Saturday, December 15, 2007

Unaffordable House Payments, Homeowners Seeking Insurance Cash Arouse Arson Fears, Say Some Industry Players

Realty Times reports:
  • Insurance fraud investigators say they are bracing for an outbreak of home arsons set by cash-strapped homeowners looking for insurance money to escape from foreclosure. [...] The Coalition Against Insurance Fraud says the illegal tactic is not new, but the coalition fears current market conditions could trigger a home-based arson outbreak beyond normal levels. [...] "I don't believe that it's had time to ripple through the market yet to the point that many people have reached the point of desperation, but I absolutely think it's coming" says Alex Ahart, a fire investigator with EFI Global, an insurance claims investigator.

For more, see Burning Down The House.

For other stories on fires & foreclosures, go here and go here. foreclosure arson yak

Minneapolis-Area Cops Busy Busting Grow House Ops

In Minnesota, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports:
  • Hennepin County narcotics officers are busting more home-grown marijuana operations -- sometimes in upscale suburbs. One reason for increased home production is the decreased flow of high-grade pot from Canada since border controls tightened up after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, said Sheriff Rich Stanek. Another factor is more indoor cultivation of higher-grade marijuana that's is up to six times more potent than that sold years ago, he said. Higher potency raises dealer profits and also may increase addictiveness, a drug expert said.

For more, see Marijuana growers tend potent kind of pot.

See also, Big Money, Violence Behind Minneapolis Marijuana (Hennepin County Sheriff's statistics on marijuana busts, trends) ("Local marijuana grow operations and related violent crimes are on the rise in the Minneapolis metro, according to Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek." - My Fox TV Channel 9; 12-11-07).


For the kinds of health and safety concerns arising from using homes to cultivate marijuana, not to mention the kind of damage such operations can inflict on a home, see Beware Of Homes Used As Indoor Pot Farms & Meth Labs.

Go here and go here for other posts on Marijuana Grow Houses. pot grow ops alpha

The Invisible Legacy Left In Homes Used As Meth Labs

A People magazine article published in 2005 described the hazards awaiting subsequent owners/occupants of homes once used as labs to manufacture methamphetamine. The article tells the story of three families and their experiences with contaminated homes that they unwittingly purchased and moved into. The cost to the families' health and finances, and in one case, the stress that may have led to a failed marriage, are described in some detail.

For more, see Homes Toxic Home (Buyers Beware: Owners of homes once used as methamphetamine labs are having health problems -- and sometimes going broke trying to clean up their toxic houses) (no longer available online).

For links to more on meth labs from the FLDFS, see:
  • Are you living next to a ticking time bomb? (links to articles & press releases on meth labs), (no longer available online),
  • Methamphetamine Videos (links to videos made available by the FLDFS).

For a related post, see Beware Of Homes Used As Indoor Pot Farms & Meth Labs.

Go here for some methamphetamine information resources.

Go here and go here for other posts on home based meth labs. meth lab zeta

NAR Field Guide To Meth Labs

The National Association Of Realtors ("NAR"), through its Information Central, has compiled a list of useful links to media reports and other sources from around the country that deal with the hazards of meth labs and the real estate used to house them. Links to articles describing the growing epidemic and warning signs, as well as articles describing issues related to property management, disclosure, and decontamination are included. Although the links to some of the media reports have expired, the remaining links provide ample information for those interested in the subject. For more, see Field Guide to Meth Labs (NAR's Information Central).

Go here for some methamphetamine information resources.

Go here and go here for other posts on home based meth labs. meth lab zeta

Alleged "Dope Hotel" Evacuated Upon Meth Lab Discovery On Premises

In Orlando, Florida, WFTV Channel 9 reported in October:
  • Orlando police broke up a potentially explosive meth lab at a local hotel. [...] Investigators said a maid and a security team at the Vacation Lodge led officers to the operation ... . "This hotel is the biggest dope hotel in the city of Orlando. It caters only to druggies, drug addicts and prostitutes," said Greg May, an Orlando resident.

For the story, see Maid Leads Police To Meth Lab At Orlando Hotel; or go here to watch the WFTV video report.

See also, Meth Lab Found In Orlando Hotel ("A meth lab was located at an Orlando hotel, [...] forcing officials to evacuate the facility") (WKMG-TV Channel 6, Orlando).

Go here for some methamphetamine information resources.

Go here and go here for other posts on home based meth labs. meth lab zeta

Friday, December 14, 2007

Minneapolis-Area Non-Profits To Receive Funding For "Tenant Rights" Counseling For Renters Facing "Foreclosure Eviction"

In Hennepin County, Minnesota, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports:
  • Concerned that home foreclosures are displacing renters who don't know their rights, the Hennepin County Board moved Tuesday to boost resources to help renters stay in foreclosed homes as long as possible and prevent empty houses from becoming targets for vandals.

  • The board gave preliminary approval for $70,000 in new county funding to go to three nonprofits that counsel renters on their rights. That money will be matched by state money from the Family Housing Fund, a nonprofit group that works to ensure affordable housing in the seven-county metropolitan area. It follows a county investment of $300,000 earlier this year to counsel homeowners who face possible foreclosure.

  • "There is no silver bullet ... but this is an attempt to balance the help we've already given to homeowners," said county Commissioner Gail Dorfman.

For more, see Some help for renters caught up in foreclosures (Looking to keep people in homes, the Hennepin County Board supports money for groups advising on their leasing rights). equity skimming unwittingly gamma

Foreclosure Frustration Hitting Renters Throughout South Florida

In Miami, Florida, CBS4 reports:

  • When Tamara Rutter moved into her new downtown apartment, she couldn't wait. "We we're so excited," said Rutter. "It was our first place together." But things quickly changed with a knock on her door. "She handed me over a huge stack of papers and said you are being foreclosed on," said Rutter. Tamara may have seen it coming if she owned a condo, but she rents. It was shocking for her.

  • What happened to her is happening across South Florida. Despite rents paid on time, landlords can't afford the mortgage, often double what they are renting for. Tamara had 60 days to move out while they foreclosed. She held back rent, in essence getting her deposit back.

For more, see Renters Beware, Foreclosures May Affect You Too. To watch the CBS4 video coverage, see Foreclosures: Not Even Tenants Are Safe.

For other posts involving rent skimming landlords who pocket rent and allow homes to go into foreclosure, see Tenants Unwittingly Renting Homes In Foreclosure I , II , III , and IV.

Go here for other posts related to the Miami condo market problem. equity skimming unwittingly gamma

Utah Feds Indict Six In Cash Back Flipping Scam; Straw Buyers Include Local TV Sports Anchor

According to several Utah media reports:
  • Six Utah residents have been indicted by a federal grand jury on charges they conspired in what prosecutors are calling a mortgage fraud scheme that totaled at least $18 million in fraudulent loans. [This week] a federal grand jury returned a 15-count indictment against six residents, charging them with counts of wire fraud, mail fraud and conspiracy to commit a crime.


  • The alleged fraud involved entering false sales prices in the Multiple Listing Service, then using the exaggerated figures to support inflated appraisals of other properties in the affluent River Bottoms area. The defendants used straw buyers to flip five residences in the neighborhood, according to the indictment, and kept the difference between the home loan and the actual value of the properties.

Charged in the indictment are: David R. Bolick, 51, owner of Home Owners Group (H.O.G.) and Paragon Investment Group L.L.P., Bradley Grant Kitchen, 40, who allegedly participated in real estate transactions with H.O.G. and Paragon, Steve Wells Cloward, 40, a licensed real estate appraiser with Express Appraisal, Ron K. Clarke, 40, a licensed real estate agent, and Jeffery David Garrett, 43, and Rebecca Ann Hadlock, 31, both of whom are escrow officers with Precision Title Co.

Reportedly, three lower-level participants have copped plea deals in state court and have agreed to cooperate with prosecutors. Among those cooperating is KUTV Channel 2 sports anchor/reporter Dave Fox, who pleaded guilty in September for his participation in the operation as a straw buyer. For more, see:

Curbing Elder Financial Abuse Through Required Reporting To Authorities

The fifth in a series of editorials by the Contra Costa Times (Northern California) on elder financial abuse focuses on a California state law, which became effective in January, 2007, which requires reporting of suspected elder financial abuse in certain cases:
  • [The Financial Elder Abuse Reporting Act] requires all employees of financial institutions - banks, credit unions and savings and loans - to contact the police department or Adult Protective Services if they suspect that an elderly person is a victim of financial abuse. Those who fail to do so face fines of up to $5,000. Financial institution employees now join other so-called mandated reporters who often come into contact with elderly people and are in a position to detect hidden abuse. They include health care workers, state and county employees, nursing home staff, clergy, and law enforcement.


  • When it comes to elder financial abuse, financial institutions are often the scene of the crime. Brazen elder predators have been known to march seniors up to the teller window in their pajamas. Our financial institutions are an important early warning system for detecting elder abuse. Their employees can spot unusual activity on an elderly customer's account, such as a $150,000 wire transfer going to a foreign lottery, or a $135,000 check written to an accountant for a bogus tax bill.
  • California law makes it easy for financial institution employees to do the right thing. They don't even have to worry about getting in trouble if they make an honest mistake. They can't be prosecuted unless they knowingly make a false claim. No one's asking tellers to play detective, only to report in a timely manner by telephone or in writing possible crimes occurring before their very eyes.
The editorial includes the story of one 82 year-old widower who (prior to the new law becoming effective) was in the process of having his bank accounts at four financial institutions cleaned out by a scam artist when, because of the actions of alert employees at one of the institutions, an ex-felon's elaborate scheme to steal everything that the elderly man owned was foiled. It turns out that the predator had also set himself up to inherit the widower's $400,000 home and annuities worth $200,000. He's now in prison, serving a 10-year sentence for elder theft.

For more, see Theft of Elder Nation: An editorial series (Requiring reporting) (may require free registration).

Go here for all posts and links to this Contra Costa Times editorial series on elder financial abuse.

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

Thursday, December 13, 2007

New Freddie Video Dramatizes Foreclosure Rescue, Equity Stripping Scam

Freddie Mac announces:

  • Can a custom made video posted to YouTube keep troubled borrowers from losing their homes to fraud artists? Freddie Mac aims to find out.

  • One of the nation's largest investors in residential mortgages, Freddie Mac decided to produce an Internet video dramatizing a common foreclosure fraud scheme after a new survey found one in four delinquent borrowers go to the Internet before their bank or lender for information about avoiding foreclosure. Freddie Mac's anti-fraud video can be found at

For more from Freddie's press release, see Foreclosure Fraud: Freddie Mac Warns Borrowers with Video Dramatization on YouTube.

For Freddie's description of two common mortgage schemes, equity stripping and cash back scams, see Avoiding Mortgage Fraud.

Go here for links to other YouTube mortgage fraud videos.

Use Of Consumer Attorneys To Unwind Predatory Loans

An article in California Progress Report by San Francisco-based civil rights attorney and journalist Michele Magar focuses on the important role played by consumer attorneys in providing legal assistance to those homeowners who find themselves under the burden of predatory loans, and the importance of increasing the ranks of consumer attorneys to take on predatory cases, as descibed in the following excerpts:

  • Federal and state laws which offer statutory attorneys’ fees enable attorneys to help desperate homeowners restructure abusive loans into sustainable ones, rescind predatory mortgages altogether, and battle foreclosure rescue scams. Homeowners will have to rely on consumer attorneys in small firms because big firms often represent lenders.

  • Under the federal Truth In Lending Act ["TILA"] (15 U.S.C. §§1601 et seq.), a homeowner may rescind a non-purchase loan secured by her primary residence (home equity and improvement loans and refi’s) for up to three years if her lender did not adequately disclose the terms of the loan, or the right to cancel the loan for three business days after the closing. “Ninety percent of loan documents I see have blank three-day rescission notices or contain other TILA violations,” said Dan Mulligan, a San Francisco attorney [with the firm Jenkins Mulligan & Gabriel LLP] who specializes in helping homeowners fight abusive loans. “A simple TILA rescission claim demand letter takes about four to six months to resolve, while lawsuits take 9 to 15 months, depending on the court’s backlog and how much of a fight the defense mounts.”

  • Sorting out winnable cases is not hard to do, but lawyers have to work on contingency or rely on statutory attorneys fees because typically clients have no money to pay up front to hire lawyers,” said Shirley Hochhausen. Hochhausen teaches a predatory lending clinic at the University of San Francisco School of Law and is co-counseling 36 cases with private practitioners via the Fair Lending Consortium, a Bay area group she organized to develop predatory lending expertise among private attorneys.

  • One way for attorneys to get familiar with this type of practice is to use our services for their first case or two, they can learn a lot in a short time and use it build a new practice area,” says John Van Alst, an attorney in NCLC's [the National Consumer Law Center] Washington, D.C. office.

  • For attorneys who lack the resources to purchase manuals and hire consultants, Van Alst recommends co-counseling with legal aid attorneys. Most legal aid offices own the NCLC manuals, and are always in search of private attorneys to co-counsel cases both to increase the pool of attorneys available to help homeowners and also because federal regulations bar them from seeking attorneys fees. By co-counseling with private attorneys, legal aid lawyers can exert the same pressure to negotiate that private attorneys use: the persuasion of ever-increasing billable hours on statutory fee cases.
For more, see Right Now, Consumer Attorneys May Be the Best Hope for Californians Stuck in Predatory Loans.

For stories on consumer attorneys representing homeowners saddled with predatory home loans in a refinancing transaction, see Using Truth In Lending Act To Undo Bad Mortgage Loans. undo mortgage loans TILA alpha

Elder Financial Abuse & The General Power Of Attorney: A License To Steal That Needs To Be Revoked?

The fourth in a series of editorials by the Contra Costa Times (Northern California) on elder financial abuse focuses on a legal document known as a General Power of Attorney, the ease with which it can be obtained and used to fleece a vulnerable senior citizen by an unscrupulous individual, and the need to reform the laws that regulate the use of this document. Excerpts from the editorial:
  • A general power of attorney gives one person control over another's assets, including money, stocks, real estate, pensions, family heirlooms and anything else of value. In the right hands, it's a valuable estate planning tool. In the wrong hands, it is a financial lethal weapon.


  • The California Power of Attorney Act [begins at Section 4000 of the California Probate Code] was meant to ease the burden on families caring for elderly relatives unable to handle their own affairs. It allows them to quickly tap a senior's bank accounts to pay for his needs and to manage his financial affairs. The problem is that the lack of regulatory oversight has left the door open for rampant abuses. Any scoundrel can coerce an easily influenced elderly person into signing a power of attorney.

  • Once this powerful document is in hand, the abuser is off to the races. A power of attorney is the key to the treasure chest. It's amazing, really, how easy it is to get a document that gives almost instant access to everything someone else owns. The form can be downloaded off the Internet or purchased at any stationery store. You don't need a lawyer. It doesn't have to be reviewed by any government agency. Power of attorney forms are not recorded anywhere.

The point is made that while the law regulates the conduct of the holder of the power of attorney, the problem is that there is one making sure that the holder is following the law. Awareness of any ongoing ripoff of the senior usually occurs when the damage can no longer be mitigated.

For more, see Theft of Elder Nation: An editorial series (State needs to revoke theft license) (may require free registration).

Go here for all posts and links to this Contra Costa Times editorial series on elder financial abuse.

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

Chicago-Area Condo Developers Unable To Unload Inventory; Now Facing Foreclosure

In Illinois, Crain's Chicago Business recently filed two reports:

1- LaSalle files foreclosure suit against Lincoln Park condo project:
  • LaSalle Bank [a Chicago-based subsidiary of Bank of America Corp.] has filed a foreclosure lawsuit to collect $5.33 million on a past-due loan for a 41-unit condominium project at a prominent Lincoln Park intersection, one of the larger foreclosures this year. [...] Called the Ashton Lofts, the mixed-used development ... was scheduled to begin delivering units to buyers in spring 2006. According to a review of property records, only 14 of the 41 condos have sold – with the first closing March 20, 2007. The Ashton Lofts Web site lists 23 units available, priced from $330,900 to $569,900, suggesting another four may have been sold or are under contract.

2- $10-mil. foreclosure suit filed on Hillside condo project:

  • Fifth Third Bank Chicago has filed a foreclosure lawsuit to collect $10.17 million on a past-due loan for a 46-unit condominium project [a six-story building called Blue Stem] in west suburban Hillside, one of the largest foreclosure cases this year in the Chicago area. [...] A review of property records showed that only 11 of the 46 units had sold, with the first closing on May 14, 2007. This summer, in an effort to spark sales, JSG put 25 Blue Stem units up for auction, hiring Oak Brook-based Inland Real Estate Auctions Inc. It's unclear how many units were sold in the auction.

Law Enforcement Attitude Changing Towards Condo Directors' Alleged Financial Improprieties?

In South Florida, the South Florida Sun Sentinel reports:
  • Lisa Magill, an attorney who represents condo and homeowner associations, had evidence three years ago that directors in a Pompano Beach-area condo stole $178,000. She reported it to police but "I couldn't get past step one," she said. It's a civil matter, they told her. Attitudes are changing. In Broward County alone, three court cases against former association directors, managers and employees charging fraud or misuse of owners' money are scheduled to be heard between Dec. 20 and Jan. 24. "Now, there seemingly is a willingness on the part of law enforcement agencies and prosecutors to recognize that these cases aren't dogs, that they are real crimes like anything else," said Magill, president of the Southeast Florida chapter of the Community Associations Institute.
For more, see Police target thieves in condo, homeowner associations.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Another Ohio Judge Halts Home Foreclosure; Lender Lacked Proof Of Ownership

In Hamilton County, Ohio, The Enquirer (Cincinnati) reports:

  • [A] Hamilton County Common Pleas Court judge ruled that Wells Fargo Bank couldn't foreclose on [ a couple's] North College Hill home because its lawyers didn't prove that Wells Fargo was the legal owner of the mortgage.

  • The judge said the foreclosure lawsuit was filed before Wells Fargo owned the mortgage - thus, the suit was premature. The ruling - the first of its kind by a state court judge in Ohio since the subprime mortgage crisis erupted this year - could have profound implications on how foreclosures are handled in Ohio, which leads the nation in the percentage of mortgages in foreclosure. The local ruling comes as three federal court judges - in Cleveland, Dayton and Columbus - have issued similar opinions in foreclosure cases in the last month.


  • The [legal] issue [involved] is known as the "real party in interest" rule, which says that a plaintiff must prove that it has a stake in a lawsuit in order to file it. As millions of subprime mortgages are sold and resold on Wall Street, the real "party in interest" isn't always obvious. Often, the holder of the mortgage note - the legal document that gives a lender the right to take someone's home for not making loan payments - is different from the servicing company, or the bank that takes the mortgage payments.


  • "It is troubling that the plaintiff has filed this case before it had any interest in it," Hamilton County Common Pleas Judge Steven E. Martin said in a letter to Wells Fargo's lawyer. Martin then took the unusual step of ordering that the bank's law firm must file proof that its clients actually own the mortgages before filing any new foreclosure actions in Hamilton County. That firm, The Law Offices of John D. Clunk, based in Hudson, Ohio - is the third-largest filer of foreclosure actions in Hamilton County, with 48 properties scheduled for foreclosure sales in the next six weeks.

For more, see Judge halts foreclosures (Says banks must prove they hold mortgages) (if link expires, try here).

For other posts that reference the failure of some mortgage lenders and their attorneys to file the required loan documents when starting foreclosures, Go Here, Go Here, Go Here and Go Here.


Question for Attorneys:

Assume that there have already been foreclosure sales that have taken place (in which homeowners have already lost their homes) where the party initiating the foreclosure was not the "real party in interest" and the judge didn't catch the error.

  1. Wouldn't the fact that the wrong party brought the foreclosure action make the final judgment in the case "void?"
  2. If the judgment is void, doesn't that make everything that happened in the case after the judgment (including the actual foreclosure sale) void as well?
  3. If the foreclosure sale in a situation like this is void, doesn't that mean that the purchaser at the foreclosure sale (and any subsequent purchaser - even a so-called "bona fide purchaser for value") acquired no title whatsoever, and that title to the home is technically still with the financially strapped homeowner (even though he or she may not realize it - yet)?
  4. If the answer to all of the above is "Yes," isn't there a significant problem with the real estate titles involving all these foreclosed homes in which the wrong party (one other than the "real party in interest") brought the foreclosure action?

If any attorney wants to substantively chime in on these questions (especially consumer and real estate attorneys, as well as attorneys with or representing title insurance companies), please feel free to drop me a line at I would love to hear the observations. missing mortgage foreclosure docs alpha

Early Involvement Critical In Avoiding Financial Elder Abuse

The third in a series of editorials by the Contra Costa Times (Northern California) on elder financial abuse focuses on the importance of staying involved when the care of a loved one is turned over to a caretaker and being proactive when detecting signs of caretaker abuse. The following excerpts summarize the events, detailed in the editorial, that occurred when one woman hired what turned out to be the wrong caretaker for her 83 year old uncle:
  • CARMEN PAREDES SEEMED like such a sweet, friendly person. "You just never would have suspected it," said Kathleen Whittaker, who hired the Peruvian native in 1998 to help take care of her 83-year-old uncle, William Fowler. The "it" is one of the worst cases of elder financial abuse in Contra Costa County history. During 2 1/2 years, the $10-an-hour caretaker siphoned more than $600,000 away from the El Cerrito widower. Paredes, 59, pleaded no contest to felony elder abuse and tax evasion in March 2004. She was sentenced to three years' probation. She got no prison time, although the judge could have given her as many as nine years. Her two adult sons and a daughter also were implicated in the scheme. They were convicted of misdemeanors. Obviously, the law in this area is far from robust.


  • Whittaker says her greatest regret is that she didn't get more aggressively involved. "My purpose now," she said, "is to publicize what happened to my uncle as a warning to others."

For more, see Theft of Elder Nation: An editorial series: (Getting involved early is critical).

For links to the other editorials in this series, see Elder Financial Abuse Flying Under The Radar?

Go here for all posts on this Contra Costa Times editorial series on elder financial abuse.

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

Ex-Bank Manager's Alleged $1M+ Theft From 90+ Year Old Customer & Attempted Bank Coverup Results In Federal Indictment

In Hawaii, according to various reports:

Hawaii’s U.S. Attorney Ed Kubo recently announced the indictment of Marilyn DeMotta, 41, a former operations manager at American Savings Bank accused by a bank security manager in 2004 of stealing more than $1 million from 90+ year old bank customer Ada Lim. The alleged ripoff, which included the proceeds from the sale of the victim's investment property, reportedly left the victim penniless.

Upon discovering the theft, bank security manager Bert Corniel pushed for the bank’s senior management to aggressively pursue an investigation into DeMotta and to reimburse Lim the full amount that was stolen. Instead, the bank's management told Corniel to keep his mouth shut, and subsequently engaged in a coverup to make it look like the stolen money was really a loan from the 90+ year old victim to DeMotta.

One report describes what ocurred next:
  • DeMotta picked up three bank employees from the legal and human resources departments and took them to meet with Lim. Bank general counsel Stanley Chong, who suggested the meeting, went along in hopes that Lim would sign a statement saying she had in fact lent DeMotta the money. With big smiles, and candy and flowers in hand, the four bank employees arrived at Lim’s home with the release. She signed it.

  • [Bank security manager] Corniel filed a complaint with the FBI in 2005 saying DeMotta alleged stole more than $1 million from Lim between 2003 and 2005. It was his report that triggered a federal investigation by four federal agencies. Corniel was fired from the bank in June 2006. Corniel filed a lawsuit on Aug. 2, 2006, ..., alleging that he was fired in retaliation for blowing the whistle on the cover-up of DeMotta’s theft by the bank’s top senior officials.
On the same day Corniel filed his civil lawsuit against the bank, the 90+ year old victim filed her own civil lawsuit against American Savings for the theft of the money. While initially denying the allegations in both civil lawsuits, American Savings ultimately settled both cases, reportedly for more than $1 million each. The bank executives who played some part in the alleged scheme have since left American Savings.

The criminal indictment, handed up on Nov. 15, 2007, was kept under seal until DeMotta could be located and apprehended in Las Vegas, Nevada, where she has a home.

The 90+ year old victim still owes nearly $500,000 in back taxes and penalties for the sale of the investment property that DeMotta was supposed to have paid out of the sale proceeds, and at this point, has no way to pay the government. Federal officials would not comment on whether other bank officials will be charged in this case, and would only say the investigation involving four federal agencies is ongoing.

For more, see:

Investigator Fired For Pushing Probe Into Bogus Loans & Refusing To Participate In Bank Coverup, Says Lawsuit

In North Carolina, The Charlotte Observer reports:
  • BB&T, North Carolina's third-largest bank, vigorously denied charges Friday that a former internal investigator for the company was fired for refusing to participate in the coverup of a $20 million loan fraud. Amy Stroupe, who filed a lawsuit against the company [last] week, said she was fired for pursuing an investigation of more than 120 fraudulent real estate loans. The loans were connected to a failed development in Western North Carolina known as the Village of Penland that left investors owing banks about $120 million.
  • Stroupe, a former sheriff's detective who was hired in 2005, was fired June 20. She alleged in her suit that she pushed her investigation of Penland because many of the loan applications used the same loan officer, appraiser, attorney and picture of what appeared to be the same mountain lot. The lots were often appraised for more than market value and sold to people who had never visited the site or met the loan officer, the suit said.

For more, see BB&T denies unfair firing (if link expires, try here).

Representing Amy Stroupe in her lawsuit is attorney John Yanchunis, with the law firm James, Hoyer, Newcomer & Smiljanich PA., Tampa, Florida. (According to their website, the firm has a nationwide practice handling whistleblower cases, and consumer cases, - including mortgage servicing problem cases - among other cases.)


The lawsuit referred to in this story is the second reported within a month alleging BB&T Bank's involvement in a sophisticated fraud in connection with the Village of Penland project. For the earlier story, see 2 N.C. banks accused in fraud suit (Investors owe millions of dollars on N.C. mountain property worth much less) (The Charlotte Observer).

For background information on the souring of the Village of Penland project that left investors holding the bag, see The Wall Street Journal article, 'I Feel Like an Idiot' (Land Project Gone Wrong Shows How Even Well-Off Lured By Go-Go Climate) (May be a free article; if not, try here).

Go here for other posts on the Village of Penland.

Go here for other posts on whistleblower suits involving alleged fraudulent mortgage lending practices. Tony Porter

World Savings, Wachovia Sued Again For TILA Violations; Class Action Status Sought

In Charleston, South Carolina, The Charelston Post and Courier recently reported:

  • A Berkeley County homeowner is suing her mortgage lender in federal court, claiming she was sold a risky loan with a low teaser interest rate but was not told how the payments would increase over time or how the loan actually worked. Bonnie Mincey of Hanahan said in court papers that in May she refinanced her home and entered into an adjustable rate mortgage called an "Option ARM."
  • The suit was filed Nov. 16 in U.S. District Court in Charleston and names as defendants World Savings Bank FSB of Oakland, Calif., and Golden West Financial Corp. and Wachovia Corp., both of Charlotte. [...] Her attorney, Daniel O. Myers, said Tuesday he believes his client is not alone. He is looking to expand the case to other Option ARM borrowers by seeking class-action status.


  • The lawsuit alleges the defendants violated the federal Truth in Lending Act ["TILA"] by failing to "clearly or accurately disclose the terms of the Option ARM loan" and provided conflicting interest rates when describing the costs of the loan.

Representing the homeowner is attorney Daniel O. Myers with the law firm Richardson, Patrick, Westbrook & Brickman LLC, with offices in Mount Pleasant, Charleston, and Barnwell, South Carolina.

For more, see Mortgage lender named in lawsuit.

To read the lawsuit, see Complaint - Mincey v. World Savings Bank, et al.; or go here for direct link to the lawsuit on the PACER system (21 pages @ $.08/page; PACER registration required),


For a story on another Federal lawsuit filed by a homeowner against Wachovia and World Savings in a California Federal Court, see Homeowner Files Suit Against Wachovia, World Savings For Deceptive "Option ARMs"; Seeks Class Action Status.

Go here for more posts on homeowners who have refinanced into bad mortgage loans and are now using the Federal TILA to try and undo bad loans. undo mortgage loans TILA alpha

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Former Self-Proclaimed "Law & Order" NY Judge Gets 33 Months For Laundering Mob Money

On Long Island, New York, The New York Law Journal recently reported:
  • A former Nassau County judge who admitted to laundering money for mobsters and dealing in "stolen" diamonds was sentenced [last month] to 33 months in prison. David A. Gross, who was elected a district judge in 1999, billed himself as a "law and order" judge and showed no visible emotion as Eastern District of New York [Federal] Judge Arthur D. Spatt handed down the sentence and admonished the disgraced judge for abusing the public's trust.

For more, see Ex-Judge Sentenced to 33 Months for Money Laundering Scheme.

Go here for other posts on judges and their "judicial misjudgments". naughty judges

Pennsylvania Contractor Cops Plea; Admits Taking Customers' Cash, Not Completing Work

In Lehigh County, Pennsylvania, The Allentown Morning Call recently reported:
  • A Nazareth contractor who defrauded nine customers of almost $119,000 through construction companies that he ran pleaded guilty [last month] to two felony counts of fraudulent or deceptive business practices. Robert P. Westwood, 38, who operated Quality Construction and R&C Contracting in Nazareth, admitting taking money from customers and not starting or completing projects.

For more, see Home repair fraud is admitted (Allentown woman lost most, among Nazareth contractor's 9 victims).

Exotic Dancer "Strips" Lenders Of $4.9M In Twin Cities Straw Buyer Scam

In Minneapolis, Minnesota, the Pioneer Press reports on Monday's announcement of the 25-count complaint of racketeering and theft by swindle against Universal Mortgage Inc. of Brooklyn Park, company president Donald Walthall, loan officers Marlon Pratt, Rahmeen Underwood and Andre Bellfield, and Cleveland Fields:
  • The stripper was buying houses like crazy. On Jan. 13, 2006, Irene Thomas, then a 22-year-old exotic dancer in St. Cloud, bought a $275,000 three-bedroom home in the Willard-Hay neighborhood in Minneapolis. Over the next three months, she went on a home-buying spree, picking up nine more houses - including one in St. Paul - at sale prices totaling more than $2.1 million.

For more, see Mortgage scheme stripped lenders of $4.9 million (Brooklyn Park firm, employees charged in mortgage fraud).

Go here for other posts on the alleged Universal Mortgage straw buyer, home flipping scams.

25 Count Criminal Complaint Announced In Alleged Twin Cities Mortgage Fraud

In Hennepin County, Minnesota, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports:
  • Five people have been charged in a $4.9 million mortgage fraud case involving at least 24 homes in Minneapolis and Golden Valley. Hennepin County Attorney Michael Freeman announced on Monday the 25-count complaint of racketeering and theft by swindle against Universal Mortgage Inc. of Brooklyn Park. Also facing those charges are Universal President Donald Walthall, loan officers Marlon Pratt, Rahmeen Underwood and Andre Bellfield, and Cleveland Fields, an alleged recruiter of straw buyers.


  • All but one of the properties involved are located in Minneapolis; the other is in Golden Valley. All but one wound up in foreclosure, he said. The other was given back to the bank. Freeman said that Universal came to the attention of his investigators last summer when the Star Tribune detailed the experiences of straw buyers who purchased homes through Universal. He said he doesn't plan to prosecute the straw buyers, calling them naive customers who were duped into buying properties for far more than they were worth.

For more, see 5 charged in $4.9 million mortgage fraud (The defendants, connected to Universal Mortgage Inc. of Brooklyn Park, are accused in a scheme involving 24 homes).

For other reports of the announcement by authorities of this mortgage fraud prosecution, see:

Go here for other posts on the alleged Universal Mortgage straw buyer, home flipping scams.

Minnesota AG Files Suit Against Upfront Fee Foreclosure Rescue Operators

Upfont fee foreclosure rescue operators Foreclosure Assistance Solutions, LLC of Florida and American Housing Authority, Inc. are being targeted it again. This time, its the Minnesota Attorney General's office on the attack, filing separtate civil lawsuits against each. Excerpts from the Minnesota AG Press Release announcing the suits:
  • Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson [last Thursday] filed two separate lawsuits in Hennepin County District Court against two out-of-state companies that charged homeowners in foreclosure up to $1,395 to save their homes but failed to provide the promised assistance in helping the borrowers to retain home ownership.


  • The first suit is against Foreclosure Assistance Solutions, LLC of Florida, which has also done business under the names FAS and Mortgage Second Chance. The second suit is against American Housing Authority, Inc. and American Housing Financial, Inc. of Nevada.

For more, see Minnesota AG Press Release - Swanson Sues Two Out-Of-State Mortgage "Foreclosure Consultants" For Charging Fees But Not Delivering Promised Services (Suit Alleges Violation of 2004 Law that Prohibits Foreclosure Consultants From Charging Fees Before Services are Performed ).

Go here for more problems for Foreclosure Assistance Solutions ; and here for more problems for American Housing Authority.

Foreclosure Rescue Operators Alive & Well In Tennessee

A recent article in The Tennessean shows that the State of Tennessee is not immune to foreclosure rescue schemes. The Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands reports that it gets about five to 10 calls a week from financially strapped homeowners relating to foreclosure rescue programs. The article recounts the experience of one homeowner facing foreclosure with Nashville-area foreclosure rescue operator Mark Haining. For more, see Foreclosures inspire surge in home-rescue scams (if link expires, try here).

For more on equity stripping scams, generally, see DREAMS FORECLOSED: The Rampant Theft of Americans' Homes Through Equity-stripping Foreclosure 'Rescue' Scams (4.61 MB approx.).

Monday, December 10, 2007

Lincoln Contractor Pleas "No Contest" On Charges Of Stiffing Homeowners

In Lincoln, Nebraska, the Lincoln Journal Star recently reported:
  • A local contractor pleaded no contest ... to felony counts of theft by deception arising from allegations he charged homeowners for work he either failed to do or to complete. Scott A. Davis, 37, could be ordered to serve a maximum of 30 years in prison at his sentencing hearing Dec. 13 in Lancaster County District Court. Davis pleaded no contest to two counts of felony theft by deception and, in a separate case, he admitted to violating the conditions of his probation in an earlier prosecution. As a result of the violation, Davis will also be sentenced on a theft by deception charge arising from the earlier case.

For more, see Contractor pleads no contest to theft.

Editor's Note: At one time not all that long ago, many cops would take the position that, as long as the contractor started the work he/she was hired for before skipping out on a homeowner, such a circumstance was only a civil matter, not a criminal matter, and would refuse to even take a complaint. More recently, however, it appears that it is becoming more common for police agencies to use a criminal charge of theft by deception to prosecute cases - even where work was actually commenced by the contractor but not completed.

Boneheaded Judge Booted Off Bench After Jailing 46 People In Cell Phone Incident

In upstate New York, The Associated Press recently reported on an incident that occurred in the courtroom of now ex-Niagara Falls City Court Judge Robert Restaino:
  • A judge who jailed 46 people who were in his courtroom when a cell phone call interrupted proceedings was removed from the bench [last month] by a state commission. [...] A phone rang while Restaino was hearing the cases of domestic violence offenders who had been ordered to appear weekly to update the judge on the progress of their counseling. A sign in the courthouse warns that cell phones and pagers must be turned off.

  • "Everyone is going to jail," Restaino said. "Every single person is going to jail in this courtroom unless I get that instrument now. If anybody believes I'm kidding, ask some of the folks that have been here for a while. You are all going." When no one came forward, Restaino ordered the group into custody, and they were taken to jail, where they were searched and packed into crowded cells. Fourteen people who could not post bail were shackled and bused to another jail.

For more, see Judge Removed Over Cell Phone Jailing (NY Judge Bounced From Bench for Jailing 46 People Over Ringing Cell Phone).

Go here for other stories on knuckleheaded judges. naughty judges

New Hampshire Woman Cops Plea To Swiping Sale Proceeds Of Mother's Home

In Moultonborough, New Hampshire, The Union Leader reported last week:
  • A woman who stole $75,000 from her mother, who was being cared for at a Laconia nursing home, has been sentenced to nine months in jail. Attorney General Kelly Ayotte said Candy Latour, 38, of Moultonborough, was sentenced by a Belknap County Superior Court judge [Wednesday] in a case that was prosecuted by the New Hampshire Department of Justice's Medicaid Fraud Unit. [...] An investigation revealed that the defendant had control over proceeds from the sale of the victim's house, as well as access to the victim's bank account, and had diverted the funds to her own use.

For more, see Woman sentenced for bilking mother.

See also, Moultonborough woman sentenced in thefts from mother (Laconia Citizen).

Borrowers Often Unaware Of Long Term Implications Of Getting A Reverse Mortgage

Considerations that need addressing when getting a reverse mortgage were recently covered in an article in The Age. An excerpt from the story:

  • Many older people find themselves asset rich but cash poor and releasing some of that home equity can be appealing. However, a recent Australian Securities and Investments Commission study of consumers' experiences with reverse mortgages found that the upfront benefits are obvious but borrowers were often unaware of the longer-term implications of their loans.
For more on these implications, see ASIC warns on reverse mortgages.

Go here for more on Reverse Mortgage Issues / Problems. zebra

Elder Financial Abuse Flying Under The Radar?

Elder financial abuse is the subject of an editorial series in the Contra Costa Times (Northern California). The first column in the series discusses the problems that vulnerable senior citizens face as a result of shameless predators seeking them out, many times actually befriending them, for the purpose of fleecing them of their homes and money. The following excerpts include two of the anectdotes cited in the column as examples of the types of cases that may be widespread but not getting needed attention from lawmakers, law enforcement, or the press:

  • An ex-convict who works at an Antioch car wash "befriends" an 82-year-old customer with dementia. Over time, he not only persuades the World War II veteran to give him more than $300,000 in cash and annuities, but he also gets the elderly man to change his will making him sole beneficiary.

  • An East Palo Alto woman takes out a $200,000 loan on her 92-year-old grandmother's house without her knowledge. She leaves the wheelchair-bound senior alone in a house full of rats while she goes on a $75,000 shopping spree -- buying herself a champagne-colored Hummer. After her arrest, she gets a mortgage broker to bring her loan documents in jail so she can take out another $400,000 loan on her grandmother's house.

For the seven editorials in the series (may require free registration), see:

  1. Endangered Seniors (Elder financial abuse has become a hidden national epidemic) (12-9-07),
  2. Theft of Elder Nation: An editorial series (Elder court is crucial) (12-10-07) (The focus is on Alameda County's Elder Protection Court in Oakland, California - reportedly "the only court in the country that handles civil and criminal complaints involving elderly victims in the same central location."),
  3. Theft of Elder Nation: An editorial series (Getting involved early is critical) (12-11-07),
  4. Theft of Elder Nation: An editorial series (State needs to revoke theft license) (12-12-07),
  5. Theft of Elder Nation: An editorial series (Requiring reporting) (12-13-07),
  6. Theft of Elder Nation: An editorial series (Place legal curbs on 'rescue' practice) (12-14-07),
  7. Theft of Elder Nation: An editorial series (Close legal loopholes on persuasion) (12-15-07),
  8. It's time for strong action against elder abuse (12-31-07).

For more on the Elder Protection Court, see KTVU Channel 2 report, Alameda Court Takes Aim At Elder Abuse; or here to watch the KTVU video report.

Go here for all posts on this Contra Costa Times editorial series on elder financial abuse.

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

Florida Mortgage Broker, Closing Agent Sentenced In Equity Stripping / Home Improvement Scam Targeting Seniors

Tthe North Country Gazette reports that Hillsborough County, Florida resident and mortgage broker Michael Danish (10 years in prison, 20 years probation) and title insurance agency owner Donna Whitlock (probation) were sentenced for their roles in a home improvement / equity stripping scam that targeted the elderly. The story reports:
  • Michael Danish was involved in a mortgage fraud scheme that victimized more than 20 individuals who were looking to use home mortgages to purchase air conditioning systems. [...] According to the investigation, Danish frequently obtained mortgages in amounts exceeding the homeowners’ requests, even obtaining some loans of which the homeowners were completely unaware. He also collected third-party checks which were required to be paid out of the loan proceeds and converted the funds to his own use, leaving many homeowners’ bills unpaid. Danish fraudulently obtained over $400,000 from more than 20 victims, many of whom were senior citizens.


  • Whitlock [owner of Bay Point Title, Inc.] allowed Danish to close loans outside of her office and notarized the signatures without the signees being present.

Danish pleaded guilty to aggravated white collar crime, failure to disburse funds in accordance with agreements and notary fraud. Whitlock pleaded guilty to notary fraud. Both are liable for the entire amount of restitution ordered by the court. For more, see Florida Broker Pleads Guilty To Fraud.

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

More Twin Cities Mortgage Fraud Charges Coming

In Minnesota, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports:
  • Two suspects in the growing number of Twin Cities mortgage fraud investigations have been arrested on suspicion of racketeering and theft by swindle. Donald L. Walthall, 40, of Anoka, and Rahmeen D. Underwood, 30, of Minnetonka, were arrested Friday. Walthall is the owner of Universal Mortgage Inc., a Brooklyn Park brokerage company that allegedly used straw buyers to buy property at inflated prices, and Underwood is a loan officer. The men, both released from custody, couldn’t be reached Saturday to comment. The Hennepin County attorney’s office is expected to announce criminal charges Monday afternoon in what has become a widening mortgage fraud investigation involving hundreds of properties.


  • Property records showed that Universal has been at the center of a web of transactions where a small group of investors, including several Universal employees, bought rental properties and quickly resold many at above-market prices.

For more, see 2 arrested in widening mortgage fraud scheme (Charges are expected Monday in the case involving straw buyers for hundreds of Twin Cites properties).

Go here for other posts on the alleged Universal Mortgage straw buyer, home flipping scams.

Permitted "Piggybacks" Fed Freddie's Portfolio Risk

The Washington Post reported last Friday:
  • For a glimpse of the risks that infected the mortgage business in recent years, consider a small slice of what happened at Freddie Mac, the giant home-loan investor chartered by the government to bring stability to the housing market. Before the era of easy credit, home buyers were ordinarily required to come up with down payments, which gave them an equity stake in their property. That equity reduces the danger of foreclosure, and federal law prohibits Freddie Mac from buying mortgages that cover more than 80 percent of a home's value -- unless the loan comes with a safety net, such as an insurance policy that would kick in if the borrower defaults. However, in recent years, Freddie Mac permitted home buyers to borrow all or part of the remaining 20 percent by using second loans, called "piggyback" loans, with no safety net.


  • The purchase of piggyback loans is one of many factors that has left Freddie Mac exposed to potentially larger losses as a nationwide debt bubble deflates. The McLean company turns out to have been more vulnerable to a downturn in housing prices than it appeared.

For more, see 'Piggyback' Loans Allowed by Freddie Fed Mortgage Risks (multiple pages); go here for the one-page "Print" version).

Another Homeowner Facing Foreclosure Despite Making All Mortgage Payments

In New Port Richey, Florida, WTSP-TV Channel 10 reported last week:
  • [Nadine] Knowles can't understand how she is losing her home despite making mortgage payments of $812.90 to Litton Mortgage every month. Knowles' certified bank statement shows the checks were cashed, but the company says she defaulted. "It just doesn't add up," Knowles says.

  • Knowles believes her problems started after her initial mortgage on the house was sold to another mortgage company. The new company started an escrow account for her taxes and insurance, even though Knowles has proof she has already bought and paid for insurance and paid the taxes. [...] But it did no good when Knowles came to Pasco Court and showed the judge she had proof that she had made her payments and it had been deducted from her account. The judge issued an order that her home be sold on the courthouse steps.

For more, see Woman makes payments, but faces foreclosure. Go here to watch the WTSP-TV Channel 10 coverage.

Go here for a story of a Maryland family who lost home to foreclosure despite making all the mortgage payments.

Go here for other posts on other lender screw ups. ForeclosureLockOuts

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Georgia Chief Justice Violates State Ethics Rules; Fined $3,100

In Atlanta, Georgia, The Associated Press reported late last month:
  • Georgia's top judge has agreed to pay $3,100 in fines for violating state ethics laws. Chief Justice Leah Ward Sears will pay the sum from her own wallet, not her campaign coffers, as part of a pair of consent orders approved by the state Ethics Commission [late last month]. Sears was facing ethics complaints from her 2004 re-election campaign. They alleged that the state's first female chief justice accepted contributions exceeding the state's $5,000 legal limit, including one $20,000 donation from a law firm. Sears also acknowledged misreporting some campaign finance information as part of Thursday's consent order.

Source: Chief Justice Agrees To Ethics Fine.

Go here for posts on other knuckleheaded members of our esteemed judiciary. naughty judges

Florida Man Charged In Alleged Home Repair Scam That Defrauded Six Seniors

In Florida, the Daytona Beach News-Journal reported recently:
  • An Ocala man accused of promising home repairs in east Volusia County, then disappearing with homeowners' deposits, was arrested ... by the State Attorney's Office. Timothy W. Gladden, 52, systematically defrauded six elderly Volusia County residents by promising home repairs that were never made after collecting thousands of dollars, according to the charging affidavit. All of the victims, who were at least 70 years old, were given a "free inspection" of their homes between late September and mid-October, the affidavit states. Gladden then presented a list of recommended repairs he offered to fix for a fee. Gladden collected just under $20,000 from his victims.

For more, see Ocala man charged in home repair scam.

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

1031 Exchange Intermediary Under Fire; Facing Accusations Of Pocketing $160M Of Clients' Cash

The Miami Herald recently ran a story on Edward Okun, the owner of 1031 Exchange Group, a company in the business of holding, in trust, the money of investors wanting to defer their tax bills on sales of investment real estate. The story describes the hot water he finds himself in for allegedly misappropriating millions in those funds that were held in trust. An excerpt from the story:
  • The flashy 59-year-old businessman amassed a reported personal fortune of $659 million -- with all the trappings: a 130-foot yacht, a fleet of luxury cars, a helicopter and several private jets. But the empire Okun built is now unraveling amid a federal investigation, lawsuits and claims by hundreds of investors who say they were fleeced of $160 million in one of the largest business collapses of its kind.

For more, see Miami Beach investor accused of misspending $160 million (A Miami Beach businessman is accused of squandering $160 million from investors. He signed an agreement that let him keep his two multimillion-dollar homes).

Go here for other posts on Edward Okun.

Go here for other posts on problems with 1031 exchange intermediaries. sneaky slick escrow agents beta

Cops I.D. Eight More Victims In Norfolk Home Repair Scam Targeting Seniors

In Norfolk, Virginia, The Virginian-Pilot reports:
  • Police on Friday identified eight additional victims of a local home repair scam, and said there may be more who have yet to come forward. Police say the scam involved a man and a woman approaching elderly residents and telling them that their homes had water or termite damage, according to a news release. The couple required the residents to pay up front by check. Then they cashed it and disappeared, police said.

  • On Nov. 30, police announced the arrest of two people in connection with the crime. Timothy Shawn Levine, 31, ..., and Keaton Taylor, 28, ..., both were charged with two felony counts of obtaining money by false pretenses and conspiracy to commit a felony.

Source: Norfolk police identify eight more victims of home repair scam.

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

Orlando Cops Bust Local Woman Running Meth Lab Out Of Her Home

In Orlando, Florida, WFTV Channel 9 reports:

  • Orlando police shut down a meth lab Friday. Cops described the operation as big and dangerous. The extensive operation was found in a residential neighborhood [in downtown Orlando]. Police said neighbors are lucky no one was hurt from the lab for two reasons. Firstly, it's a duplex and the fumes could have come through the ducts and affected the people who live next door. Second, police said, the lab easily could have exploded, putting the whole block at risk. [...] The next step is to call Code Enforcement. Investigators said the house is contaminated, but the state can't legally take control of it.

For more, see Meth Lab Bust Near Downtown Orlando Is City's Largest.

For WFTV Channel 9 video report, see Woman Arrested After Police Find Orlando Meth Lab.

For a post related to meth labs, generally, see Beware Of Homes Used As Indoor Pot Farms & Meth Labs.

Go here for some methamphetamine information resources.

Go here and go here for other posts on home based meth labs. meth lab zeta

More Fires Linked To Copper Thefts, Say Firefighters

In Cincinnati, Ohio, WKRC-TV Channel 12 reported last month:

  • A dangerous trend emerges as more thieves break into homes to steal copper. Firefighters, particularly on Cincinnati's West Side, say those thieves are starting more fires. In some cases, firefighters say copper thieves are starting fires on purpose, sometimes it's accidental. But regardless, it's often very close to homes where neighbors may not be aware of the danger next door.


  • "[T]hey'll either sometimes set the fire to cover up the theft or in trying to remove the copper say with a torch, they may start a fire," said Anson Turley, District 3 Fire Chief.
    Firefighters say usually vacant houses are the targets. Whether the fires are deliberately set, or accidental, the risk some copper thieves are posing to neighbors is real. [...] Firefighters are asking people fixing up homes to make sure they're secure, especially at night. They're also urging people who live next door to vacant homes to keep a close eye on them.
Local firefighters also say the damage associated with copper theft is escalating. In one recent case, thieves caused $500 in damage for just $10 worth of metal.

For other stories on stolen copper, see Copper Thefts I and Copper Thefts II. copper metal theft yak

Copper Thefts In Vacant / Unoccupied Homes

Recent copper theft stories from vacant or unoccupied homes:

Chicago, Illinois: Copper pipe stolen from home ($2,000 copper theft discovered when home seller was giving the home's new owners a tour of the property),

Syracuse, New York: Police investigate three copper pipe thefts ($1,500 pipe theft from home under construction; similar theft at vacant home; basement break-in, stolen pipe results in damaged furnace),

Woodbury, Connecticut: Copper pipes stolen from Woodbury home (Out of town woman who owns a local home found nasty surprise - someone broke in through basement door and stole her plumbing),

Ross County, Ohio: Police blotter (Vacant home broken into and copper pipe was reported stolen from basement of one home; 75 feet of copper tubing was stolen from another home),

Canton, Ohio: Two arrested in vacant house with copper wire, police say (Canton police arrested two men in a vacant house alongside rolls of copper wire, electrical outlets, a hammer, crow bar and wire cutters. Someone saw men enter vacant home & called cops to report the men were “smashing up the place”),

Antioch, California: Police Log (Man found vacant rental house vandalized, with the compressor and copper lines removed from refrigerator),

Hawkins County, Tennessee: Copper theft victim offers reward (Hawkins County detectives are investigating two copper burglaries. One victim's vacant rental property was robbed of its wiring. In another, daughter of out-of state owner discovers copper theft and associated damage when she stopped by to check on unoccupied home),

Crafton, Pennsylvania: Police blotter (Copper pipe was stolen Nov. 20 from the basement of a vacant home. A basement door was forced open; Police Log: Copper pipe stolen from vacant home - in another incident, both copper pipe and the water meter were stolen from a vacant home on Nov. 28 - the piping is valued at $200),

Dearborn, Michigan: Resident alerts police to suspects in Orchard copper theft (Aware of reports that copper had been stolen from vacant homes in the area, a local resident contacted cops when she saw two men wearing DTE vests and carrying a meter approach an unoccupied home and attempt to enter it. Police responded and apprehended two men while they were in the basement of the home. Officers said the men later admitted to involvement in other copper thefts in the area),

Tuscaloosa, Alabama: Police blotter (Kitchen sink and copper tubing were taken from a vacant house),

Hillsdale, Michigan: Brown Introduces bill aimed at stopping copper theft (Copper thefts widely reported in Hillsdale County. Victims include owners of seasonal and vacant properties; buildings under construction. Thefts have included plumbing materials as well as lines run from propane tanks to structures).

For other stories on stolen copper, see Copper Thefts I and Copper Thefts II. copper metal theft yak

Cops Arrest Indiana Woman Facing Foreclosure In Alleged Attempt To Torch Home, Pocket Insurance Cash

In Putnam County, Indiana, WRTV Channel 6 reports:
  • A Putnam County woman asked a neighbor to burn her house and help her blame someone they would allege tried to rape her, the county prosecutor said. Authorities alleged Christina Snyder, 31, concocted the scheme so she could collect insurance money. Snyder was arrested after the neighbor told police of the plot and that she offered him $5,000 to participate, authorities said. Snyder was charged with attempted arson, attempted insurance fraud and conspiracy to commit arson, 6News' Jack Rinehart reported.

  • According to court records, a bank had filed for a mortgage foreclosure on Snyder's rural home.

For more, see Police: Woman Planned To Burn Home, Allege Rape (Authorities: She Wanted Insurance Money, Asked Neighbor To Help).

Go here to watch the WRTV Channel 6 video report.

For other stories on fires & foreclosures, go here and go here. foreclosure arson yak

Florida Attorney Gets 15 Years For $13.5M Client Ripoff

In Miami, Florida, the North Country Gazette reports:
  • Former Miami-attorney Louis S. Robles has been sentenced to 15 years in prison and ordered to pay $13.5 million in restitution to the victims of his offenses after pleading guilty of three counts of mail fraud in connection with his misappropriation of settlement monies from clients afflicted with asbestos-related injuries and illnesses.

U.S. Attorney R. Alexander Acosta, whose office prosecuted the case, said:

  • Attorney Louis Robles abused the special trust that his clients placed in him. Robles sought out clients who were dying and cheated them out of millions of dollars, so that he could finance his own extravagant lifestyle. We hope that today’s sentence and court-ordered restitution will alleviate some of the suffering he caused to asbestos victims and their families."

For more, see Asbestos Attorney Robles Imprisoned For Client Ripoff.

For the U.S. Attorney press release, see Former Miami Attorney Sentenced To 15 Years For Misappropriating $13.5 Million In Client Settlement Money.

If a Florida attorney is representing you and screws you out of money or property through dishonest conduct, go to The Florida Bar's Clients' Security Fund for more information.

For other states, see: