Saturday, January 20, 2007

California Statutes Regulating Foreclosure Rescue & Equity Skimming

California has two statutes, both passed in 1979, that regulate home sale transactions involving homeowners facing foreclosure, investors purchasing from these financially strapped homeowners, and mortgage foreclosure consultants.

1) California's Home Equity Sales Contract Act can be found at Section 1695 through Section 1695.17 of the California Civil Code.

2) California's Mortgage Foreclosure Consultants Act can be found at Section 2945 through Sction 2945.11 of the California Civil Code.

In addition, California also has a statute prohibiting rent skimming (equity skimming) and can be found at Section 890 through Section 894 of the California Civil Code.

Click here to view the entire hyperlinked Table of Contents of the California Civil Code.
September 27, 2008 Addendum:

Northern California Woman's Unwitting Sale Of Home Leads To Lawsuit

In this July, 2006 article, a disabled Antioch woman who had fallen behind in her mortgage payments sought the advice of her church's pastor, whom she had known for 10 years. According to a lawsuit that she ultimately filed, she alleged that the pastor referred her to a fellow church parishioner to assist with a refinancing and, within a month after she signed the legal documents involved in the transaction, both the man arranging the transaction and another party (who claimed to be the new owner of the woman's home) claimed that she was no longer the owner and demanded the house keys and rent for being in the home.

This article points out that the homeowner in this case
  • "is luckier than some because she was able to get legal help. Through the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now ["ACORN"], she was put in touch with the Oakland-based housing advocacy group, Housing and Economics Rights Advocates, which works with the law firm Morgan Miller Blair in Walnut Creek. The law firm took [the homeowner's] case on a pro-bono basis."

In the civil lawsuit, the homeowner (represented by attorney Joshua Cohen) alleged violations of California's Home Equity Sales Contract Act, the Mortgage Foreclosure Consultants Act, fraud, civil conspiracy to commit fraud and unfair business practices, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and undue influence. The defendants in this case include the pastor, the man arranging the transaction, the purported new owner, and others.

To read more, click below for the article, as reported in the East Bay Business Times:

Mortgage fraud cases multiply, hit more homeowners
Homeowner sues pastor, others

For those seeking legal assistance or representation in California, see my blog post immediately preceeding this one.

Editor's Note:

As a personal observation, in cases such as this one (and the one in the blog post preceeding this one), where a victimized homeowner retains possession of the home after a purported sale, this possession under the law generally imparts what experienced real estate lawyers refer to as "notice to the world" that the person in possession of the premises may have a legal interest in the home (whether this "notice" is considered to be "actual notice", "constructive notice", or "inquiry notice" under California law, I welcome input from any California real estate attorneys).

This point may be significant to the victimized homeowner because if, after litigation, the homeowner is successful in voiding the sale, and the holders of any subsequent intervening interests (in the above case, the purported interests of the new buyer and the mortgage company that financed the new purchase) are deemed to have had this "notice to the world", it seems to me that the homeowner should be entitled to get the home back free from any claims of the new buyer or bank. (Being deemed as being "on notice" may possibly "disqualify" the new buyer or mortgage company of the legal status of being a "bona fide purchaser for value, and without notice.") For any victimized homeowners and others wanting more information on this point, seek out a competent, experienced real estate attorney in your home state.

Should this be the case, then the new buyer and the bank or mortgage company financing the purchase would end up "holding the bag". However, if they each obtained a title insurance policy to protect their interests as part of the purchase, then it seems to me that they may have a "title claim" to submit to the title insurance company issuing the policy (I wonder how title insurance companies are dealing with issuing title policies in foreclosure rescue situations. If anyone knows of any cases or articles addressing the ramifications to the title insurance industry in connection with foreclosure rescue issues, please drop me a line by clicking "Comments" below).


Southern California Woman Alleged Victim Of Home Theft, Mortgage Broker Arrested

In this May, 2006 story, a financially distressed mother of two seeking to refinance her defaulted mortgage was reportedly convinced by a local mortgage broker to sign over her home to the broker's father to take advantage of his better credit rating to obtain a refinancing of her existing mortgage. Unbeknownst to the homeowner, the property was subsequently sold, with her name allegedly forged on documents authorizing the sale proceeds to be sent to someone unknown to her.

The broker was subsequently arrested on various charges, including forgery, after an investigation by Riverside County authorities.

Denise Meenan, a consumer attorney employed by the Riverside office of Inland Counties Legal Services, which serves San Bernardino and Riverside Counties with free legal assistance to the elderly and to low-income households, was quoted as believing that most foreclosure investors "are basically putting the nail in the coffin as far as taking the last bit of a homeowner's equity."

Private attorney Tim Liebaert, representing the victim in this story in a civil suit to get her house and equity back, said in the past year he has filed five cases on behalf of victims of foreclosure fraud.

To read more, click below for the following article in The Press Enterprise at

False Hopes
Inland homeowners facing foreclosure encounter scams under guise of refinancing

Click here to find consumer protection attorneys throughout California

Click here to find low cost / no cost legal self help and possible attorney representation to low income, elderly, and disabled Californians
(revised 1-29-07)
(revised 4-10-07)

Ex Church Youth Pastor Gets 46 Months In Flipping Scam

A New York man was sentenced to 46 months in prison and ordered to pay more than $460,000 in restitution after being convicted of Federal charges for his part in an illegal property flipping scam. The properties were located in Westchester County and New York City. The scam involved filing false mortgage loan applications with lending companies, and filing other types of false information and documents, like fake W2 forms and fake payroll stubs, which falsely reflected inflated income amounts needed by borrowers to qualify for the loans.

To read more, see Ex-church youth pastor, convicted in mortgage fraud scheme, going to prison, reported at

Friday, January 19, 2007

Indianapolis Cop Gets 57 Months In Mortgage Scam

An Indianapolis cop was sentenced in an Indiana Federal Court Wednesday to 57 months in prison for his role in a mortgage fraud scheme. This conviction, as well as 57 others, is a result of a probe by a little-known federal task force set up in 2002 to look into Indianapolis' long rash of real estate scams.

To read more, see Cop gets 57 months for fraud, as reported at (The Indianapolis Star).

Former Indianapolis patrolman gets 57 months for fraud, report by WAVE Channel 3

Former Indianapolis patrolman gets 57 months for fraud, Associated Press wire report at The News-Sentinel at

revised 1-19-07 (4:11 p.m.)


"Shotgunning" is the term used to identify one of the latest real estate frauds that one industry insider refers to as "the fraud of the year." This scam comes in two forms. To read more, see How mortgage scams snare unsuspecting sellers, reported at

Another Land Flipper Sentenced To Federal Prison

A Massachusetts man was sentenced yesterday in federal court in Sprigfield, Massachusetts for his role in a land flipping and mortgage fraud scam. According to prosecutors, the scam involved drawing in unwitting buyers with realty investment opportunities without the need for any downpayments, promising them money back at the real estate closing, and generating false documentation to induce mortgage lenders to approve loans. Also involved in the conspiracy were real estate appraisers who provided false property appraisals to support the loan amounts for the artificially inflated property values, and attorneys who generated false and fraudulent real estate closing documentation to facilitate and conceal the fraud.

To read more, see Wilbraham Man Sentenced to Prison for Role in Multi-Million Dollar Mortgage Fraud Reports U.S. Attorney, as reported at

For a previous report on this story, click here for Real estate fraud case nets prison, confinement.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Indiana Mortgage Fraud Prosecution Reaches Conclusion

The last of ten criminal defendants in a local mortgage fraud case was sentenced in Indianapolis Federal Court Wednesday to 57 months in prison. The fraud was an illegal flipping scam involving over 40 properties.

To read more, see FRAUD: Final sentence delivered, as reported in the Marion Chronicle Tribune at (Grant County, Indiana).

To read other reports involving this prosecution, see:


Two Equity Skimmers Sentenced To Federal Prison

Two Utah men accused of ripping off tenants, distressed homeowners, and lenders in an equity skimming operation have each received a one year sentence in federal prison Tuesday afternoon.

The operation was exposed by local Salt Lake City Channel 2 investigative reporter Bill Gephardt just over three years ago.

The reporter poses a question that all prospective tenants and financially strapped homeowners should ask themselves in order to avoid getting sucked into an equity skimming operation:

  • "If you give your rent to a landlord, are you sure the landlord owns the property? Or, if you're a distressed homeowner, would you trust someone's promise that they'll take over all the payments, and allow you to walk away from your debt? It's the basis of equity skimming."
To read more, see Get Gephardt: Equity Skimming Crooks Sentenced, as reported at the KUTV Channel 2 website,

Click here to watch/listen to Bill Gephardt's Channel 2 report.

To read an earlier Channel 2 report, see Two Utah Men Accused Of Rental Fraud.

Almost 3500 Register Under Colorado's Morgtage Brokers Registration Act

Colorado's Morgtage Brokers Registration Act, a new state law which took effect Jan. 1, has already had almost 3500 people register under its terms and has barred 10 people from registering as mortgage brokers.

At least 500 more applications were waiting for the completion of the statutorily mandated criminal background checks.

Legislators passed this new law with the view to prevent the frauds associated with real estate scams, predatory lending, and foreclosures.

To read more, see Mortgage broker law already bars 10 people, at

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Atlanta Trial of 12 In Alleged Flipping Scheme Begins

A trial of twelve defendants accused of engaging in a "straw buyer" mortgage fraud using a flipping scheme involving over 300 homes and condos in metro Atlanta began yesterday in Atlanta Federal Court. The trial, crowded with the twelve defendants and their attorneys, was described as resembling a "business seminar."

Click here to read the full story as reported by the Atlanta Journal Constitution at

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Baltimore Woman Unwittingly Signs Over Home Title, Gets It Back After Fraud Investigation

In this 2006 story, a Baltimore area woman, struggling with cancer and mounting medical bills, was strapped for cash and facing foreclosure. In an attempt to save her Middle River, Maryland home and get some money to pay her medical bills, she entered into a transaction with a company (that turned out to be a local foreclosure rescue operator) whereby she thought she was signing for a home equity loan but, in fact, was signing away her home. Ultimately, the company gave the house back after a year long ordeal and following a state department of labor licensing and regulation investigation.

'There are so many people who are cash-poor but equity-rich in their homes,' said Phillip R. Robinson, a consumer protection attorney and executive director of Civil Justice Inc., a network of solo, small firm and community based lawyers in Baltimore that handles predatory real estate cases in Maryland & Washington, D.C. (as well as provide services for local attorneys).

Attorney Michael Morin, who represented the victim, reportedly stated that the mortgage fraud in the area has gotten to the point that he's seeing 'hobby con artists,' people doing it in their spare time.

Sources for this story:

Woman Unknowingly Sells Her House (5-24-06; Channel 11 / Baltimore)
Woman Gets Home Back After Fraud Investigation (9-25-06; Channel 11 / Baltimore - read story and watch/listen to video)
State warns of foreclosure 'consultants' (9-26-06; Baltimore Sun)
Foreclosure Rescue Fraud Prevention Slide Show

Additional Resources:

Click here for new Maryland law regulating foreclosure rescue purchasers & consultants ( see Subtitle 3 - Protection of Homeowners in Foreclosure)

Click here to find Maryland consumer protection attorneys who are members of the National Association of Consumer Advocates (NACA).

Click here to find Maryland Non-Profit Legal Services Providers.

Click here for Maryland's Peoples Law Library (legal & self help information).

Mortgage Fraud Increasing, Reports FBI

New FBI statistics indicate a continuing increasing trend in mortgage fraud cases. Reportedly, the FBI had 938 pending mortgage-fraud investigations as of early January, compared with 818 at the end of September and 721 in September 2005. The bureau also estimates that the actual number of cases was closer to 36,000 for the year ended Sept. 30, compared with 22,000 the previous year.

To read more, see this New York Times article, appearing in The Detroit News online presence,

Monday, January 15, 2007

Theft Of Client Funds Concerns Connecticut Bar Association

A report published yesterday in The Advocate (Stamford / Fairfield County, Connecticut) discusses what staff writer John Nickerson describes as a "[a] spate of attorney arrests and convictions for stealing client funds in the area and across [Connecticut]".

Two officials, working together "to determine why up to $20 million in client funds have been misappropriated statewide over the past three years" describe it as "the middle-aged white guy scenario" since many of the approximately 20 Connecticut attorneys alleged to have stolen money from their clients over the last couple of years fit that description.

Included in the list of specific incidents detailed by this article are:

  • a case of an attorney, hired by a husband & wife to protect their interests while they refinanced their existing mortgage, who never paid off the original loan when the money came in (to read more, see 2003 Grievance Committee Decision).

Reportedly, the Connecticut state legislature will be considering a law this year requiring that attorneys who hold money for clients be bonded.

One official stated, "few clients have been taken to the cleaners by their lawyers in part because of the Connecticut Client Security fund set up in 1999. The account, which has paid out more than $7 million in claims since its inception, is funded by each lawyer practicing in the state."

As should be obvious (and as pointed out in this article), all attorneys should not be "painted with the same brush" (readers of this blog know that the property owners in the equitable mortgage cases reported on recently were only able to get their unfortunate transactions voided through the effective representation of competent legal counsel). Additionally, in many states, non-attorneys are allowed to conduct real estate closings and handle the exchange of money; a homeowner's home sale proceeds are no less at risk in these cases.

To read the entire article, see:

Thefts have bar seeking new reforms

Click here for other blog posts on theft of home sale proceeds.

theft of home sale proceeds

Predatory Mortgage Servicing Destroying The American Dream?

(revised 3-11-07)
Predatory Mortgage Servicing is one type of home equity theft that seems to be flying under the radar. A May, 2005 report titled Private Property Rights Deferred: Has Predatory Mortgage Servicing Destroyed the American Dream has found that mortgage servicing fraud and abuse by unscrupulous mortgage companies and their agents is stripping working families of home equity and, in certain instances, pushing homeowners into foreclosure because of the failure to properly account for monthly mortgage payments in favor of excessive fee income.
To read more on this report, by Rawle Andrews Jr., Esq., and Leroy Jones, Jr., JD of the law firm of Andrews & Bowe, PLLP:

  1. Private Property Rights Deferred: Has Predatory Mortgage Servicing Destroyed the American Dream
  2. The Seven (7) Deadly Signs of Predatory Servicing
  3. Five Stages of Foreclosure Fraud
  4. Stark v. EMC Mortgage (a case that details the egregious conduct committed by one mortgage servicing company against homeowners)
  5. Congrtaualtory Letter from Congressman John Conyers (D-Mi.)

Go here , go here , and go here for posts on questionable mortgage servicing practices. questionable mortgage servicing practices tactics zebra

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Atlanta Area Attorneys Comment On Predatory Lending

Howard Rothbloom, a Marietta, Georgia bankruptcy and consumer protection attorney (click here for website) and Atlanta area consumer protection attorney Bill Brennan, a predatory lending expert with the Atlanta Legal Aid Society comment about predatory lending in Georgia in an article appearing in Creative Loafing Atlanta.

To read the entire article, see:

Sharks patrol these waters
(Predatory lenders prey on the weak while Georgia consumer laws remain shallow)

Click here for a list of Georgia consumer protection attorneys who are mebers of the National Association of Consumer Advocates (NACA).

Click here for low cost Legal Aid Service Providers in Georgia.

Tree Trimmer Caught Clipping Customers, Pleads No Contest

In this 2004-2005 story, an unlicensed Northern California landscaper pleaded guilty to embezzling 3.1 million from five mostly elderly customers, four of whom took out multiple mortgages on their homes to invest money with him and were ultimately left facing foreclosure.

According to authorities, they suspected this scam artist of using his landscaping business as a front to get acquainted with his victims, establish trust with them, and then seek out their money to invest in a side business he had, talking at least four of them into borrrowing money against their home equity and "invest" it with him in exchange for a promise that he would keep up the payments on the loans.

Reportedly, when the arrest was initially made, police alleged that there were at least ten victims who were scammed, but the media reports indicated that some of them were ashamed and embarrassed to talk about it with investigators.

To read the media reports on this story, see:

Businessman faces prison for embezzling $3.1M from elderly - Silicon Valley/San Jose Business Journal (5-27-05)

Sheriff's deputies arrest Saratoga man, charge him with elder fraud - Saratoga News (11-3-04)

Landscaper is accused of clipping seniors - San Francisco Chronicle at (10-29-04)

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