600,000 in his pocket and deposited the rest in his three grown children’s trust from which he immediately tried to borrow, Finigan said.

    Finigan also informed jurors about Parineh’s remaining close friendship with a former mistress and questionable behavior after his wife’s death like avoiding the memorial service, staying in a hotel with the former paramour and hounding his children about the money. Jurors also learned that the March 2010 suicide attempt was possibly a pact with her husband in which he didn’t hold up his end of the bargain, Finigan said.

Homeowner Dodges Tax Foreclosure Threat By Coughing Up $486 To Satisfy Unpaid $10 City Special Assessment

In Reno, Nevada, KRNV-TV Channel 4 reports:

  • Margarita Bryant teaches concert piano from her home on Lakeside Drive. But Margarita's life and livelihood hit a sour note when she found she was on the verge of losing her home.

    All over a bill from the city of Reno in January of this year for $10.17 that she admits she overlooked.

    "They just told me no, i'ts not a mistake. We're going to put your house into foreclosure," Bryant told us.

    That bill was part of a larger assessment for recent improvements on Lakeside Drive. Margarita says she was out of town when the original bill came to her house. And she says she mistook several reminders sent out by the city's collection agency as junk mail since the city's logo was nowhere to be seen on any of them.

    The next thing she knew the city had tacked on $545.23 in late charges and foreclosure fees for a total of $ 555.40. Margarita says she couldn't afford that. "I don't know how the financial department can do this to citizens," Bryant said.
  • So is the city cracking too hard on these unpaid bills ? We asked financial director Robert Chisel.

    Chisel admits it is disturbing to have a $10 assessment lead to foreclosure. He says they do try to work with homeowners but he says if some people don't pay it means others in the assessment district will wind up paying more to cover the costs. So the city can only budge so much. And after six months it's foreclosure.

    "It's absolutely non-sense," Bryant said, shaking her head in disgust.

    But the bottom line according to finance director Chisel: "Everyone has to pay their bills."

    After we interviewed Chisel, the city of Reno did agree to take off some of the late fees and Margarita wound up paying $486 to keep the city from selling her house.

Paperwork Screw-Up On Mortgage Refinance That Inadvertently Left Homeowner Without Fire Insurance Not Discovered Until Subsequent Blaze Guts Home

In Albert County, New Brunswick, CBC News reports:

  • The Royal Bank is putting a house foreclosure on hold after a Harvey man raised questions about why his house no longer had fire insurance, a fact he discovered after his home was gutted by a fire.

    Brad McCullough, a licenced carpenter in Harvey, said he’s always had fire insurance on his home.

    But when he and his wife refinanced their mortgage with the Royal Bank, they did it through the financial institution, without a lawyer.

    The couple didn’t realize they lacked fire insurance until it was too late and their home had been destroyed.

    Instead of having their home covered by insurance, they were initially told by the Royal Bank that they were being foreclosed on.

    The problem started when they refinanced their mortgage with the bank.

    "When we remortgaged then that should have been brought up, and I thought it must be added into my payment, type of thing. I don't want to step on anybody's toes. It's my fault, plain and simple,” McCullough said.

    David Peterson, a Fredericton lawyer, said banks require lawyers handling mortgages to have proof of fire insurance. But, he said, banks don't apply the same rules to themselves.

    “The bank told the McCulloughs, I'm sure, like they tell every other customer, 'You don't need a lawyer, we will look after your legal services.’ And with that goes the responsibility to do it correctly,” Peterson said.

    And the bank didn't do it correctly, they didn't make sure the property was insured, they didn't follow up for the insurance coverage, and they should eat it and put these people back in the position they would have been in if they'd had insurance.”

    It is unknown what will happen to the McCulloughs. The Royal Bank, however, has put the foreclosure on hold.

    Officials with the Royal Bank declined a request for an on-camera interview.
For more, see RBC questioned over Harvey man's missing fire insurance (Royal Bank puts Brad McCollough's foreclosure on hold pending investigation).