Saturday, May 24, 2008

Rockland County Fire In Vacant Home In Foreclosure Under Investigation

In Haverstraw, New York, The Journal News reports:
  • Investigators were looking into what caused a fire at a vacant Warren Avenue house yesterday morning. The house had recently been the subject of a foreclosure action, officials said. The 1:25 a.m. blaze at 2 Warren Ave. was quickly put out by Haverstraw and West Haverstraw firefighters. No one was injured during the emergency, police said. A neighbor reported the fire and told police that people were staying inside the vacant building, Lt. Martin Lund said.

For more, see Vacant house fire under investigation in Haverstraw.

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

South Carolina Woman Guilty In Failed "Torch Home In Foreclosure" Insurance Scam

In Chester County, South Carolina, The Rock Hill Herald reports:
  • A 60-year-old Rock Hill woman has been sentenced to five years probation after a Chester County jury Wednesday found her guilty of arson and presenting false claims for payment after a house fire in 2004, according to a spokesman for the S.C. Attorney General’s office. Brenda J. Gallman, 60, of 122 N. Confederate Ave., was found guilty of setting fire to her home that was going into foreclosure in Chester County in May 2004, then filing a claim on her homeowner’s insurance policy the following day, according to a written release from Mark Plowden, spokesman for the Attorney General’s office that prosecuted Gallman.

Source: Rock Hill Woman Found Guilty in Chester County Arson Case.

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

Tampa Woman Charged With Torching Home In Foreclosure

In Florida, The Tampa Tribune reports:
  • Investigators say Mia Gayshonne Dix was in trouble. The 37-year-old had been fired from her job. Her car had been repossessed. Her home was in foreclosure. So when the house at 3807 N. Highland Ave. caught fire in December, suspicion arose. Dix, who filed an insurance claim on the home in February, was arrested Monday on arson and fraud charges after an investigation on behalf of the insurance company, according to her arrest report.

Source: Tampa Woman Charged With Arson Involving Home In Foreclosure.

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

Foreclosure Eviction Results In Discovery Of Mini Marijuana Grow House

In Chicago, Illinois, WBBM Radio 780 reports:
  • Officers on the scene to evict a Chicago man ended up arresting him after finding a room “filled with growing marijuana plants.” Cook County Sheriff’s police arrived at 4548 S. Prairie Ave. to evict 35-year-old Arkey Washington for mortgage foreclosure, according to the Cook County Sheriff’s department. [...] Aside from finding an unloaded handgun on the floor and “two large containers of marijuana” which appeared to be packaged for street sale, officers found a bedroom containing a “sophisticated marijuana growing operation,” the release said. [...] The Sheriff’s police seized all of the drugs and the gun, and estimate the street value of the marijuana to be about $60,000.

For the story, see Eviction Attempt Finds a Garden of Marijuana.

Go here and go here for other posts on Marijuana Grow Houses.

Go here for other posts on Police involvement in foreclosures. SheriffDeputiesForeclosureAlpha pot grow ops beta

Abandoned "Triple Decker" Goes Up In Smoke; Latest In Rash Of New Bedford Vacant, Foreclosed House Fires

In New Bedford, Massachusetts, The Standard Times recently reported:

  • Fire, police and EMS personnel responded to a fire at 20 Roosevelt St. in the city's South End just after midnight, working to extinguish a fire on the second floor of a triple-decker.

  • A call came in at 12:03 a.m. reporting the fire. Four engines and two ladder trucks responded. The blaze, according to fire officials, was extinguished within an hour and a half, and the last piece of equipment left Roosevelt Street at 1:45 a.m. A police officer at the scene indicated that the home was abandoned. The city has seen a rash of fires in abandoned and foreclosed structures over a span of several weeks.

Source: Fire in South End damages apparent abandoned triple-decker.

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

Tucson Pet Pastor Gets Boot As Animal Cemetary Lost In Foreclosure

In Tucson, Arizona, the Arizona Daily Star reports:
  • The longtime operator of Tucson's pet cemetery was evicted from the North Side property Tuesday. Darla Norrish said disagreements with her investors led to the foreclosure of The Pet Cemetery of Tucson, 5720 E. Glenn St. The investors, Slivy Edmonds Cotton and Patricia Taylor, bought the 4-acre property Tuesday at a foreclosure sale through their business, Portico LLM Enterprises. Norrish no longer is involved with the cemetery, but said "my ministry for the animals will continue, perhaps just in a different venue."

For more, see Pet pastor evicted by new owners of Tucson's only pet cemetery.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Southwest Florida Cops Call For Help On Local Foreclosure Problem

In Southwest Florida, The News Press reports:
  • Collier County sheriff's officials say they need the help of the community - civic associations, property owners and banks - to clean up foreclosed, abandoned homes that are potential blights on neighborhoods and magnets for crime. Authorities face a similar situation in Lehigh Acres, where more than 220 houses under construction are abandoned and 623 foreclosures were filed in April. Juveniles and adults squat in the buildings, vandalize and steal construction materials, Lee County sheriff's Capt. Ed Tamayo said.


  • The result, if something isn't done, is the collapse of entire neighborhoods, he said. That's because abandoned homes, [Collier Undersheriff Kevin] Rambosk said, spawn crime, including vandalism, burglaries, thefts and indoor marijuana growing operations.

For more, see Foreclosed properties worry sheriffs' offices. neighborhood destruction from foreclosures zach

Michigan Governor Signs Law Offering Protection For Servicemembers Under Threat Of Foreclosure

In Michigan, WEYI-TV Channel 25 reports:
  • Governor Jennifer M. Granholm [Wednesday] signed a bill that protects military service members from the threat of mortgage foreclosure. The bill prevents foreclosure on future home purchases for six months after the end of an owner’s military service. [...] Public Act 138 amends the Revised Judicature Act by allowing a court to issue a stay on mortgage foreclosure proceedings for six months after the end of the individual’s military service. Under the new law, mortgage servicers who attempt to sell or foreclose real estate that has received a stay from the court could be subject to a $2,000 civil fine.


  • This new law is just the latest action in the Granholm administration’s efforts to help protect military members when they return home to Michigan from service. Last month, the Governor signed a bill that guarantees citizens who serve on active duty in the armed forces or National Guard the opportunity to get their jobs back upon their return from duty. The legislation allows qualified military personnel to file civil actions against employers if they are denied reemployment.

For more, see Mortgage foreclosure protection.

Go here for posts on the Federal statute offering similar protection under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act.

Cincinnati Woman Sues Lawyer For Leaving Her Holding The Bag On Real Estate Investment; Prosecutors Investigate

In Ohio, the Dayton Daily News reports:
  • The Warren County prosecutor's and the Ohio attorney general's offices are investigating claims by a woman who says a lawyer duped her into buying houses worth almost $5 million that she has never lived in and cannot afford. Authorities are reviewing Francisca Webster's purchase of two houses built for Homearama shows in the Long Cove subdivision in Deerfield Twp. and another in the River's Bend subdivision in South Lebanon. Webster, a Cincinnati resident, is suing lawyer Eric Duke in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court because he misled her about the house purchases, her attorney Ron Parry said.

  • "When she took her tax papers to Duke in 2006, she told him she had gotten some bad news, that her job was going to be phased out," Parry said. "He told her he knew of a way she could make some money, that he had a real estate hedge fund and if she would help him out, and buy some properties, that there would be some money in it for her to pay her bills."

For more, see Lawyer tricked me into buying 3 houses worth $5 million, woman says.

Austin Man Leaves Longtime Friend/Straw Buyer & Tenant Holding The Bag In Dubious Deal

In Austin, Texas, KXAN-TV reports:
  • In 2006, Reggie Allen bought a home at 2000 Short Summer Drive for $178,400, partly because he thought it would be a good investment and partly to help a friend. [...] Allen claims his longtime friend convinced him to use his good credit in March 2006 to purchase the Northeast Austin home. His friend's wife, Lynn Harper-Armstrong, would be responsible for leasing the property, collecting rent, and paying the mortgage. In return, Allen and a co-buyer, Penny Coles, would split $3,000 at closing.


  • Coles purchased a total of three homes under a written agreement with Harper-Armstrong. [...] The agreement stated Harper would be responsible for keeping the mortgage account current at all times. But 17 months after closing on 2000 Short Summer Drive, the mortgage company informed both Coles and Allen received notices that no payments had been made.

For more, see Home deal leaves investors facing foreclosure (no longer available online).

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Philly Foreclosures Of Owner Occupied Homes Postponed Again Until At Least September

In Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, The Court of Common Pleas for Philadelphia County has ordered (May 15, 2008) that the sheriff's sale of all owner occupied homes (as opposed to non- owner occupied homes) in foreclosure originally scheduled to be sold in June and July have been postponed until the Sheriff Sales scheduled for September and October, respectively, in order that the Conciliation Conference required pursuant to President Judge General Court Regulation No. 2008-01 can be held. The cancellations are made as part of the recently passed Residential Mortgage Foreclosure Diversion Pilot Program.

In the event foreclosing mortgage lenders certify that a home in foreclosure is not owner occupied (which would thereby allow a scheduled home foreclosure sale to continue) when in fact the home is owner occupied, a certification/objection procedure is provided and contained in Exhibit C of the court order for owner-occupying homeowners to use to file with the court their objections to their mortgage lenders' certifications.

Homeowner objections are to be filed on or before May 29, 2008 for the properties listed for sale on June 3, 2008 and on or before June 23, 2008 for the properties listed for sale July 1, 2008.

Go here to read the entire May 15, 2008 court order for more information.

Go here for other posts on the Philadelphia foreclosure diversion program.

Thanks to attorney Donald Marritz of Regional Housing Legal Services in Pennsylvania for the heads up on the most recent court order. diversion program

Legal Aid Groups To Testify Today At Senate Hearing

In Washington, D.C., The BLT: The Blog Of Legal Times reports:

For more, see Legal Aid Experts to Testify Today in Congress.

Go here for links to the testimony of each witness.

Go here for webcast of hearing.

Congressional Hearings Begin On Blameless Victims Of Foreclosure Crisis

In Washington, D.C., The Wall Street Journal Blog reports:
  • Rep. Dennis Kucinich began the first of two days of hearings to call attention to the “largely unrecognized … and totally blameless victim — neighborhoods.” The Ohio Democrat and former Cleveland mayor heard made the case that concerns about creating a moral hazard — or rewarding risky behavior — were countered by the fact that neighborhoods weren’t at fault for the impending foreclosure boom.

For more, see Kucinich: Neighborhoods Are Blameless ‘Victims’ in Subprime Crisis.

See also, The Talk Radio News Service: Foreclosure crisis is leaving neighborhoods in ruins.

"Chairman Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) said that “when foreclosure leads to vacant and abandoned properties, surrounding neighborhoods and local municipalities suffer significant consequences.” Kucinich said these include:

  • falling neighborhood-wide property values,
  • equity loss,
  • decreased rental availability,
  • lowered business rates for merchants,
  • increased crime from arson and vandalism,
  • increased building and demolition costs,
  • increased legal expenses and reliance on governmental service programs, and
  • loss of tax revenue.

Kucinich called the neighborhoods “totally blameless” victims of the crisis who “had nothing to do with the transactions that resulted in the subprime mortgage meltdown.”"

Go here and go here for other posts on vacant homes leaving its mark on neighborhoods. neighborhood destruction from foreclosures zach

Foreclosure Crisis A Factor In Turmoil For School Districts, Students?

The Wall Street Journal reports:
  • Some school districts, hoping to control costs and prevent overcrowding, are intensifying efforts to make sure students actually live where they are registered. Districts from Florida to California are hiring private investigators, creating anonymous tip lines and imposing penalties when they believe people have registered at false addresses. The measures often are spurred by parents who feel they pay a premium in property taxes to get their children into good schools.


  • One reason for the crackdown is the rise in home foreclosures, which may prod parents into faking addresses to keep their children at their current schools, some in the field say. "Foreclosure rates are up. Displacement is up. People are becoming homeless," says William Beitler, a private investigator specializing in address verification for school districts in the Chicago area.


  • For families facing foreclosure, avoiding a school change is often a priority. "For us, it was huge," said Mike Bertrand, a 36-year-old father of two in Newbury Park, Calif. [...] Carmela Sanchez is desperately trying to hang on to her house so her daughters, 11 and 16, can stay in their Highland Park, Ill., schools and keep up their ballet training. [...] The bank has said she can stay in the house until at least the end of the year. If she can't work out new loan terms with her bank, she figures, she'll have to pull the kids out of school and move somewhere less expensive. "I'm petrified it will affect them," she says. "They've been through enough."

For more, see School Districts Get Tough As Home Foreclosures Rise (if link is unavailable, go here - then click link for the story; you may also have to click the "Refresh" button on the web page to get to the story).

Another Unfinished Neighborhood, More Frustrated Homeowners

In North Texas, WFAA-TV Channel 8 (Dallas/Fort Worth) reports:
  • [T]he mortgage crisis has hit the Princeton subdivision hard. Two bare slabs are right next to each other, both with foreclosure signs in the yard. Neighbors there say there is a lot of unfinished work that needs to be done.


  • The housing crisis has hit hard on subdivisions like Princeton Meadows and Forrest Grove. There are overgrown lots, abandoned homes, and angry homeowners. What really frustrates neighbors is that they are paying hundreds of dollars in fees for an unfinished neighborhood. “We give them money, and what do they do? What are they doing with our money? I don’t know,” said Gayle Wargo, homeowner.

For more, see Homeowners upset over unfinished neighborhood.

Two Year Old Found In Abandoned Building Warding Off Squatters, Thieves

In New Bedford, Massachusetts, The Standard Times reports:
  • Nicole Amaral thought she was hallucinating when she saw a dog peeking out of the second story of a dilapidated building on Coggeshall Street. But the 11-year-old animal lover got her mother to stop the car. Sure enough, a dog was there, barking out a window. The family called Animal Control. They weren't the first to notice the dog. New Bedford Animal Control officers said they have gotten several calls about Berta, a 2-year-old German shepherd that has been kept at the house to ward off squatters and thieves since the building was destroyed by arson less than a year ago. The house is uninhabitable by humans, but the rules are different for dogs. "As long as (the owner) provides shelter, food and water" for the dog, it is allowed to stay in the house, Animal Control Officer Mary Ellen Barlow said. She assured concerned neighbors that the dog is well cared for. "He's in good shape," she said.
Source: German shepherd guards New Bedford house hit by arson.

Kansas Homeowner Fights Back Against Option One With Video

A video appearing on is the work of a Kansas homeowner, and reflects the negative experience she had with H&R Block's subsidiary, Option One Mortgage Corporation, in connection with a home mortgage that she had with them. Creating the video is part of her fight against the companies. To watch the video, check out "Predator."

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

City Of Baltimore, Wells Fargo Slug It Out In Federal Court

In Baltimore, Maryland, The Baltimore Sun reports:
  • In the latest accusation over who's to blame for hundreds of home foreclosures, city attorneys filed a motion last night in federal court saying that Wells Fargo Bank's actions are far more devious than the city's and that the court should force the lending institution to pay the city millions of dollars in lost revenue.

  • The city and Wells Fargo have each blamed each other for the mortgage crisis: First, Baltimore said Wells Fargo Bank was responsible for hundreds of home mortgage foreclosures. Then, the bank shot back with allegations that the city forecloses on many more homeowners through its own tax lien programs.

  • In the motion filed in U.S. District Court in Baltimore late last night, attorneys for the city argue that Wells Fargo's motion to dismiss the city's case should be ignored and that the bank's attempt to blame local government for housing problems and urban ills is "palpably false."

For more, see City says federal court should force Wells Fargo to pay for lost revenue (The two have blamed each other for hundreds of Baltimore home foreclosures).

In a related story, see Baltimore Business Journal: Baltimore alleges Wells Fargo targeted homeowners with needless refinancing offers.

To view the lawsuit, see Mayor and City Council of Baltimore v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., et al. (8.76 MB).

Go here for other posts referencing Baltimore's battle with Wells Fargo.

Countrywide's Mozilo "Disgusted" By Homeowners' "Form Letter" Pleas For Help; Sets Off Furor

In California, The Los Angeles Times reports on the furor set off by Countrywide chief Angelo Mozilo when he clumsily hit "Reply" instead of "Forward" on an email from a homeowner seeking help in saving his house:

  • Apparently clicking "reply" when he meant to hit "forward," Countrywide Financial Corp. Chairman Angelo Mozilo ignited an online furor Tuesday by describing a mortgage customer's plea for help as a "disgusting" example of form letters inundating the Calabasas home lender. Mozilo's e-mail rocketed back to the customer, Daniel Bailey Jr., who had asked Countrywide to modify the terms of his loan so he wouldn't lose his home of 16 years.

  • Much of the language in Bailey's message to Countrywide was borrowed from a form letter available at the website, a coaching service for troubled borrowers. Bailey, who says he operates a photo studio, posted his e-mailed exchange with the lender on a LoanSafe forum.

  • His original e-mail was sent to 20 Countrywide addresses, including Mozilo's. Such mass e-mails have overwhelmed e-mail boxes at Countrywide, disrupting its operations and prompting Mozilo's heated response, the company said. "This is unbelievable," Mozilo said in his e-mail. "Most of these letters now have the same wording. Obviously they are being counseled by some other person or by the Internet. Disgusting." The reply touched off debate on housing websites.

For more, see Countrywide Financial Chairman Angelo Mozilo's e-mail sets off a furor (He calls a borrower's plea for help a "disgusting" example of form letters inundating the Calabasas mortgage lender).

Go here for the e-mailed exchange with Mozilo on a LoanSafe forum.

See also, The Wall Street Journal Blog: Oops! Countrywide Chairman Mozilo’s ‘Disgusting’ Email.

Go here, Go here and Go here for more on other Countrywide problems with consumers.

Upcoming Hurricane Season Poses Threat To Vacant Foreclosures, Unfinished / Abandoned Homes & Adjacent Neighborhoods In Coastal Areas

Housing Wire reports:
  • As the hurricane season ramps up, fallout from the ongoing mortgage crisis provides a new, potentially hazardous twist; vacant properties that may be ill-prepared to handle a storm. The Institute for Business & Home Safety said Tuesday that more than half a million properties in hurricane-prone states are in some stage of foreclosure, and warned that the many thousands of foreclosed homes standing empty in coastal areas from Texas to Maine could exacerbate property damage in their neighborhoods if the wind starts to blow.


  • IBHS notes that a house is most vulnerable to high winds when the building “envelope” is not sealed by approved forms of opening protection, such as storm shutters or reinforced garage doors. Building materials and other debris from partially completed new homes sitting unsecured along the coasts also could become shrapnel or missiles impacting nearby buildings [and people].

For more, see Half a Million Foreclosed Properties Face Hurricane Damage.

Flood Of Foreclosures, "For Sale" Signs Hitting Working Class Northeast Neighborhoods Hard

The extent to which the residents in Northeast working class neighborhoods are being hurt by foreclosures and the high level of housing inventory currently on the market is described in three recent articles on the state of affairs of neighborhoods in The Bronx (New York), Newark (New Jersey), and New Bedford (Massachusetts). For more, see:

Go here and go here for other posts on vacant homes leaving its mark on neighborhoods. neighborhood destruction from foreclosures zach

Guidance From Tax Man On Loan Mods Welcome News For Mortgage Servicers

Housing Wire reports:
  • In clarification that market participants said will further embolden servicers to modify mortgages that are likely headed for trouble, the Internal Revenue Service on Monday outlined the tax effects on securitized mortgages that have been modified to avoid foreclosures. Under Revenue Procedure 2008-28, the IRS said that it will not challenge the tax status of securitization vehicles when a servicer modifies a loan — even a performing loan — so long as the modification fits within the new scope outlined by the government agency.


  • Many servicers have been looking to work with borrowers proactively, ahead of potential default activity, but have been unsure about whether doing so might jeopardize the favored tax status of a particular securitization trust. The reason is tied to IRS rules regarding the favorable tax treatment of REMICs, which mandate not only a static pool requirement but a “passive management” requirement that has served to essentially limits servicers’ ability to modify loans to only those situations where a default is deemed imminent — in other words, to those situations where borrowers have already become delinquent on their payments.


For more, see IRS Issues Guidance on Loan Modifications.

Go here for IRS Revenue Procedure 2008-28.

Go here for other related posts on mortgage servicing issues. MortgageServicingIssuesAlpha

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Voluntary Foreclosures On The Rise?

Forbes reports:
  • To the distress of many banks and investors, American borrowers are increasingly viewing voluntary foreclosure as a practical financial decision, stripped of its taboo. Perhaps a bigger problem is that banks don't want to talk about the problem and they don't appear to know what to do about it. As long as it persists, there will be downward pressure on home prices, especially in overbuilt markets where the supply of housing already outstrips demand.


  • In mid-April, Chief Risk Officer Don Truslow of Wachovia acknowledged the troubling trend during a conference call: "I don't know where the tipping point is, but somewhere when a borrower crosses the 100.0% loan-to-value, somewhere north of that . . . their propensity to just default and stop paying their mortgage rises dramatically and really accelerates up."

  • Even more disconcerting, Truslow added that the trend was "almost regardless" of borrowers' creditworthiness. Lender's are beginning to report that loan-to-value ratios are better indicators of the likelihood of default than borrowers' FICO scores, a widely used metric of creditworthiness developed by Fair, Isaac. (See "Subprime In Sheep's Clothing")
For more, see Deadbeat Homeowners Hit The Road.

Non Profit Law Firm To Offer Predatory Mortgage & Mortgage Foreclosure Clinic

In Watsonville, California, The Salinas Californian reports:
  • The Watsonville Law Center is offering a legal-advice clinic to help counter predatory lending practices against low-income communities in Santa Cruz and Monterey counties. The Predatory Mortgage and Mortgage Foreclosure Clinic will be held Thursday [May 22, 2008] with volunteer attorneys giving free legal advice to low-income clients who believe they have been victims of predatory home loans and are facing mortgage foreclosure.

Information: 722-2845,

Source: Law center holding mortgage advice clinic.

Another Alleged Foreclosure Rescue, Equity Stripping Scam Victim Points Finger At Head Brothers

In Lawndale, California, The Daily Breeze reports on the story of an area couple who say they were ripped off out of their home equity in an alleged foreclosure rescue scam by a guy named "Mike" and "Mike's" brother. According to the story:
  • "Mike" was Jeremy Michael Head, 30, of Huntington Beach. He is now awaiting trial on a 13-count indictment for mail fraud, money laundering and other related offenses. Head and 15 others were indicted Feb. 28, charged with fraudulently taking $6.7 million.

  • Head's brother, Charles Head, was the alleged ringleader of the scheme. He was indicted a second time on March 13 with six others. He is accused of orchestrating an "equity stripping" scheme that netted $5.9 million. More than 300 known victims and 150 homes were involved in the fraud, said Lauren Horwood, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office.

For more, see Lawndale couple counts cost of home fraud (Clark family hoped to reduce payments, but refinancing became nightmare).

Go here for other posts on the Head nationwide foreclosure rescue operation.

Court Bans Flipper From Real Estate Business In Iowa

In Des Moines, Iowa, The Associated Press reports:
  • A Des Moines real estate investor accused of consumer fraud has been banned from doing business in Iowa. A Polk County District Court judge on Monday ordered John Davis to stop selling, renting, leasing or investing in real estate in Iowa. The order resolves a consumer fraud lawsuit filed by the Iowa attorney general's office against Davis and his companies in 2006. Davis, who agreed to the terms of the order, also was ordered to pay $30,000 to reimburse consumers.


  • Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller says the lawsuit alleged that Davis sold homes at highly inflated prices to customers with average or below average credit scores. He says Davis also used phantom down payments to help customers get mortgages. Miller says all the loans cited in the lawsuit ended in foreclosure.

Source: Court bans real estate investor from doing business in Iowa.

From the Iowa Attorney General's Office:

Fairfax, Prince William Consider Homebuying Programs Targeting Foreclosed Homes

In Northern Virginia, The Washington Post reports:

  • Fairfax County is developing a program to allow as many as 100 first-time home buyers to purchase foreclosed houses at cut rates to bolster the county's affordable-housing efforts and help prevent the region's mortgage crisis from causing neighborhood decline. Dubbed the Silver Lining program, county housing officials have proposed spending as much as $6.4 million over two years to help such middle-income professionals as teachers, police officers and firefighters afford the region's housing.


  • Although Fairfax has not been hit nearly as hard by foreclosures as neighboring Prince William and Loudoun counties, the number of foreclosures has risen dramatically as a result of the subprime mortgage crisis -- from 198 in 2005 to 4,527 in 2007. Most of the foreclosures are clustered in Springfield, Herndon, Centreville and the Route 1 corridor. The situation has raised concerns about depressed property values, a decline in maintenance and higher rates of crime, including vandalism.


  • A similar proposal will be considered today in Prince William, where county staff will present a program to supervisors that would make low-interest loans available to county employees to encourage them to buy houses there.

For more, see Fairfax May Offer Deal On Foreclosed Homes.

Squatters Pocketing Money Renting Out Homes They Don't Own; Others Hit Up Lenders In "Cash For Keys" Deals

Reuters reports:
  • [S]quatting is on the rise across the United States as foreclosures surge, eviction notices mount and homes go unsold for months, complicating the worst U.S. housing slump in a quarter century and forcing real-estate brokers to enlist the help of law enforcement and courts to sell empty houses.

  • In some regions, squatting is taking on new twists to include real-estate scams in which thieves "rent out" abandoned homes they don't own. Others involve "professional squatters" who move from one abandoned home to another posing as tenants who seek cash from banks as a condition to leave the premises -- a process known by real-estate brokers as "cash for key."

For more, see As homes foreclose in U.S., squatters move in. unwitting tenant rent scam yacht

Monday, May 19, 2008

Boston Feds Indict Eleven For Allegedly Tricking Lenders Out Of $10.6M In Mortgages Using Straw Buyers, I.D. Theft

In Boston, Massachusetts, The Boston Globe reports:
  • The Justice Department yesterday charged two Boston lawyers, seven mortgage brokers, and two others with fraudulently obtaining more than $10.6 million in loans using straw buyers or stolen identities to purchase 21 properties in the Boston area. Federal officials said it is the biggest mortgage fraud in Massachusetts since the 1980s.

  • During the height of the housing boom in 2005 and 2006, the lawyers and brokers allegedly falsified information about borrowers and inflated the purchase price of homes by as much as $250,000 to fool mortgage lenders and banks into loaning them more money, according to the charges filed yesterday in US District Court in Boston. The ring netted about $1.7 million in profit. [...] At least 14 of the 21 properties involved have been seized by lenders, according to county deed records.


  • Two Boston lawyers, Eric L. Levine, 55, of Brookline and J. Daniel Lindley, 59, of Jamaica Plain were involved in all the transactions, according to court papers. [...] Seven of those charged worked for New England Merchants Corp. in Arlington: Ernst Appolon, Ralph Appolon, Daniel Appolon, Andre Junior Lamerique, Widner LaMarre, Jermaine Blake, and Samuel Jean-Louis. The remaining defendants are Latoya Haltiwanger, a broker with Topdot Mortgage, and Quincy resident Jean Noriscat. Daniel Appolon and Jean-Louis have not been arrested.

For more, see 11 are charged in $10.6 million loan-fraud scam.

From the Boston U.S. Attorney's Office:

Pending Pennsylvania Legislation May Cause Concern For Foreclosing Lenders, Servicers

In Pennsylvania, reports:
  • A Philadelphia attorney says a piece of legislation that made it through the state House in April could significantly impact the way servicers and lenders do business in Pennsylvania. Michael McKeever, with the law firm of Goldbeck, McCafferty & McKeever, issued an advisory to inform attorneys and lenders about some of the changes that would result if a series of five house bills make it into law—specifically House Bill (H.B.) 1083 [go here for bill information]. McKeever told that H.B. 1083 has "two features that will impact the foreclosure process."

For more, including consequences to mortgage servicers for improper application of payments under HEMAP homeowner assistance loans, see Pending Legislation May Impact Pennsylvania Default Attorneys/Lenders.

South Bend Cop Admits Role In Straw Buyer Mortgage Scam Involving 190 Houses

In Indiana, the South Bend Tribune reports:
  • A South Bend police officer has admitted to a mortgage loan scam that involved 190 houses in the South Bend area and bilked lenders out of hundreds of thousands of dollars. Sgt. Robert Culp, a 17-year veteran of the department, was relieved of duty with pay Friday, pending the adjudication of his case, a South Bend police spokesman said. Culp, 43, of New Carlisle, who works in the Metro Special Operations Section, was involved in a scheme between 2003 and 2007 to buy dilapidated houses and sell them at two or three times their actual value, according to federal court documents.

For more, see Officer pleads guilty to bank fraud (Was involved in mortgage loan scam involving 190 houses).

More On Discount Mortgage Investors Buying Delinquent Loans

Bloomberg News reports:
  • The way out of the worst U.S. housing slump since the 1930s goes through Angel Gutierrez. Gutierrez buys bad mortgages a dozen at a time for a fraction of their face value from lenders overwhelmed by the highest number of defaults in 23 years. When he goes door to door to negotiate lower payments for homeowners or pay them to move so he can sell the house, he's speeding up the recovery by establishing a price for the homes and flushing out the least reliable borrowers.

For more, see Recovery From Worst Housing Slump Since 1930s Comes With Angel.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Crime Stoppers' Calls On The Increase As Financially Strapped Tipsters Look To Pocket Needed Reward Cash

The New York Times reports:

  • To gas prices, foreclosure rates and the cost of rice, add this rising economic indicator: the number of tips to the police from people hoping to collect reward money. [...] Cities and towns from Detroit to Omaha to Beaufort County, N.C., all report increases of 25 percent or more in the first quarter, with tipsters telling operators they need the money for rent, light bills or baby formula.


  • [M]any programs report a substantial increase in Crime Stopper-related arrests and recovered property, as callers turn in neighbors, grandchildren or former boyfriends in exchange for a little cash.


  • Some people have made a cottage industry of calling in tips. Although repeat callers do not give their names, operators recognize their voices. “We have people out there that, realistically, this could be their job,” said Sgt. Zachary Self, who answers Crime Stoppers calls for the Macon Police Department. “Two or three arrests per week, you could make $700, $750 per week,” Sergeant Self said. “You could make better than a minimum-wage job.”

For more, see As Prices Rise, Crime Tipsters Work Overtime.

South Florida Condo Bust A Boon To Investors, Out-Of-Town Buyers

The South Florida Sun Sentinel reports:
  • The glut of condominiums for sale in South Florida is attracting a legion of bargain hunters. Out-of-state and international buyers are descending on the area in search of deep discounts as prices continue to crater. They want to get in now and wait out the housing slump because they think the region remains a powerful long-term draw. With the lingering real estate downturn, now in its third year, some condos are selling at 25 to 60 percent less than during the boom times, when investors hoping to "flip" units bid up prices.

For more, see Condo crunch in S. Florida good news for bargain hunters (Real estate bust is big boon for foreign buyers).

Chula Vista Code Enforcement Chief To Testify Before Congress On New Ordinance Targeting Foreclosing Lenders

In Chula Vista, California, KNSD-TV Channel 7/39 reports:
  • A local ordinance, which holds lenders responsible for the condition of abandoned properties or financially distressed homes, is becoming a model for other cities. Authored by Chula Vista's code enforcement manager Doug Leeper, the city's Residential Abandoned Property Program states that violators who fail to maintain properties can be fined up to $1,000 for each day the property remains unkempt. If they don't pay, the city places a lien on the property.

  • Leeper has been contacted by more than 150 cities for help in crafting new legislation to deal with the fallout of homes abandoned during the nation's foreclosure crisis, officials said. Leeper is headed to Washington, D.C., to testify before a U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee about the ordinance [this] week.

Source: Chula Vista Official Lauded For Innovative Foreclosure Ordinance (Leeper Authored Foreclosure Policy Others Now Looking To Emulate).

More On Lawsuits Accusing Some Foreclosing Lenders Of A Role In Ruining Neighborhoods

ABC News and USA Today report:
  • [H]awthorne [Area Community Council] and the city of Minneapolis are pioneers in an emerging civic strategy to sue lenders and banks to recoup lost revenue and reclaim neighborhoods devastated by the mortgage crisis. Around the country, the loss of tens of thousands of homes to foreclosure is shrinking cities' tax base, straining city services such as policing, and ruining neighborhoods. [...] Cleveland, Baltimore and Buffalo also have sued lenders and banks in recent months. St. Paul has written to its lenders threatening a lawsuit if they don't fix their foreclosed properties.

  • "Hundreds of cities across the United States are in the same position," says Greg Squires, a professor of sociology at George Washington University who studies urban redevelopment. "I think there will be more lawsuits. If we get an early decision in one of these cases, it will either encourage or discourage" other cities from filing suit. Alan Mallach, a senior fellow at the National Housing Institute, says the lawsuits are "a bit of a reach under the laws of most states, but & a creative court could reasonably make some law in that direction."

For more, see Cities sue home lenders (Communities Take Banks, Lenders to Court for Failing to Fix Up Foreclosed Homes) (Go here for entire story on one web page). neighborhood destruction from foreclosures zach

Fort Lauderdale SWAT Team Finds Homeowner In Foreclosure Dead From Self-Inflicted Gunshot

In Fort Lauderdale, Florida, the South Florida Sun Sentinel reports:
  • Police officers and a SWAT team surrounded a Coral Ridge house Thursday night to investigate a weapons complaint and later found the homeowner dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, officials said. For more than five hours, police descended on the neighborhood. They attempted to get the man to come out of the house in the 2100 block of Northeast 54th Court, but to no avail, said Sgt. Frank Sousa, Fort Lauderdale police spokesman. After firing gas canisters into the home, the SWAT team went inside and found the man dead at about 11:15 p.m., Sousa said. Police identified the man as Steven R. Decker, 44.

  • County records list Decker as the owner of at least a dozen properties in the Fort Lauderdale area. At least two of them, including the Coral Ridge house, went into foreclosure recently, court records show. On Thursday, Decker received a notice that the Coral Ridge house was to be sold next month at an auction for foreclosed properties, according to the records.

For the story, see Police: Fort Lauderdale man shot himself inside home (SWAT team sent to house over weapons complaint).

In a related story, see ABC News / USA Today: Foreclosures Take an Emotional Toll on Homeowners (Stress, Depression, Suicide Can Accompany the Loss of a Home).

Go here for other posts on foreclosures and suicide.

Go here for other posts on Police stories involving homes in foreclosure. suicide homeowner foreclosure zeta SheriffDeputiesForeclosureAlpha