Saturday, July 04, 2009

Arizona Man Charged With Ripping Off Dead Man's ID, Using It To Buy Homes, Vehicles

In Anthem, Arizona, KNXV-TV reports:
  • A Valley business owner from Brazil is accused of stealing a dead man's Social Security number and using it to purchase two vehicles and two homes, one of which is in foreclosure, according to a Maricopa County Sheriff's Office press release. Raphael Libardi, co-owner of Aracruz International Granite, was booked on felony identity theft and mortgage fraud charges.

For more, see MCSO: Valley business owner, immigrant stole dead man's ID.

Foreclosure Stripping Not Yet On Radar Screen For SW Florida Law Enforcements Authorities

In Naples, Florida, the Naples Daily News reports:
  • Foreclosure stripping is a crime, and it has a victim. It’s you. Neighborhoods are losing more than just neighbors. Homeowners in foreclosure are ripping out bathtubs, wiring, countertops, sinks, windows, garage doors and even the palm trees from the front yard and selling them for cash.

  • As a result, property values are falling and the tax collections associated with them are stripped, as well. Government services depending on those taxes are thrown onto the chopping block. The victims are everywhere. Law enforcement hasn’t made any arrests.(1) Banks and mortgage companies haven’t brought anyone to court. It’s a free-for-all, and it’s happening right now.

For more, see For sale: Anything and everything inside foreclosed homes (A new trend called foreclosure stripping is against the law, but authorities and banks aren’t stopping it).

For examples of foreclosure stripping ads on

Go here for other posts on foreclosure stripping.

(1) Reportedly, Lee County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Larry King said the situation is not as clear as some make it out to be. It’s not always illegal, King said, and suggested new laws may be needed. “The gray area is it’s not officially the bank’s until it’s actually turned over to the bank,” King said. “So what the homeowner does is at their discretion, or something is in place mortgage-wise or statutorily.” In Collier County, Chief Jim Williams, the Sheriff’s Office head of investigations, expressed concern over taking resources away from other investigations, such as those into online child predator schemes, to concentrate on an as-of-yet unexplored area of the law. foreclosure fixture stripping apple

South Florida Tenant On Verge Of Eviction Dies Of Self-Inflicted Gunshot Wound

In Broward County, Florida, MyFox National reports:
  • A Florida woman tragically committed suicide on the day she was getting evicted from her home. Heather Newnam, 28, of Tamarac, Fla., shot herself when a real estate agent, a locksmith and movers showed up at her home on Monday after she failed to pay her rent. She told them she had to secure the dogs first, and then a shot was fired, according to the Broward Sheriff's Office. The SWAT team arrived on the scene and found her dead from a gunshot wound to the head.

  • Newnam documented her life on Twitter as user rsangel04. Her last post on June 24 read, "Rich get richer, poor get poorer, families on the street, govt doesn't care. God bless the usa, but can He save it?" The day before, Newnam seemed in better spirits. "Five minutes til Rescue Me, Woo Hoo! then bed, Im beat." According to the New Times, Newnam worked in sales at the Success Research Group in Oakland Park, Fla.

Source: Woman Commits Suicide to Avoid Eviction.

Go here and go here for other posts on incidents during home evictions. DeputyEvictionTheta

Friday, July 03, 2009

Litigation In Baltimore City's "Ghetto Loans" Case To Go Forward As Judge Denies Wells Fargo's Request To Dismiss Suit

In Baltimore, Maryland, The Maryland Daily Record reports:
  • The city of Baltimore’s mortgage-lending discrimination lawsuit against Wells Fargo Bank N.A. may proceed to what will be a “time consuming and expensive” discovery process, a federal judge ruled Thursday afternoon. Chief U.S. District Judge Benson E. Legg rejected the bank’s motion to dismiss the suit, four days after hearing arguments about the city’s alleged damages. The decision means the city will get access to more details about Wells Fargo’s lending practices since 2000; it had previously relied solely on publicly available information and information from a few industry insiders.

  • The city claims the bank targeted black borrowers for subprime loans, a practice known as reverse-redlining, and that the resulting foreclosures have cost it tens of millions of dollars in lost property revenues and police, fire, and rehab expenditures.


  • Based on the new affidavits submitted by former Wells Fargo employees Elizabeth Jacobson and Tony Paschal, the City has proffered sufficient proof to proceed with its claim for disparate treatment discrimination under the Fair Housing Act,” Legg wrote in a 4-page memorandum.(1)(2) [...] The ruling represents a big victory for the city, since its suit was the first of its kind when filed in January 2008. A similar suit brought by the city of Cleveland under a public nuisance theory was dismissed in May.

For more, see Judge won’t dismiss City’s suit against Wells Fargo (if link expires, try here).

Go here for Judge Legg's 4-page order.

For earlier reports on this case, see:

(1) In addition to denying Wells Fargo's Motion To Dismiss the lawsuit, the court, in footnote 1 of this order, grants the City of Baltimore's Motion To Amend its Complaint.

(2) According to an earlier report, the two whistleblowers claimed their co-workers targeted black ZIP codes and churches, used software to “translate” marketing materials into African-American vernacular, and referred to subprime loans in minority communities as “ghetto loans” and to borrowers as “mud people.” The loan officers, who worked for Wells Fargo in the Baltimore-Washington area from the late 1990s until 2007, also reportedly alleged that bank employees deceptively steered prime borrowers into subprime loans for their own financial benefit and joked that they were “riding the stagecoach to Hell.”

Northern Florida County Clerk Stops Issuing Summonses To Tenants In Foreclosure Actions

In Alachua County, Florida, The Gainseville Sun reports:
  • Clerk of Court Buddy Irby said the Clerk's Office stopped issuing the summonses [to tenants in foreclosure actions] on Jan. 15 on the advice of the clerk's attorney because of concerns that they show the tenants as being sued in court records. "If you were a renter, I'd think you'd be upset that the court records show that you are being sued in a foreclosure suit," he said. Irby said the summonses also created a lot of paperwork at considerable time and expense, with taxpayers footing the bill. He said it would be easier for the lenders or their attorneys to send letters informing any tenants of the foreclosure.(1)

Source: What if your apartment complex forecloses? New law may ease the big surprise.

(1) In judicial foreclosure states, basic foreclosure law says that unless all parties holding legal interests in real property (including leasehold interests, liens, etc.) that are subordinate to a mortgage in foreclosure are served with notice of the lawsuit, those subordinate interests are not cut off and will survive the foreclosure action. For this clerk of the court to decide not to issue summonses to tenants in possession of property in foreclosure actions (and thereby abridging their due process rights) to save money seems pretty ridiculous. I also find it hard to believe that the clerk's attorney advised him to do this.

Class Action Certification Hearing Set In South Florida Chinese Drywall Case

In Miami, Florida, the South Florida Business Journal reports:
  • Miami-Dade County Circuit Court Judge Gill S. Freeman has ordered a Sept. 14 hearing to determine if a class action can be certified for homeowners with Chinese drywall in the Keys Gate subdivision in Homestead. The plaintiffs’ homes were constructed with what they allege was defective Chinese drywall. [...] The judge also set a possible trial date for September 2010. Lawyers working on the case say it may be the first Chinese drywall case set for trial nationwide.

  • High-sulfur Chinese drywall is believed responsible for strong odors, metal corrosion and health complaints in thousands of homes in Florida and the Southeast. Federal class action suits were combined recently in New Orleans.

For more, see Hearing set to certify Chinese drywall class.

Central Florida Tenants Get The Boot As Utilities Are Shut Off In Apartments In Foreclosure; Landlord Suspected Of Stealing Electric Service

In Clearwater, Florida, My Fox Tampa Bay reports:
  • Pinellas County Code Enforcement officers closed a row of apartments Tuesday, finding the rental units lacked water and electricity -- even as tenants continued paying. "We got 15 days, they got it posted on the door," said resident Debra Turman. "This place isn't fit for humans, but I guess the roaches can stay!" Electric service to the converted homes on Westminister Avenue was shut off Thursday, when sheriff's deputies investigated claims that electric was being stolen. Residents said the water had been shut off far longer, and that the landlord had dug an illegal well. "That's part of the minimum housing code. You do need to have running water, sewer and electricity," said Todd Myers, the county's code enforcement director.


For more, see Clearwater apartments condemned (County: homes are hazardous).

See also:

Long Island Man Accused Of Hijacking Homes In Foreclosure, Renting Them Out, Filing Over A Dozen Phony Liens Faces Jury Trial

In Suffolk County, New York, the Long Island Press reports:
  • Home may be a man’s castle, but in Paul Salamone’s case, the entire fiefdom was allegedly fraudulent. The Medford man is facing a Suffolk County jury [...] after being accused of breaking into seven homes in various states of foreclosure and illegally renting some of them out in a scheme to capitalize on the failing local housing market.

  • In his defense, his attorney points out that 28-year-old Salamone, who prosecutors say had renovated some of the vacant houses before he advertised them as for rent on Craigslist, truly believes what he was doing was right. Despite Salamone’s supposed good intentions, at least two families that rented from him were caught in the crossfire and evicted after the alleged scam began to unravel.


  • It took police several months to connect the dots. A grand jury had indicted Salamone on five counts of burglary, but two more counts were added when additional houses were discovered. He was also charged with grand larceny for the “rent” he received, and criminal possession of a forged instrument for filing more than a dozen fraudulent liens.

For more, see Local Man In the Doghouse In Housing Rental Scheme (Accused Fake Landlord goes to Trial in Suffolk).

Go here, go here, go here, and go here for posts on phony landlord rent scams. KappaPhonyLandlordScam

Oklahoma Man Accused Of Hijacking Homes In Foreclosure & Renting Them To Unwitting Tenants Cops Plea, Gets Deferred Sentence

In Tulsa, Oklahoma, the Tulsa World reports:
  • A man received a three-year deferred sentence Tuesday on accusations that he rented foreclosed houses in Tulsa without the authority to do so. Michael Remington was charged in May with two felony counts of obtaining money by false pretense. He pleaded no contest Tuesday to one count, and the other was dismissed. Tulsa County Special Judge David Youll deferred the sentencing, and Remington can have the remaining count dismissed with no conviction if he completes a three-year probation. He must perform 80 hours of community service and pay about $1,100 in court-related costs, officials said.

  • He was accused in one case of obtaining $1,900 from a man who responded to an ad Remington had placed on — an online advertisement network — for a house that the defendant said he had for rent[...]. The owner of that house, which was in foreclosure, said she did not know Remington and did not give him permission to rent her house, a police affidavit states. In the dismissed count, Remington was accused of obtaining $5,200 from a man who rented a house in the 4200 block of East 78th Street. The owner of that foreclosed home also said she did not give the defendant permission to rent it, the affidavit states.

Source: Man receives deferred sentence in obtaining money by false pretense case.

Go here, go here, go here, and go here for posts on phony landlord rent scams. KappaPhonyLandlordScam

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Judge's Wife Charged With Forging Court Order In Attempt To Stall Home Foreclosure

In Marion County, Indiana, The Indianapolis Star reports:
  • Forging a judge's signature. Pretending to be the victim of a vicious assault. Impersonating a co-worker at the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department. Few would expect such actions from a police employee, much less the wife of a judge. But those are the desperate and criminal steps police say the wife of Marion Superior Court Judge William Nelson took in an effort to avoid foreclosure on the couple's Geist home.

  • Kristina Nelson, 43, was arrested Friday on a preliminary charge that she forged the name of another judge -- her sister-in-law -- as part of a fraudulent scheme to stop the foreclosure, according to the police and court documents.

  • A police report said Kristina Nelson admitted under questioning that she had signed Marion Superior Court Judge Sheila Carlisle's name on a counterfeit court order. The document, sent to EverHome Mortgage Co., claimed that she and her husband had been brutally attacked -- that he had been shot and she had to have her jaw wired shut -- and needed time to recover before they could make mortgage payments. Nelson told police that her husband knew nothing about the incident, and police who interviewed the judge Friday found him surprised by his wife's reported behavior.

For more, see IMPD: Ex-staffer is arrested in fraud (Police say forged signature was attempt to avoid foreclosure).

For follow-up stories, see:

SW Florida Man Gets 22 Years In Mortgage Scam Involving $30M+ In Fraudulently Obtained Loans On 36 Properties

In Fort Myers, Florida, The News Press reports:
  • A man federal authorities believe spearheaded a $30 million real estate scheme based in Cape Coral was sentenced to 22 years in prison Tuesday. Ronald Luczak, 38, who with his wife Lisa ran Cape Coral Equity and Development Group Inc., said nothing as he was sentenced by U.S. District Judge John Steele. He pleaded guilty in September to one count each of wire fraud, money laundering and conducting a prohibited money transaction.

  • Luczak was the last of four defendants — one of whom was a Cape Coral police officer — to be sentenced in connection with the case, which started in 2005 and ended in 2006, when they were arrested. Together, the couple created a scheme where they obtained more than $30 million in mortgages on 36 properties.

For more, see Cape Coral man gets 22 years for fraud (Ran $30 million real estate scheme).

For the press release from the U.S Attorney (Tampa/Fort Myers), see Cape Coral Man Sentenced for Role in $30 Million Mortgage Fraud Case.

Ohio AG Bags 13 Suspects In Alleged Mortgage Fraud Scam Involving 30+ Properties

From the Office of the Ohio Attorney General:
  • Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray and the Ohio Organized Crime Investigations Commission announced [Wednesday] details of an investigation which has led to the indictments of 13 people(1) alleged to have perpetrated a $9 million mortgage fraud scheme involving more than 30 properties in central Ohio.


  • Investigators report that more than 30 loan transactions are at issue in this case and some properties were recycled through multiple fraudulent loan transactions. It is alleged that loan applications and documents were falsified on behalf of borrowers, and that orchestrators made down payments allowing borrowers to secure loans in which tens of thousands of dollars were laundered through fictitious home contractor companies.

For the entire Ohio AG press release, see Investigation of Alleged Mortgage Fraud Scheme Leads to 83-Count Indictment.

Go here for the indictment.

(1) Benjamin Tubbs, 49, of Pickerington, Kevin Murphy, 50, of Blacklick, and Karl Mullins, 33, formerly of Columbus and now residing in Florida, are alleged to have acted as the mortgage brokers and orchestrators of a scheme to buy and sell houses at highly-inflated prices and to falsify loan documents in order to skim ten of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of dollars from each sale. Also indicted are: Cynthia Underdew, 53, of Columbus (loan officer and mortgage loan coordinator); Karen Axline, 48, of Granville (operated the now-defunct Granville Title Agency); Kevin Gray, 48, of Reynoldsburg; Nina Masseria and Tim Arrington of Carriage Trade Realty (real estate agents); appraisers Joseph Colegrove and Scott Walisa and assistant appraiser Terri White; Earron West, 38, of Columbus (loan officer); and Nina Dearing, 29, of Columbus.

Philadelphia Foreclosure Diversion Program Scoring High Marks

In Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the Philadelphia Daily News reports:
  • Jeff Jubelirer, a First Judicial District spokesman, said that more than 5,700 Philadelphia homeowners have participated in the [Residential Mortgage Foreclosure Diversion Pilot Program.]. Of those, the homes of about 1,400 have been saved from a sheriff's sale, and 700 other owners have been able to postpone sales, said Judge Annette Rizzo, who is in charge of the program. "Folks who haven't worked together before . . . are wading in together and getting things done," said Pamela Dembe, president of the Court of Common Pleas.


  • D. Webster Keogh, a judge in Philadelphia's trial division, credited "relentless" outreach by public-interest groups. He cited a "change in the attitude and posture of opposing attorneys" that "allowed them to take their litigation gloves off."

For more, see Much-admired city initiative saves 1,400 homes from foreclosure.

See also, The Philadelphia Inquirer: A milestone for mortgage-foreclosure diversion program.

Nevada High Court Adopts Rules To Implement New State Foreclosure Mediation Program

The Nevada Supreme Court announced:
  • The Nevada Supreme Court has adopted formal rules governing the Nevada Foreclosure Mediation Program that was established by the passage of Assembly Bill 149 by the 2009 Nevada Legislature. CLICK HERE to read the rules. [...] The Election/Waiver of Mediation Form to be served with the Notice of Default and Election to Sell is included along with instructions for the individuals recording the notices involved in the new foreclosure procedures (CLICK HERE).

  • Assembly Bill 149, passed shortly before the end of the session, provides for mediations in foreclosures commenced on or after July 1, 2009, as a way to help home owners find alternatives to losing their houses. A homeowner who receives a foreclosure notice can request an opportunity to sit down with the lenders and a trained mediator and explore whether a mutually agreeable resolution can be reached. In the legislation, the Supreme Court was tasked with establishing the rules under which the Foreclosure Mediation Program will function.

For the entire announcement, Nevada Supreme Court Adopts Rules For Foreclosure Mediation Program.

Louisville-Area Court System To Begin Foreclosure Conciliation Project

In Louisville, Kentucky, WFPL Radio 89.3 FM reports:
  • Some Jefferson County judges are teaming up with non-profits to help Louisvillians who are faced with foreclosure. Circuit Court Chief Judge Jim Shake says many times homeowners who are dealing with foreclosure are contacted with a lot of scam offers and are afraid to communicate with their lender.

  • Shake says under the new Foreclosure Conciliation Project, circuit court judges will require lenders to have a meeting with homeowners before selling their house. He says many of those meetings result in another option being found, but it doesn’t work for everyone.

For the story, see Judges, Non-Profits Offer Foreclosure Help.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Facing Foreclosure? Need To Buy Some Time? Simply Go Into Court & Ask For It

In Sarasota, Florida, the Sarasota Herald Tribune recently ran a story on homeowners facing foreclosure being urged not to abandon their homes but, instead, to stay put and fight back. The following excerpt shows how easy it was for one homeowner in Florida (a state that requires lenders to file a court action in order to foreclose on a home) to buy at least six months time by simply filing one document with the court in a foreclosure action:
  • [E]ven homeowners who cannot afford an attorney have been able to successfully buy more time. Many of the required documents can be found online. One Manatee County couple simply asked for a 45-day extension to file an official response to the foreclosure.(1) Six months later, the court finally heard arguments on why they might deserve the extra time.

For the story, see Attorneys advise clients to stay in their homes.

(1) A legal document known as a Motion to Enlarge Time is often used by homeowners and their attorneys to request additional time to file an official response to a foreclosure lawsuit filed against a homeowner. Go here for a sample of a Motion to Enlarge Time. This request for additional time should be filed within 20 days of being served with a foreclosure lawsuit.

Go here for other links to Sample Foreclosure Defense Legal Documents that some use when fighting foreclosures. EpsilonMissingDocsMtg

Use Of Short Sale Promissory Notes To Squeeze Underwater Home Sellers Gaining In Popularity With Lenders?

In Seattle, Washington, the Puget Sound Business Journal reports:
  • When her Edmonds condo went on the market, Mindy Moore thought she had managed to avoid foreclosure. Moore listed the home in Edmonds for about $30,000 less than she owed on the mortgage. She thought the “short sale” agreement signed with the bank meant the bank would absorb the loss. Then she discovered that her lender, Bank of America, might still come after her for the difference. That means she may have to let the bank take back her property, or file for bankruptcy because she can’t afford to pay up.

  • Experts say the wording,(1) which was recently and quietly added to Bank of America’s short-sale agreement, could have major ramifications for a large group of distressed homeowners in Washington and across the country.


  • Bank of America said in a statement that it asks for a promissory note from sellers — the term used to describe the written promise to pay back the difference — to protect its “investors and shareholders from the losses in a short sale.” [...] While Bank of America’s short-sale agreement wording appears new, Kevin Kim, a short- sale consultant in Seattle, said other lenders have similar wording in their agreements that would require homeowners to pay the money left on their loan amount.

  • Bank of America’s short-sale agreement illustrates the financial complexities facing hundreds of Washington homeowners struggling to deal with underwater mortgages (in which the owner owes more than the house sells for). It also shows the tug-of-war between banks and borrowers as banks try to recoup as much money as they can from their failed loans.

For the story, see BofA wording may cause more foreclosures.

(1) According to the story, at issue is a sentence in Bank of America’s agreement that says its mortgage servicing arm “and/or its investors may pursue a deficiency judgment for the difference in the payment received and the total balance due unless agreed otherwise or prohibited by law.” That means Bank of America could pursue a court order against a homeowner after the short sale is completed.

Deed Scams No Longer Flying Under The Radar In Brooklyn DA's Office

In Brooklyn, New York, a recent story in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle describing the newly formed Mortgage Fraud and Real Estate Crimes Unit of the Brooklyn District Attorney's Office referred to two recent cases in which criminal charges have been brought against alleged deed scammers:
  • One man who was arrested earlier this year had forged a deed that said he was the owner of a 39-story co-operative housing unit, where he had lived and even been president of the co-op board — almost two decades prior. He tried to take out multi-million dollar mortgages on the building before being caught.

  • Another man who was indicted recently met people in foreclosure, and told them he was an appraiser from their bank. He simply slipped documents in front of them and got the homeowners signatures down. “It was a classic rush job,” [unit chief Richard] Farrell said. “He said it was all a formality — but it’s the deed” that has been signed over.

  • To stop these types of bare-bones deceptions, [Brooklyn District Attorney Charles J.] Hynes wants more community education on these issues. “P.T. Barnum famously said that there’s a sucker born every minute,” Hynes said.(1)Most of the fraud is preventable.”

Source: Brooklyn Prosecutors Responding to Increased Gang and Real Estate Crime.

(1) Using the term "sucker" in a way that could reasonably be construed as an indirect reference to the victims of deed scams appears to be a rather poor choice words on the part of the Brooklyn DA. DeedContraTheft

NJ AG Announces Mortgage Fraud Indictments In Three Unrelated Cases; Among Charges Are Use Of Stolen IDs To Fradulently Obtain Loans

From the Office of the New Jersey Attorney General:
  • Attorney General Anne Milgram announced [Tuesday] the indictment of six people charged in three separate, unrelated mortgage fraud cases, including two women charged with spearheading a conspiracy to use stolen identities to obtain more than $1 million in unauthorized mortgages, lines of credit and credit cards.


  • Charged in a 17-count State grand jury indictment with conspiracy, eight counts of theft by deception, seven counts of identity theft and one count of money laundering are Yi Feng Reid, 48, of Closter, Bergen county, and Yu Jane Chen, 42, whose last known address was Philadelphia. Charged in the same indictment with one count each of conspiracy, theft by deception and identity theft are George Liu, 33, and Ji Gang Chen, 53. Both men once lived in New York, and now reside in China.

  • According to Division of Criminal Justice Director Deborah Gramiccioni, defendants Reid and Yu Jane Chen both were involved in the mortgage and small business loan industry in the Bergen County area, and unlawfully used the identities of other people to obtain mortgages, other types of loans and unauthorized credit card accounts from 2004 through mid-2007.


  • In an unrelated indictment, commercial loan broker Ramon Coscolluela, 30, of Union, was charged by a State grand jury with one count each of theft by deception (second degree) and attempted theft by deception (second degree). Coscolluela, owner of Templar Group LLC of Newark, allegedly falsified five loan applications submitted to Commerce Bank in 2007 and 2008 on behalf clients who paid him fees ranging from $1,000 to $6,000.


  • In a third mortgage-fraud indictment, Terrance Givens, 32, of East Orange, was charged with one count of theft by deception (second degree). According to Criminal Justice Director Grammicioni, Givens lied about his employment history on a mortgage application in 2005. [...] In addition to misrepresenting his employment history to the New Century Mortgage Company, Givens allegedly submitted false W-2 forms for the years 2002, 2003 and 2004 showing annual wages of between $67,000 and $72,000.

For the entire New Jersey AG press release, see Attorney General Announces Mortgage Fraud Indictments.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Judge To Rule Within Days On Whether To Allow Baltimore's "Ghetto Loans" Suit To Proceed After Hearing "Test Run" Of Discriminatory Lending Claim

In Baltimore, Maryland, The Baltimore Sun reports:
  • Having heard what he called a "test run" of Baltimore's discriminatory lending claim against Wells Fargo on Monday, a federal judge said he will rule within days on whether the civil case can proceed to discovery - a process that could reveal the inner workings of one of the region's largest mortgage lenders. Baltimore's lawsuit against Wells Fargo, filed in January last year, alleges that the company violated the federal Fair Housing Act by disproportionately pushing black borrowers into oppressive subprime loans that were "destined to fail."

For more, see Judge's ruling in mortgage-lending case is days away (City's lawsuit advancing against Wells Fargo at stake).

See also, The Maryland Daily Record: Wells Fargo awaits ruling in Baltimore reverse-redlining suit.

NY AG Scores Big Win As Supremes Reverse Lower Courts, Give Go-Ahead To States To Pursue Probes Of National Banks For Lending Discrimination

The Wall Street Journal reports:
  • In a surprise win for state regulators over the banking industry, a divided U.S. Supreme Court on Monday gave New York prosecutors the green light to investigate national banks for lending discrimination. The high court, in a 5-4 opinion by Justice Antonin Scalia, said federal banking regulations didn't pre-empt the ability of states to enforce their own fair-lending laws.

  • The ruling was a win for the New York attorney general's office, which had been seeking to investigate the banks' residential real-estate lending practices since 2005.(1) Scalia said New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo couldn't issue executive subpoenas to the banks but could bring enforcement actions against them in court. The decision was a surprise because decades of U.S. Supreme Court rulings have favored federal banking regulation at the expense of state regulation. [...] Cuomo said the ruling "reaffirms the vital role state attorneys general play in protecting consumers from illegal and improper practices by our country's biggest and most powerful banks."


  • The divided ruling didn't split along the court's normal ideological lines. Justice Clarence Thomas, whose views often align with Scalia's, wrote the court's dissent.(2)


  • All of the other 49 states backed New York in the case, saying they have historically had the power to enforce consumer-protection laws against national banks. That power, the states said, was particularly important now because of the widespread mortgage abuses that contributed to the nation's economic crisis.

For the whole story, see US High Court: States Can Probe Natl Bank Lending (subscription required; if no subscription, try here, then click link for the story).

For the court's ruling, see Cuomo v. Clearing House Assn., L.L.C., Docket # 08-453 (June 29, 2009).

(1) According to the story, former New York Attorney General and Governor Eliot Spitzer launched the probe, saying mortgage data showed black and Hispanic borrowers received a larger percentage of high-interest home loans than white borrowers. Spitzer asked several banks, including Wells Fargo & Co., JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Citigroup Inc., to voluntarily produce non-public information about their mortgage-lending practices in New York. In response, the federal Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and a consortium of national banks each sued to block Spitzer's investigation.

(2) Justice Scalia was actually the swing vote in this ruling, aligning himself with Justices Stevens, Souter, Ginzburg, and Breyer, the four justices on the court widely considered to be politically "left of center". DiscriminationPredatoryLendingAlpha

Legal Advocates To Homeowners Facing Foreclosure: Stay Put & Fight Back; Clogged Courts, Budget Cuts Have Cases Moving At Snail's Pace

In Central Florida, the Sarasota Herald Tribune reports:
  • Phil Agnes and other lawyers have two words for homeowners facing foreclosure: Stay put. The flood of foreclosures has clogged the courts, allowing homeowners to stay in their homes while the paperwork goes through the system. Many homeowners are unaware that they can remain at home for months while the foreclosure is in court, attorneys say.

  • And homeowners willing to challenge the foreclosure sometimes can remain in their homes for more than a year, sometimes more than two years, just by filing a few basic legal documents. "It's in everyone's best interest to stay in the home," said Agnes, an attorney who volunteers at Gulf Coast Legal Services Inc.


  • The Manatee and Sarasota court records are full of cases in which the banks waited months to move forward, even if the owner did not respond. Agnes said he has two cases where he responded for the homeowners, and the bank has not filed anything in almost a year. "And they're still in the house," he said.


  • Adding to the clog, the lenders often pay law firms a flat fee for each judgment they obtain, so they focus on the easier cases, foreclosure defense attorneys who work in the system say. When a homeowner files paperwork(1) that takes the case out of the fast track and into the traditional court, lender attorneys sometimes seem to put the case aside. "They don't have time to necessarily fight these cases," Agnes said. [...] And any motion that requires the banks to produce information can delay the case for months. The more difficult the request, the longer the delay. The going time lag for banks to respond when a homeowner asks to see some types of paperwork? Up to six months.


  • Requesting records from the lenders is more than just a stalling tactic, attorneys say. Homeowners have every right to force lenders to prove they really own the home loan. An unprecedented number of mortgages were repackaged together and sold as securities, which provides the best opportunities to homeowners trying to fight. The facts in every case differ, so there are no guarantees on how long a homeowner can stay after they stop paying the mortgage.

For more, see Attorneys advise clients to stay in their homes.

For a story that reflects the massive budget cuts and personnel layoffs being imposed on court systems throughout Florida, see The Florida Times Union: Florida court clerks face stiff budget cuts (A new law slashes budgets, leading to some counties' layoffs and office closings):

  • Pointing to stacks of foreclosure [...] cases waiting to be filed, [Duval County Clerk of Courts Jim Fuller, who is president of the Florida Association of Court Clerks] said fewer employees probably will mean a longer lag time in filing cases.

(1) Go here for links to Sample Foreclosure Defense Legal Documents that some use when demanding that lenders produce the proper paperwork (ie. promissory notes, etc.), and who are otherwise fighting foreclosures. EpsilonMissingDocsMtg

Minnesota Title Closer Charged With Illegally Pocketing $220K+ By Paying Her Family Bills Out Of Real Estate Closing Funds

From the Office of the County Attorney for Dakota County, Minnesota:
  • Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom announced that Kuntee Singramdoo, age 49 of Lakeville, has been charged with five counts of Theft and three counts of Theft by Swindle (all felonies), in connection with the theft of over $220,000 while she worked as an independent closer for a Burnsville title and real estate company.


  • Singramdoo admitted to the Department of Commerce that she embezzled her client’s funds by issuing checks for her own benefit and her licenses were suspended in March of this year. She claimed to have had overwhelming personal debts for which she used the embezzled funds.

According to the County Attorney press release, the investigation revealed that Singramdoo used several methods to accomplish her thefts:

  1. she would write checks for her personal bills or bills of other family members as part of a real estate closing and then enter those payments directly on mortgage forms as if the obligation was owed by the buyer or seller in the transaction;
  2. she would accurately prepare documents for purposes of real estate closings and subsequently change the forms at a later date to reflect fraudulent payments; and
  3. she would issue valid checks for payment as part of closings, but would never tender them to the payee and would subsequently reissue the checks to pay her own or her family member’s creditors.

For the entire press release, see Lakeville Woman Charged in Thefts Exceeding $220,000.

For the criminal complaint filed in this case, see State of Minnesota v. Singramdoo.

Go here, Go here, Go here, Go here, and Go here for other stories of trust account / escrow account theft of funds. EscrowRipOffKappa

Ohio AG Puts Hammer To Home Improvement Company In Civil Suit Alleging Shoddy Work, Failing To Deliver

From the Office of the Ohio Attorney General:
  • A Columbus home improvement company did shoddy work and failed to deliver promised services or honor warranties, according to a lawsuit filed [...] by Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray. The suit, filed in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas, charges Premier Design (Premier) and its owner, Jeffrey Shalayda, with multiple violations of Ohio consumer law. "This company took thousands of dollars from consumers," Cordray said. "But after collecting the money, the company either did nothing at all, or, at best, did substandard work, leaving consumers with sinking decks, broken fences and unfinished basements."


  • Since April 2008, seven consumer complaints have been filed in the Attorney General's office against Premier. In the complaints, which are still unresolved, consumers they paid Premier $1,000 to $29,000 for work that was not done according to agreement.

For the entire Ohio AG press release, see Columbus Home Improvement Company Sued for Fraud (Consumers report losing tens of thousands of dollars).

For the lawsuit, see State of Ohio v. Premier Design Consultants, Inc., et al.

For more on homeowners left in the lurch due to actions by builders/contractors, go here, go here, go here, go here, and go here.

(1) According to the press release, the lawsuit charges Premier with several violations of Ohio's Consumer Sales Practices Act including failing to deliver, performing shoddy work, making false claims in advertisements and failing to honor warranties. It also charges the company with violating the state's Home Solicitation Sales Act [sections 1345.21 to 1345.28 of the Ohio Revised Code], which gives consumers three days to cancel contracts they sign in their home. In the suit, Cordray asks the court to hold Premier responsible for reimbursing consumers and to assess a $25,000 civil penalty for each violation of the law. StiffingContractorsTheta

Notices To Homeowners Nearing Foreclosure Offering Mediation, Free Foreclosure Counseling Now Required In Indiana

In Allen County, Indiana, Indiana's NewsCenter reports:
  • A new law is about to go into effect in Indiana that could help troubled homeowners stave off foreclosure. Starting July 1st, lenders pursuing foreclosure must send notice 30 days in advance, offering free mortgage foreclosure counseling and assistance at 1-877-GET HOPE. Then, if there's still no resolution, another notice goes out providing an opportunity for the borrower to sign and mail in a form to set up a mediation conference at the county courthouse to try and reach a settlement.

For the story, see Free Foreclosure Counseling To Go Into Effect July 1st.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Federal Judge Could Decide Today Whether To Allow Baltimore "Ghetto Loans" Case To Continue

In Baltimore, Maryland, The Baltimore Sun reports:
  • Baltimore City will attempt to show a federal judge on Monday that it has lost millions of dollars because of what it contends were racially biased predatory lending practices by Wells Fargo. In what will amount to a mini-trial before U.S. District Judge Benson E. Legg, attorneys for Baltimore and Wells Fargo will present evidence and call witnesses, as the city fights the California-based bank's motion to dismiss its lawsuit. It is a critical juncture in the city's suit against the lender, because if Legg allows the case to continue, Baltimore could gain access to Wells Fargo documents and subpoena its employees.(1) That potentially could shine a light on the practices of one of the largest mortgage providers in the region. [...] Legg has said he could rule immediately after the hearing.

For more, see City to make case against Wells Fargo (Lawsuit claims Baltimore harmed by predatory lending practices).

(1) Reportedly, two former Wells Fargo employees have claimed in depositions that the company's prime loan officers reaped rewards for steering customers who qualified for regular lending to subprime loans. Tony Paschal, a loan officer from 1997 to 2007, also said employees used racial slurs to describe minority customers and referred to subprime loans as "ghetto loans."

Improper Service Of Process In Foreclosure Cases Becoming A Concern With Some Defense Attorneys Representing Homeowners

In Miami, Florida, the Daily Business Review reported last week that a Miami-Dade Circuit Court Civil Division Administrative Judge Jennifer D. Bailey discovered more than 15,000 foreclosure cases filed this year have yet to be served on the property owners who have become delinquent in their mortgage payments. However, some feel the problem facing the courts could be worse, as this excerpt explains:
  • [T]he scope of the foreclosure service problems could be much worse than the 15,000 cases without service that Bailey discovered. Some foreclosure lawyers question whether there are more cases where service hasn’t been done, but court records show the defendants have been served.

  • Take a foreclosure case filed by Indymac Federal Bank against Ahron and Amitza Benvenisti, who bought a North Miami Beach condo for $177,938 in January 2006. Indymac attempted to serve the husband through constructive service — or service by publication without actual notice — and the wife through a relative in Massapequa, N.Y.

  • The lender moved for a default judgment against the couple. [Fort Lauderdale foreclosure defense attorney Morton] Antman, who represented the couple, argued the process server contradicted himself by checking boxes stating he successfully served the wife through the relative, though Amitza Benvenisti doesn’t live at the relative’s address. The relative, Gilan Benvenisti, swore in an affidavit that she doesn’t live with him. A docket entry dated Monday said the clerk’s office was not authorized to enter a default because of a lack of service.

  • I don’t know if this was intentional or not, but this isn’t the first time we’ve had situations where process servers do stuff like this,” Antman said.(1)I think it’s a mistake.”

For the story, see Judge grapples with her discovery of 15,000 unserved foreclosure cases.

(1) Go here for other posts on "sewer service" (a reference to the practice by process servers of filing sworn affidavits in court asserting that proper service was made when, in fact, it wasn't). SloppyForeclosuresAlpha SewerServiceAlpha

Ohio AG Tags Three Loan Modification Firms With Civil Suits As Part Of Statewide Foreclosure Rescue Scam Eradication Sweep

From the Office of the Ohio Attorney General:
  • Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray [Thursday] filed three lawsuits in a continuing effort to rid the state of foreclosure rescue scams operations. The lawsuits, filed against 21st Century Legal Services (Franklin County), Foreclosure Home Assistance, LLC (Cuyahoga County), and Michael Brotherton, who does business as Financial Emergency, Inc. (Greene County) seek to shut down the companies' ongoing operations in Ohio.(1)


  • Attorney General Cordray's lawsuits charge each company with violations of Ohio's Consumer Sales Practices Act and Debt Adjusters Act. Cordray asks the court to hold the companies responsible for reimbursing consumers and to assess a $25,000 civil penalty for each violation.

  • "In all three of these cases, we believe more victims are out there," said Cordray. "If you or someone you know has fallen victim to these operations I strongly urge you to contact my office." [Thursday's] lawsuits against 21st Century Legal Services and Foreclosure Home Assistance, LLC are the result of a first wave of 13 cease and desist notices issued by Cordray in May.

  • This month, Cordray issued 10 more cease and desist notices and subpoenas to foreclosure rescue operations targeting Ohioans. The cease and desists demand that the companies halt all predatory practices and the accompanying subpoenas require information to substantiate current practices. For more information or to file a consumer complaint, contact Attorney General Cordray's Office at or (800) 282-0515.

For the Ohio AG's press release, see Cordray Issues Statewide Foreclosure Rescue Scam Sweep (Seeks to shut down operations throughout Ohio).

(1) According to Cordray's lawsuit, Cleveland-based Foreclosure Home Assistance, LLC (which also does business as Global Home Rescuers, Homesavers USA, AW Gordon and Associates and Gordon and Associates.) charged consumers $1,500 for loan modifications, forbearance plans and other foreclosure prevention services. In some cases, the company offered foreclosure protection to tenants, claiming it could transfer the property deed from the landlord to the tenant. Despite its promises, the company failed to deliver.

Michael Brotherton, operating as Financial Emergency, Inc., offered similar foreclosure prevention services in Greene County. According to Cordray's lawsuit, Brotherton advertised his services on the Internet and through the mail. Brotherton charged consumers up to $1,269, saying he could work with lenders and creditors to negotiate debt settlements or workout agreements with mortgage holders. Brotherton failed to deliver.

Also failing to deliver was 21st Century Legal Services, which promised to help homeowners restructure their home loans, a promised service for which they charged $1,500 to $2,600. According to the lawsuit, the company instructed consumers to stop making payments on their home loans and to stop contacting their lenders. Consumers were instructed to make out several post-dated checks, each approximately equal to their monthly mortgage payment, and believed 21st Century would take care of the rest.

Arizona AG Has 50+ Firms In The Crosshairs In Ongoing Probes Into Loan Modification, Refinancing Rackets

In Phoenix, Arizona, the Phoenix Business Journal reports:
  • Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard said the state is investigating more than 50 mortgage modification and refinancing firms his office has received complaints about for ripping off consumers. Though Goddard would not disclose which companies are under investigation, he said the biggest problems in the industry right now are third-party advocates that charge up-front fees of sometimes thousands of dollars and promise distressed homeowners reworked mortgages that lower payments to help forestall foreclosures.(1)

For more, see Arizona investigating mortgage firms for fraud.

(1) Reportedly, homeowners are getting solicitations from all sorts of mortgage and refinancing firms. Some of the solicitations come in the form of letters, e-mails and automated telephone calls that can lead homeowners to believe they are from their lenders or from government agencies related to the federal “Making Home Affordable” program. Sometimes mortgage firms will create logos that look like government agencies or use the non-copyrighted federal fair housing and other logos, according to the story.

Long Island Lawyer Accused Of Pocketing $80K+ In Real Estate Sale Proceeds Due To Seller, $20K+ In Alleged Debt Consolidation Scam

From the Office of the Nassau County, New York District Attorney:
  • Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice announced [...] that an East Meadow attorney has been arrested and charged with three felonies after three victims accused him of stealing more than $100,000 of their money. Craig Heller, 49, has been charged with for Grand Larceny in the Second Degree, Grand Larceny in the Third Degree, and Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree. He faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted. [...].

  • Rice said that in June 2007, Heller was hired by a divorced couple to manage their debt consolidation. The ex-husband, of Bethpage, and ex-wife, of Seaford, each put $10,000 into an escrow account for Heller to pay their bills. Each party also agreed to pay Heller a $2,500 fee for his services. Heller soon received complaints from the ex-wife after she realized he was not paying off their debts. Heller agreed to repay both the $20,000 with interest and a portion of the attorney’s fee on Dec. 31, 2008. The money, however, was never repaid.

  • In a separate incident, Heller, acting as escrow agent, was hired in November 2007 to remit a settlement check for more than $82,000 to the partial owner of a piece of Brooklyn property that was sold. The closing took place on April 18, 2008, but Heller never gave the victim, of Brooklyn, a check. He was ordered to pay the amount on Dec. 18, 2008, but failed to do so. As in the other case, Heller promised numerous times to pay his victim.(1)

For the entire Nassau County DA press release, see East Meadow Attorney Charged With Stealing More Than $100K from Three Victims (Heller faces 15 years in prison for thefts).

Go here, Go here, Go here, Go here, and Go here for other stories of trust account / escrow account theft of funds.

(1) If a New York attorney, in the course of representing clients, screws them out of money or property through dishonest conduct, go to the The Lawyers’ Fund For Client Protection Of the State of New York for more information. For other states and Canada, see:

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Lenders' Lack Of Legal Standing To Foreclose Gets Attention At Arizona State Bar Convention

In Phoenix, Arizona, The Arizona Republic reports:
  • A growing number of home-mortgage holders in foreclosure are taking their lenders to court, where they are posing fundamental questions about the banks' legal right to repossess their homes, said an attorney addressing a packed crowd of lawyers Thursday at the State Bar of Arizona 2009 Convention in Phoenix.

  • "I'm actually going to raise more issues than I have answers for, because that's what's happening here in Arizona," Tucson attorney Beverly Parker, of Southern Arizona Legal Aid, told an audience of about 200 inside a meeting room at the Arizona Biltmore Resort and Spa. Lenders have sought to avoid expensive litigation in their efforts to foreclose on thousands of mortgage holders who have fallen behind on their payments, Parker said, opting for the non-judicial trustee's-sale process.


  • Courts rarely grant injunctions to stop pending foreclosures before they happen, she said, so most borrowers looking to fight off the bank have chosen Bankruptcy Court as their battleground. Filing for personal-bankruptcy protection automatically postpones any scheduled foreclosure, giving the borrowers time to identify all parties with a financial stake in the loan and to mount an effective defense.


  • She said she views legal challenges such as the lender's right to foreclose as tools to pressure banks to work harder on loan modifications. In many cases, those tools have been effective, she said. "The burden of proof is on them (the lenders)," Parker said. "Once you've raised the issue, they have to address it."

For more, see Banks' foreclosure rights questioned (More homeowners seeking day in court, attorney says).

For posts that reference the failure of mortgage lenders and their attorneys to file the proper paperwork when bringing foreclosure actions, Go Here, Go Here, Go Here, Go Here, Go Here, Go Here, and Go Here. EpsilonMissingDocsMtg

Cops: Forged Docs Used To Steal Home In Foreclosure, "Satisfy" Unpaid Loan, Pocket $167K+ From Subsequent Refi, Swipe Add'l $6K In Rent To Own Scam

In Newington, Connecticut, The New Britain Herald reports:
  • A Glastonbury real estate investor is accused of forging documents to take out more than $167,000 in mortgages on a Newington property in foreclosure, police said. Thomas “Steve” Moynihan, 48, [...], was charged by warrant Friday with larceny and forgery after a several-month investigation revealed he allegedly forged documents, including a quit claim deed signing a Newington home over to his company, court papers said.

  • The scheme began to unravel in September 2008, when a Newington resident was notified that his foreclosure hadn’t gone through because he had filed for bankruptcy. The man hadn’t filed for bankruptcy and noticed that people were living in the Hartford Avenue home he had left while the foreclosure proceedings were taking place, a warrant for Moynihan’s arrest said.

  • The man discovered that Moynihan had filed a quit claim deed with his signature at Town Hall, essentially giving the [...] property to Moynihan free of charge, the warrant said. The man brought the document to Newington police, who discovered a chain of forged papers that allowed Moynihan to take out two mortgages totaling $167,000 on the [...] property.

  • Police also learned that Moynihan had told a Hartford man he could live in the home with an option to buy the property if he used his own money to make repairs. That man allegedly gave Moynihan a $6,000 deposit toward the purchase of the home and used his own money to make thousands of dollars in repairs, the warrant said.

  • Moynihan was charged with first-degree larceny, third-degree larceny, two counts of second-degree forgery, identity theft and criminal impersonation. He was released after posting $50,000 bond and is scheduled to be arraigned on the charges July 6.

Source: Man charged with forging real estate documents.

Go here, Go here, Go here, Go here, Go here, Go here, Go here, Go here, and Go here for other posts related to deed or refinancing scams by forgery, swindle, power of attorney abuse, etc.

Go here and go here for stories on how easy some tenants found it in getting screwed over in these lease/option, "rent to own" and contract for deed real estate deals. rent to own lease purchase option scams yellowstone DeedContraTheft

Ohio Lawsuit Against County Sheriff, Others Alleges Appraisal Improprieties In Connection With Foreclosure Process

In Youngstown, Ohio, The Vindicator reports:
  • A local attorney feels something is amiss with Mahoning County Sheriff Randall Wellington and those appointed to appraise county property, and he is taking the matter to court. Atty. Brian P. Kish filed a civil lawsuit in common pleas court [...] against Wellington and county appraisers Daniel Battisti, Gail Battisti, Geraldine Damico and Richard Jeren, alleging improprieties in the appraisal practices for property in the county.


  • Kish said for the purposes of foreclosure and sheriff’s sale, every appraisal in the county is to be done by three independent appraisers. After each appraiser has appraised the property, an average of the three assessments is calculated and sent to all parties involved. Kish said he collected a list of sheriff’s return of appraisals on file since 2006 and randomly checked the documents. He said in every case he checked, all three appraisers listed on the document came up with the same value for each piece of property being appraised.


  • Kish said he believes the appraisers are not independently checking the properties being appraised but are instead sending only one person to do an appraisal while the other two simply agree with the assessment and collect the appraisal fees.(1)

For the story, see Suit alleges improprieties in property appraisal (The suit names the sheriff and six others).

(1) If these charges are true, I wonder if there is a basis for voiding foreclosure sales in those cases where this conduct may have taken place?

Complaints From Homeowners, Former Company Employees Raise Questions About Activities Of Southwest Florida Foreclosure Rescue Firm

In Lee County, Florida, WINK News reports:
  • The Florida Attorney General's Office has nine complaints against a Bonita Springs foreclosure rescue company, alleging that it may be breaking the law. Elite Financial Management Group, also known as Home Protection Agency, claims to help homeowners who are facing foreclosure by either mediating their mortgages or helping them with short sales.


  • Three complaints from former Elite employees are also on file at the Attorney General's Office. One man, who worked for the company for a little over a month, said he quit because he was not comfortable with how it was operated. Another former employee asked the Attorney General's office if he would be held liable criminally or civilly for any practices that go on at the company. A third employee complaint came from a woman who said her final paycheck bounced.

  • Elite Financial claimed they are not breaking the law because they collect fees in payments as they are performing services. When asked how that was legal given the specific language of the law,(1) they said they would prepare a written response.

For more, see CALL FOR ACTION: Helping or hurting homeowners? (WINK News investigates a foreclosure rescue company).

For story update, see Elite Financial Responds to Call For Action Investigation.

(1) Florida Governor Charlie Crist signed a law in May, 2008 making it illegal for foreclosure rescue companies to collect payments from customers before completing the entire service. That law went into effect October 1, 2008. loan modification

DOJ Alleges Race Discrimination In Civil Suit Against Owners, Managers Of Mobile Home Park

The U.S. Department of Justice recently announced:
  • The Department [...] filed a lawsuit against the former owner and managers of Homestead Mobile Home Village, a mobile home park in Gulfport, Miss., for violating the Fair Housing Act by discriminating against black tenants on the basis of race or color.

  • The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi charges that Edward and Barbara Hamilton, the former managers of the mobile home park, unjustly sought to evict a black couple and their five minor children who had moved there after being displaced by Hurricane Katrina. According to the complaint, the Hamiltons attempted to evict the family and other black residents for allegedly violating the rules of the park, but did not attempt to evict white residents for as many or more violations. The complaint also alleges the Hamiltons harassed and intimidated black tenants. The suit names as a defendant Indigo Investments LLC, the owner of Homestead Mobile Home Park at the time the Hamiltons managed the park.

For more, see Justice Department Files Lawsuit Alleging Racial Discrimination at Mobile Home Park in Gulfport, Mississippi (Federal Civil Rights Complaint Filed on Behalf of a Family Displaced by Hurricane Katrina).