Saturday, September 19, 2009

Washington Man Gets Two Months For Abusing POA, Leaving Mentally Impaired 78-Year Old Woman Homeless

In Kitsap County, Washington, the Kitsap Sun reports:
  • A Bremerton man has been sentenced to two months in jail for a mortgage theft scheme that left an elderly woman without a home, according to documents filed in Kitsap County Superior Court. Tony Thomas, 55, pleaded guilty to second-degree theft Sept. 4. He’s serving 30 days in the county jail, and then must serve another month of jail alternatives, according to the sentence handed down by Judge Anna Laurie.

  • Thomas and the elderly woman, who he had power of attorney over, received a $100,000 mortgage in December 2007 for the purposes of remodeling the woman’s home, court documents said.(1) But criminal charges were filed in September 2008 when at least $60,000 of the money came up missing, and the woman lost her home. The woman had decreased mental capacity, the documents said.

Source: Man Sentenced to 2 Months in Mortgage Scam.

(1) According to an earlier story, Bremerton Police detectives said the elderly woman's home had long since been paid for at the time the mortgage was obtained. see Mortgage Scam Costs Elderly Bremerton Woman Her Home.

Illegal Use Of POA To Rip Off Homes, Other Assets Of The Elderly & Vulnerable Now Tougher To Pull Off In NYS ... Hopefully

In New York City, Time Magazine reports:
  • Misappropriation of an elderly person's assets by someone legally authorized to oversee them may now be a lot tougher to pull off in the State of New York. New legislation that went into effect Sept. 1 — in the form of a radically changed power-of-attorney (POA) document — couldn't have come at a better time. "Financial abuse is one of the fastest growing areas of elder abuse," says Andrea Lowenthal, an elder-law and estate-planning attorney in New York.


  • In [some] instances, a health-care aide or housekeeper with ulterior motives might procure a POA and persuade a gullible senior to sign it. The signature of the principal was basically all that mattered then. Now things are different.

For more, see New Legal Protections for the Elderly. FinancialAbuseOfElderlyAlpha

Oregon Regulators To Crack Down On Self-Titled "Specialists" & "Advisers" Having Little Or No Professional Training

In Portland, Oregon, The Oregonian reports:
  • State regulators are trying to clamp down on the use of misleading financial services and insurance credentials that they say leave seniors vulnerable to abuse and fraud. The Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services is proposing new rules that would ban the use of "specialist," "adviser" or similar titles by salespeople who lack legitimate professional training. Salespeople could face fines as much as $20,000 for using designations that aren't backed by organizations with stringent requirements.


  • "People call themselves all kinds of things they really aren't," said Kevin Anselm, head of enforcement at the department's Division of Finance and Corporate Securities. "It's been more of a problem on the insurance side than the securities side." Among the troubling designations: special senior adviser, real estate specialist and foreclosure specialist.

For more, see Oregon regulators take aim at financial services designations (if link expires, try here). FinancialAbuseOfElderlyAlpha

Calgary Woman Faces Sentencing For Using POA To Sell, Rip Off Proceeds Of, Hospitalized Disabled Cousin's Home & Vehicle

In Calgary, Alberta, the Calgary Herald reports:
  • A city woman, ordered by the court last year to repay $180,000 after she bilked her disabled cousin of all his valuable assets, now faces jail time. Joy Marie Barkley, 54, was scheduled to be sentenced [...] on one count of theft over $5,000, but the case was adjourned [...] when a forensic report was not ready.

  • Court heard Ron Kaake had given power of attorney to Barkley in 2006 when he was placed in a long-term care facility with complications from multiple sclerosis. But when the bed-ridden man's condition improved after a year in Dr. Vernon Fanning Centre [...], he discovered Barkley had sold his vehicle and condo and then gambled away the proceeds.(1)

For more, see Calgary woman faces jail time after robbing disabled cousin.

(1) According to the story, Crown prosecutor Susan Kennedy told the court that Barkley sold Kaake's 2004 Toyota Sienna to a Calgary dealership just a week after Kaake was hospitalized with serious complications stemming from his chronic illness. Four days later, the woman sold her cousin's home in Cochrane and deposited the proceeds into his bank account, but withdrew the entire amount during the next 12 months and spent the money for personal use. DeedContraTheft

Mom Accuses Bankrupt Daughter Of Wiping Out Life Savings, Using Unwittingly Signed Deed To Sell Home & Pocket Proceeds

In Nashville, Tennessee, reports:
  • Donna Jones, a former employee of admitted embezzler and Ponzi scheme operator Michael J. Park of Brentwood, appeared before the U.S. Bankruptcy Court [last week]. [...] As to claims by Jones that she had not transferred assets in the last three years, that [...] is in dispute.

  • Martha Stinson, Jones' mother, says her daughter regularly deposited checks into her and her late husband's checking account only to move it back out within 24 hours. Stinson says that her daughter did not have power of attorney and that she trusted her daughter at the time. [...] Stinson, who now lives in a trailer home in Burns, was dealing with her husband's brain cancer, which proved fatal, at the time and did not question what her daughter told her. She now regrets that as her life savings has been completely wiped out.

  • Another issue within the family, and questioned in U.S. Bankruptcy Court, is a quitclaim deed placed by Jones on her parents' home. Jones gained $25,000 from the sale of the house in 2008, but her mother states that her husband signed the quitclaim deed while undergoing intensive chemotherapy and did not know what he was signing.

For the story, see Perjury suspected in alleged Ponzi conspirator case (Central figure in investment scheme gave answers under oath that others aren't buying). DeedContraTheft

Use Of Phony POA To Sell Murdered Retiree's $1M Home, Loot Bank Accounts Among Charges Facing Slay Suspects

In Palm Springs, California, The Desert Sun reports:
  • Five men accused in the stabbing death of a Palm Springs retiree to steal his identity and his financial assets [...] were ordered to stand trial on murder and other charges. Kaushal Niroula, 27, San Francisco attorney David Replogle, 60, Miguel Bustamante, 26, Daniel Garcia, 26, and Craig McCarthy, 29, face charges of murder, conspiracy to commit murder and conspiracy to commit a robbery in connection with the Dec. 5 slaying of 74-year-old Clifford Lambert. Niroula, Replogle and Garcia also face several charges stemming from the alleged fraudulent sale of Lambert's home and the emptying of his bank accounts. [...] Following Lambert's death, [attorney] Replogle allegedly created a false power of attorney document that allowed the co-defendants to empty the victim's bank accounts and sell his $1 million home for less than $300,000. A judge subsequently halted the sale.

For more, see Suspects in Palm Springs retiree's murder to stand trial. DeedContraTheft FinancialAbuseOfElderlyAlpha

In-Home Health Care Aide Facing Foreclosure Sentenced For Ripping Off $15K+ From 93-Year Old Patient

In Martinez, California, the Contra Costa Times reports:
  • An Oakley woman has been sentenced to jail and probation for stealing more than $15,000 from a 93-year-old Rossmoor woman who employed her to provide in-home care. Teresa Bryant pleaded no contest [...] to felony financial abuse by a caretaker and was sentenced in Contra Costa County's court dedicated to crimes involving elderly victims to 60 days in jail and three year's probation. [...] Bryant told the court that she was in financial straits and facing foreclosure on her home when she forged 42 checks from the victim's account between May and August, [prosecutor Jason] Peck said.

For the story, see Oakley woman sentenced for theft from Rossmoor women. FinancialAbuseOfElderlyAlpha

Financially Strapped Real Estate Operators Charged With Torching Their $1M Home; Roof Collapse Nearly Kills Firefighters

In Tracy, California, the Tracy Press reports:
  • A husband and wife are suspected of burning down their $1 million home in Tracy last summer — a blaze that almost killed several firefighters. Police [...] arrested 31-year-old William “Billy” Tipton Jr. and issued an arrest warrant for his wife, 37-year-old Frayba Tipton, on suspicion of arson, forgery and insurance fraud. Billy Tipton faces additional charges of grand theft and two more counts of defrauding an insurance company. [...] Not only did the fire destroy many of the family’s possessions, it also nearly killed several firefighters when it weakened the beams supporting a heavy slate roof that collapsed just 30 seconds after a fire chief ordered his crew out of the burning house.


  • Billy Tipton — who used to own a branch of West Coast Realty and Mortgage in Tracy without a real estate or broker’s license — was taken into custody Friday night. [...] Frayba Tipton — owner of A+ Realty and Mortgage — is free of her own recognizance, but was ordered to appear in court with her husband on Thursday.

  • The charges filed against the pair come as no surprise to several people who knew them. For the past few years, an architect, a graphic designer, several banks and at least two insurance companies were looking for the Tracy family for either money or an explanation. Public record paints a picture of a couple so dependent on the housing market that they lost virtually all of their property wealth when the economy tanked. They let several properties lapse into foreclosure as their income as real estate agents and brokers suffered from a dearth of buyers. Lawsuits demanding payment from Frayba and Billy Tipton show that the couple has had trouble keeping up with the bills for the past year or so.

For more, see Husband and wife suspected of Fagin Drive arson.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Sentencing Continues For Participants In Maryland-Based Equity Stripping Foreclosure Rescue Scams Peddling Bogus Sale Leaseback Arrangements

From the Office of the U.S. Attorney (Maryland):
  • U.S. District Judge Roger W. Titus sentenced Richard Allison, age 38, of Camp Springs, Maryland, an attorney and employee of the U.S. Census Bureau, [...] to 18 months in prison followed by five years of supervised release for conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, in connection with a mortgage fraud scheme(1) which falsely promised to help homeowners facing foreclosure keep their homes and repair their damaged credit, announced United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein. Judge Titus also sentenced co-conspirator Carlisha Dixon, age 32, of Hyattsville, Maryland [...] to five months in prison and five months home detention, followed by five years of supervised release for the conspiracy. Judge Titus also entered an order of restitution against Dixon of $180,000 and deferred restitution for Allison pending a hearing on October 7th to determine the amount and allocation of restitution among the victims.


  • Using the [victimized] homeowners’ properties, the conspirators applied for mortgages to extract the maximum available equity from the homes. They prepared and submitted fraudulent loan applications to mortgage lenders to obtain fraudulently inflated loans on the target properties in the straw buyers’ names. At settlements, the conspirators imposed numerous fees and required “seller contributions” which were far in excess of industry standards; they imposed fees for services which were not performed, disclosed or explained to the homeowners; and they transferred the sale proceeds out of the escrow accounts into the conspirators’ business and personal bank accounts and converted a substantial portion of those funds to their personal use.

For the entire U.S. Attorney press release, see Lawyer and Conspirator Sentenced in Metropolitan Money Store Mortgage Fraud Scheme.

For the indictment, see U.S. v. JoyJackson, et al.

With regard to the ongoing civil class action lawsuits involving Metropolitan Money Store and its associates:

(1) Ten defendants, including a lawyer, mortgage broker, real estate agent, loan processor, company officers and family members have pleaded guilty in this scheme. Kurt Fordham, age 39, of Fort Washington, Maryland was sentenced on July 10, 2009 to 10 years in prison for his participation in the scheme. Fordham was personally responsible for over $13.5 million of losses to mortgage lenders and used over $800,000 of fraudulently obtained proceeds to pay for his wedding. The remaining defendants are scheduled to be sentenced within the next three months.

Maryland Accountant Cops Plea To Ripping Off $1M+ From Escrow Account, Then Torching Offices Of Employer/Law Firm After Getting Canned

In Dundalk, Maryland, WBAL-TV Channel 11 reports:
  • Federal prosecutors said a former accountant for a Dundalk real estate law firm pleaded guilty to stealing more than $1 million and burning the firm's offices. George Perez, 33, of Dundalk pleaded guilty Wednesday to theft and arson charges. Prosecutors said the April 2007 fire caused $800,000 in damage to the law firm six days after it fired Perez.(1) Federal prosecutors said Perez was hired in January 2004 to track money from foreclosure sales and disbursements in the firm's escrow account. From December 2005 to April 2007, Perez was accused of transferring $1,044,309 into personal accounts, using the money to pay gambling debts and buy real estate.

Source: Fired Accountant Guilty Of $1M Theft, Arson.

For the U.S. Attorney (Maryland) press release, see Former Accountant of Dundalk Law Firm Admits to Stealing over $1 Million and Arson (Defendant Disappeared for Almost a Year After Failing to Appear in Court).

(1) According to the U.S. Attorney press release, the fire caused substantial damage not only to the law firm’s offices, but also to other businesses that occupied the building, including offices of a physician, an accounting firm and a pharmacy. A firefighter who responded to the fire was injured and taken to the hospital to be treated for burns he suffered. He was released after treatment. EscrowRipOffKappa

92-Year Old Victim Of Alleged C. Florida House Swindle Gives Emotional Testimony In Criminal Trial; Says She Unwittingly Signed Deed To Her Home

In New Port Richey, Florida, The Tampa Tribune reports:
  • Time has taken away some of Eloise Mudway's physical and mental abilities. She has difficulty recalling names, dates and times; struggles to hear and gets around only with the help of a wheelchair. Fortunately, she has retained a healthy sense of humor. Eloise Mudway, 92, needed it [Thursday] as she spent more than three hours on the witness stand answering a barrage of questions from Assistant State Attorney Mike Halkitis and defense attorneys Dean Livermore and Mark Goettel. "God help me," she said during one break in her testimony. Livermore and Goettel represent Cynthia and Joseph Clancy, a local couple prosecutors contend swindled Mudway out of her $370,000 house and other assets between 2001 and 2005.(1)


  • Mudway answered with an emphatic "no" when asked if Cynthia Clancy ever explained to her that she was signing a quit-claim deed to save the house from default. "I never heard tell of a quit-claim deed," Mudway testified. "She just brought the paper out, shoved it in front of me and said, 'Sign this. I'm getting mad.'" The Clancys continue to live in the house while Mudway lives with another local couple.

For more, see Elderly woman testifies in Pasco grand theft case.


See also, the St. Petersburg Times: Elderly victim gives emotional testimony in Pasco County grand theft trial:

  • The prosecutor handed Eloise Mudway the quit claim deed with her signature transferring her home to someone else. Sitting in her wheelchair, Mudway looked at the paper and fought back the tears. "Do you remember Cyndy Clancy taking you to Wachovia Bank?" asked Assistant State Attorney Mike Halkitis. "A piece of paper was put in front of me," replied the 92-year-old woman, whose voice cracked as she blotted her eyes with tissue, "and old dumb me signed it and didn't have a house anymore." [...] After her testimony, Mudway was wheeled out of the courtroom by a victim's advocate.

(1) The Clancys are each charged with one count of grand theft from a person over 65 and both face a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison. FinancialAbuseOfElderlyAlpha DeedContraTheft

Minister Gets Four Years For Fraudulently Obtaining Mortgage Loan

In Fairview Heights, Illinois, the Belleville News Democrat reports:
  • A metro-east minister was sentenced [last week] to four years in prison for federal mortgage loan fraud after he made fraudulent transactions to get a loan on a home in an exclusive Maryville neighborhood. Keith L. Pittman, 54, also was sentenced to five years supervised release and ordered to pay $142,000 in restitution to HomeEq Mortgage Servicing Corporation, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney's Office.

  • His fraudulent transactions "enabled him to obtain a subprime mortgage to purchase property without making an actual down payment, while simultaneously exposing the lending institution to an undisclosed, increased risk of default," the news release stated. Pittman did not make any mortgage payments and the property was foreclosed upon. [...] He was a pastor for more than 20 years at St. Louis area and metro-east churches.

Source: Metro-east minister gets 4 years for mortgage loan fraud; must pay $142,000 in restitution.

For the U.S. Attorney press release (Southern District, Illinois), see Former Maryville Man Sentenced On Mortgage Loan Fraud Scheme.

Tenants Stripped Of Community Privileges As Rent Skimming Landlord Pockets Cash, Stiffs Condo Association Out Of $10K+ In Monthly Maintenance Fees

In West Palm Beach, Florida, WPBF-TV Channel 25 reports:
  • The home has everything Xavier Melendez could want for his young family. "Really quiet, really peaceful," he said about the West Palm Beach community. He finds the rent fair and he said he paid it faithfully for two years. Then something strange happened. "I couldn't have a pizza. I can't use the facility. I can't go to the pool," Melendez said. No one, not even a relative, can visit them in the Terracina community. It's all because the owner, Micki O'Callaghan, is in foreclosure.

  • WPBF 25 News first reported on O'Callaghan in June.(1) The Homeowner's Association Security Chairperson, Doug Prince, said she's more than $10,000 behind in dues. [...] "She's just putting the money in her back pocket and not paying her bills," said Prince, who said O'Callaghan is renting out five houses in the community which are in foreclosure.(2)

For the story, see Renters Of Homes In Foreclosure Lose Privileges (More Tenants Come Forward Against Landlord).

(1) For earlier WPBF-TV Channel 25 stories on Micki O'Callaghan, see:

(2) Rent skimming (referred to as equity skimming in Florida), as defined in Section 697.08, Florida Statutes, constitutes a felony of the third degree, punishable as provided in Sections 775.082, 775.083, or 775.084, Florida Statutes. RentSigmaSkimming

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Illinois AG Brings Civil Suit Alleging Deceptive Practices In Equity Stripping, Home Repair Scam That Duped 36 Chicago Homeowners

In Chicago, Illinois, the Chicago Tribune reports:
  • The Illinois attorney general's office filed suit in Cook County Circuit Court on Tuesday against a Chicago man and five home repair and mortgage companies for allegedly defrauding 36 Chicago homeowners, including two who lost homes to foreclosure. The complaint charges Mark Diamond and several companies to which he is linked with coordinating a scheme to strip almost $1.3 million in equity from the homes of elderly and African-American homeowners on the city's West and South Sides.(1) The actions allegedly violated the state's consumer fraud act.


  • The suit charged that Diamond offered to refinance mortgages at lower interest rates or lower monthly payments and encouraged homeowners to take equity out of their homes for repairs, with the work performed by the affiliated companies. After persuading homeowners to sign the checks over to Diamond, he pocketed a portion of the funds instead of completing the repairs, the state said. The state also accused Diamond of putting homeowners into mortgages they could not afford and, in some cases, forging consumers' signatures on loan documents. As a result, 12 consumers have defaulted on their mortgages and two people have lost their homes to foreclosure, the state said.

Source: Chicago man and five companies are sued in consumer fraud case (Lawsuit says Mark Diamond defrauded elderly and African-American homeowners on the city's West and South Sides).

For the Illinois Attorney General press release, see Madigan Cracks Down On Chicago Mortgage And Home Repair Fraud Scheme ($1.3 Million Swindled from Elderly, African-American Homeowners in Subprime Loan Scam).

(1) According to the story, also named in the suit were three home repair and remodeling companies, United Construction of America Inc., United Residential Services and Real Estate Inc., and Skyway Builders #1 Inc.; and two finance companies, OSI Financial Services Inc. and Harbor Financial Group Ltd. Diamond is president of United Residential Services and OSI Financial Services and "fronts for all the companies," the lawsuit reportedly said. StiffingContractorsTheta

Miami Man Gets 88 Months For Role In Impersonating Unwitting Homeowners & Ripping Off Their HELOC Accounts

From the Office of the U.S. Attorney (Alexandria, Virginia):
  • Henry “Uche” Obilo, age 30, of Miami, Fl., was sentenced to 88 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release, for his role as a leader in a home equity line of credit fraud scheme(1) that has been linked to more than $36 million in attempted fraud and almost $11 million in actual losses. To date, investigators have identified more than 180 victims. Obilo was ordered to pay restitution of $577,149.33.


  • According to court records, Obilo and other co-conspirators used fee-based web databases to search for potential victim account holders with large balances in home equity line of credit (HELOC) accounts. This information included name, address, date of birth, and social security number. [...] Armed with a victim’s personal information, the conspirators, [...] called the victim’s financial institution, impersonated the victim, and transferred the majority of the available money from the HELOC account into an account from which a wire transfer could be sent. The conspirators would then wire transfer hundreds of thousands of dollars to domestic or overseas accounts controlled by members of the conspiracy.(2)

For the U.S. Attorney press release, see Miami Man Sentenced to 88 Months in $11 Million Bank-Fraud Conspiracy.

(1) Others involved in the scheme include: Abel Nnabue, age 34, of Dallas, who was sentenced to 54 months on Jan. 30, 2009; Precious Matthews, age 27, of Miami, who was sentenced 51 months on Feb. 13, 2009; Brandy Anderson, age 31, of Dallas, who was sentenced to 2 years of supervised probation and 40 days of community confinement on Feb. 20, 2009; Ezenwa Onyedebelu, age 21, of Dallas, who was sentenced to 37 months on Feb. 27, 2009; Daniel Orjinta, age 43, of Nigeria, who was sentenced to 42 months on March 6, 2009; Paula Gipson, age 34, of Dallas, Texas, who was sentenced to 15 months on Sept. 4, 2009. The conspiracy’s ringleader, Tobechi Onwuhara, age 30, of Dallas, has an outstanding warrant for his arrest and remains a fugitive. Information about Onwuhara is available on the America’s Most Wanted website:

(2) The conspirators used caller-ID spoofing services, prepaid cell phones and PC wireless Internet access cards, and transferred victims’ home telephone numbers in order to impersonate the victim and avoid identifying themselves, according to the U.S. Attorney's office.

NC AG On Loan Modification Foreclosure Rescue Scammers: "These Creeps Are Out There, Crawling Out From Under Rocks & Taking People's Money"

In Greenville, North Carolina, The Daily Reflector reports:
  • State Attorney General Roy Cooper on Tuesday warned local homeowners and business leaders to be wary of home mortgage assistance scams, one of several topics he covered at a luncheon hosted by the Greenville-Pitt County Chamber of Commerce at the Brook Valley Country Club.


  • His office is trying to push buyers and lenders to work complicated financial issues out together through the use of qualified counselors, he said. [...] However, since scammers know counselors are being used, they are presenting themselves as such to borrowers, getting money up front and not helping them, Cooper said. His office has tackled about 130 foreclosure scams, he said.

  • You know that these creeps are out there, crawling out from under rocks and taking people's money,” Cooper said. The attorney general's office received seven scam complaints in 2007, 82 in 2008 and 353 scam complaints this year, he said. North Carolina was one of the first states to make it illegal to take money up front for home mortgage foreclosure counseling, and state attorneys are using the law in courts now to try to end the scams, Cooper said.

Source: AG Cooper visits with chamber, Boys & Girls Club.

Trial Begins For Central Florida Couple Accused Of Swiping Home Out From Under Elderly Widow Who Unwittingly Signed Deed

In New Port Richey, Florida, The Suncoast News reports:
  • Prosecutors call it a case of deceit, deception and greed. Defense attorneys say it's simply a case of an elderly woman who spent her way into financial ruin and had to be rescued. Who's right?

  • A jury will answer that question during the trial of Joseph and Cynthia Clancy, who are accused of bilking Eloise Mudway, now 92, out of her house and assets between 2001 and 2005. Testimony began Tuesday and the trial is expected to last through Friday. The Clancys are charged with one count each of grand theft from a person over the age of 65 and face up to 30 years in prison if found guilty.


  • Much of the state's case rests on the contention that the couple stole Mudway's 2,900-square-foot home out from under her by having her unknowingly sign a quit-claim deed in May 2004. The Clancys still live in the house [...], a home that Mudway and her husband purchased in 1980. The house is now listed in Cynthia Clancy's name. Mudway has lived with another local family since 2005.

For more, see Trial begins for Pasco couple accused of bilking woman.

See also:

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Kansas Supreme Court Leaves MERS, 2nd Mortgage Holder Holding The Bag; OK's Foreclosure Sale By First Mortgagee Despite Lack Of Notice To Either Firm

Housing Wire reports:
  • A ruling by the Kansas Supreme Court determined Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems (MERS)(1) was not a “necessary party” in a mortgage foreclosure proceeding initiated by a first lien holder. [...] The court’s ruling involves a case where MERS was listed as the mortgagee of a second-lien mortgage originated by Millenia Mortgage Corp. When the primary lien holder, Landmark National Bank went to court to seek foreclosure action, MERS wasn’t notified. Although Millenia was notified, it already sold its interest in the loan to Sovereign Bank.

  • Representatives from the second lien loan were not present at the hearing. The lower court allowed Landmark to proceed with the foreclosure and sell the property at sheriff’s sale. In response, Sovereign and MERS attempted to vacate the judgment, which was denied by the trial court. The ruling to deny the motion was upheld by the state’s court of appeals and later, its supreme court. In its ruling, the supreme court said that MERS was not a “contingently necessary party.”

  • It added since Sovereign Bank didn’t register its interest with the county’s register of deeds, it had no rights in the foreclosure proceeding.(2)

For more, see Court Ruling Upholds Foreclosure Sale Despite MERS’ Appeal.

For the Kansas Supreme Court ruling, see Landmark Nat'l Bank v. Kesler, No. 98,489, 2009 Kan. LEXIS 834 (August 28, 2009), affirming Kansas Court of Appeals in Landmark Nat'l Bank v. Kesler, 40 Kan. App. 2d 325, 192 P.3d 177, 2008 Kan. App. LEXIS 138 (2008).

(1) MERS acts as the representative for lenders and services in county land records for mortgages registered with the company. MERS keeps track of the loan, even when servicing rights are traded or sold, and notifies lender and servicer clients of action against the property.

(2) The proceeds of the foreclosure sale in this case exceeded the amount owed to the foreclosing first mortgage holder. The balance of the proceeds, after distribution of the amount owed to the foreclosing lender (generally referred to as the surplus funds or the overage, among other descriptive references), is then typically distributed to any subordinate lienholders in an amount not to exceed the balance of their claims; the remainder, if any, then goes to the foreclosed upon homeowner. Interestingly, according to the facts as laid out in the Kansas Supreme Court’s ruling, it appears that the foreclosed upon homeowner walked off with the entire foreclosure sale surplus; neither MERS nor the second mortgage holder participated in the distribution of these proceeds. EpsilonMissingDocsMtg

Vegas Man Claims "Adverse Possession" In Attempt To Justify Hijacking, Then Renting, Vacant Home In Foreclosure

In Las Vegas, Nevada, KTNV-TV Channel 13 reports:
  • The foreclosure captial of the country is becoming a hot bed for scam artists, but one family in the Valley is taking action to try to take back its home from a man who may have rented it out illegally. You could liken it to squatting without the tenants knowing they're squatting.


  • Steven Humes thought he had found a great deal on Craigslist to rent a house when he moved to Las Vegas a couple of months ago, but what he really found may have been a great scam. "They gave us a key; we went inside; we looked at the property, and decided 'oh this is great, loving it, 735 a month, loving it, great,'" says Steven.

  • John Bartlett also had a key, as well he should. He owns the home, even though it's going into default, but much to his surprise, when he went with a real estate agent to show it, his key didn't work. That's because a so-called property manager had changed the locks and rented out a home he didn't have rights to. [...] Action News went to the property manager's office, but he wasn't there, and the secretary wouldn't call him. Days later, he did call, then e-mailed, saying the house was abandoned, and that he claimed it under an old law known as adverse possession.

For the story, see Foreclosure flim-flam, or right to rent? KappaPhonyLandlordScam

Bogus Loan Fees, Failure To Act In Good Faith Among Allegations In Elderly Ohio Couple's Attempt To Fight Foreclosure Of Home Of 40+ Years

In Stark County, Ohio, The Canton Repository reports:
  • A mediator has been asked to resolve a foreclosure dispute that has come close to chasing a North Canton couple in their mid-80s from their home. Stark County Common Pleas Court Judge Taryn Heath referred a foreclosure against William and Bette Hammen to the Community Mediation Center. Representatives for the Hammens and their mortgage company are scheduled for an Oct. 29 hearing. The couple has been on the verge of losing their house several times during the past 18 months.


  • CitiMortgage launched foreclosure proceedings in February 2008 because the Hammens hadn’t paid their mortgage. [...] Since then, the couple has been declared incompetent, assigned a guardian and received legal aid. That has helped them begin to turn the tables on the foreclosure process.

  • Heath moved the Hammens’ case to mediation after lawyers argued that lenders broke federal lending laws, assessed “illegal, improper or excessive” loan fees, and failed to act in good faith when creating a $100,000 mortgage and a home-equity loan for the couple in 2006. The Hammens have lived in the house since 1965. They didn’t have a mortgage until 2002, according to court filings. But since 2002, the couple has entered into three standard mortgages and three open-ended mortgages.

For the story, see North Canton couple’s foreclosure referred to mediator.

Queens Co-Op Board Of Directors Accused Of Taking Out $12M In Mortgages On Building Without Unit Owners' Consent

In Elmhurst, New York, the New York Daily News reports:
  • Shareholders of an Elmhurst co-op are locked in a legal tug of war with its board of directors, accusing it of taking out $12 million in mortgages without their knowledge. Shareholders of the Continental, at 87-10 51st Ave., said they only found out about the two $6 million loans when they got court papers in June warning that the co-op was heading into foreclosure because of an unpaid bill. "We didn't know about either mortgage," a shareholder told the Daily News, speaking on condition of anonymity. "There have been no financial statements and no meetings."

For more, see Legal battle looms at Continental co-op over 12M in mortgages: Shareholders say without approval.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Wells Fargo Cans Squatting Senior VP For Using $12M Beachfront REO As Party House

In Malibu, California, The Los Angeles Times reports:
  • Moving to contain a public relations mess, Wells Fargo & Co. fired a top executive accused of using a bank-owned Malibu beach house to entertain her family and friends. Cheronda Guyton, a senior vice president responsible for commercial foreclosed properties, broke company rules barring personal use of bank property, Wells Fargo said in a statement Monday. The Times reported last week that Guyton had been spotted by neighbors spending time at the Malibu Colony home with her family this summer. At a party in August, guests were ferried to the beach house from a yacht, residents of the enclave said.


  • Wells Fargo's quick action after The Times' report last week reflects the bank's recognition that the case could become a liability, especially in light of its acceptance of federal bailout money, ethics experts said.


  • Wealthy real estate shoppers who had gotten wind of the house being held by the bank said they were frustrated they could not offer to buy it. Local real estate agents said they began to get calls from eager would-be buyers -- but the house wasn't for sale.

For more, see Wells Fargo fires executive accused of using bank-owned Malibu home (Cheronda Guyton, a senior vice president responsible for commercial foreclosed properties, had been seen by neighbors using the Malibu Colony house lost by victims of Bernard Madoff's Ponzi scheme).

See also:

Home Lost To Foreclosure Despite Loan Servicer's Failure To Complete HAMP Review, Says New Hampshire Couple

In Franklin, New Hampshire, New Hampshire Public Radio reports:
  • About a month ago, homeowners Sharon Gagnon and her husband were facing foreclosure. But they sought help from a HUD certified housing counselor, and got a modification with Chase Bank under the federal Making Home Affordable Program. Gagnon had recently sent in her signed authorization with a check when a real estate agent came by and told her she didn’t own her house anymore.


  • According to Gagnon and her counselor, Chase bank, a unit of JP Morgan Chase, accepted the modification and the check that Gagnon sent. But the bank then sent the check back with no explanation of why they were doing it. In the meantime, Sharon Gagnon got another surprise in early August. And the next thing I know is there’s an eviction notice on the door, from the sheriff, telling us we need to be out by September 15th.


  • Under the HAMP [Home Affordable Modification Program] regulations you’re not allowed to proceed on a HAMP eligible family on a foreclosure or scheduled sale date without having the HAMP review completed and foreclosures have continued to proceed as if everything is normal and there’s no need to do the HAMP review. A spokesman for JP Morgan Chase says the company won’t comment on this story, except to say the Gagnon case is under investigation. Gagnon’s attorney, Peter Wright at Franklin Pierce Law Center, says his team is already working on trying to keep the family in their home.

For more, see A Franklin Family Facing Eviction Thought They Had Saved Their House.

Punishing Attorneys Offering Bogus Loan Modification Help To Financially Strapped Homeowners A Priority For Incoming State Bar President

In Los Angeles, California, The Los Angeles Times reports:
  • Crooked lawyers have long besmirched the profession's image, but the scale of their involvement in the loan modification scandals plaguing California homeowners has taken an unprecedented toll, the incoming president of the State Bar of California says. The proliferation of complaints against lawyers who said they could help rescue clients threatened with foreclosure has hurt tens of thousands of people and confronted the bar with a mounting and costly disciplinary burden, said Howard Miller, a partner with the Los Angeles plaintiffs' firm of Girardi & Keese. "There are at least hundreds, and perhaps more, perhaps thousands, of lawyers in California who deliberately reached out to obtain money from people at the most vulnerable point in their lives and, as near as anyone can tell, did nothing to help them," Miller said, vowing to make a priority of punishing such misdeeds during his yearlong tenure.


  • Miller was a key supporter of a new rule of professional conduct requiring attorneys to tell clients if they don't carry malpractice insurance. [...] The estimated tens of thousands who lost nonrefundable deposits to unscrupulous lawyers advertising their loan-modification services could have benefited from the knowledge that those attorneys were, for the most part, uninsured, Miller said.

For more, see New head of State Bar of California assails mortgage modification scammers (Los Angeles attorney Howard Miller lambastes lawyers who claimed to be offering help to homeowners facing foreclosure but did nothing except take their money).

Massachusetts Regulators Asleep At Wheel During Recent Subprime Era?

In Boston, Massachusetts, New England Cable News reports:
  • Where were Massachusetts banking regulators as the subprime mortgage crisis exploded all around them? That question is the focus of a special investigation by the New England Center for Investigative Reporting at Boston University - a collaborative effort that includes NECN, WBUR radio, The Boston Globe and Banker and Tradesman. Did state regulators protect the public or fall asleep at the wheel?

For more, see Mass. regulators lag New England in disciplining brokers and lenders.

See also, The Boston Globe: Few Mass. brokers hit for abuses (Mortgage lending regulators lag peers in other N.E. states).

City Concerned About Effect On Tenants From Unwinding $5.4B Purchase Of 11,000+ Unit Apartment Complexes Gone Bad

In New York City, The New York Times reports:
  • Three years ago, the sale of the 110 red-brick apartment buildings at Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village in Manhattan represented the most expensive American real estate deal in history.(1) Now the buyers are running out of time and money. Jerry I. and Rob Speyer and their partner, BlackRock Realty, who paid $5.4 billion for the quiet middle-class redoubt near the East River, have seen the property lose more than half of its value, and the income from rent — down 25 percent from its peak — covers less than half of their debt payments. Real estate analysts say they expect that by December, the partnership will run out of an additional $890 million set aside for apartment renovations, landscaping and interest payments, and that the owners are at “high risk” of default on $4.4 billion in loans.(2)


  • Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village are in trouble. City officials have been monitoring the looming crisis and how it might affect a complex that has served as an oasis of affordability in Manhattan for middle-class New Yorkers. Some 6,875 of the 11,227 apartments at the complexes are rent regulated. “We are absolutely keeping an eye on it,” said Rafael E. Cestero, the city’s housing commissioner. “It’s an iconic complex.” Referring to the people who were part of the original real estate transaction, he went on, “Those folks are going to take their lumps. We are looking at how we can ensure that the rent-stabilized units and the families that live there and families that could live there in the future could be insulated from the unwinding of this deal.”(3)(4)

For the story, see Buyers of Huge Manhattan Complex Face Default Risk.

(1) The residential complex, the largest of its kind in New York City, covers approximately 80 acres, or a full 10 city blocks, between First Avenue and Avenue C, and 14th Street and 23rd Street, and consists of 110 apartment buildings comprising 11,200 units, which house at least 20,000 people.

(2) The purchase of Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village was one of the more scrutinized of its deals in recent years, the story states. The winning bid presumed the partnership could increase profits by renovating and deregulating apartments, but the owners have been unable to quickly convert apartments to market rates.

(3)Residents are increasingly concerned that the maintenance of the buildings is slipping, even as they are getting hit with a flurry of potential charges for major capital improvements,” said Daniel R. Garodnick, a city councilman who lives in Peter Cooper Village.

(4) The underwater landlords in this story have gone to the New York Court of Appeals (the state's highest court) to appeal a recent state intermediate appellate court ruling that could result in them having to pay more than $200 million to repay the tenants in these complexes for illegal rent increases over the last four years in connection with improperly deregulating more than 3,000 apartments while receiving special property tax breaks from the city. See:

Monday, September 14, 2009

Head Of Maryland-Based Foreclosure Rescue Firm Gets 78 Months For Role In Peddling Bogus Equity Stripping Sale Leasebacks To Homeowners In Foreclosure

From the Office of the U.S. Attorney (Maryland):
  • U.S. District Judge Deborah K. Chasanow sentenced Michael K. Lewis, age 57, of Takoma Park, Maryland today to 78 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release, for conspiracy and bankruptcy fraud arising from a scheme in which he and his conspirators offered to help financially vulnerable individuals save their homes from foreclosure, and instead defrauded homeowners and mortgage lenders, announced United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein.


  • According to his plea agreement, [...] Lewis aired television advertisements that targeted financially vulnerable individuals, representing that he could improve their credit, save their homes from foreclosure and assist them with bankruptcy. [...] Lewis specifically targeted individuals who owned and had equity in their homes, but were facing foreclosure on their homes because of their inability to make monthly mortgage payments. The goal of Lewis and his co-conspirators was to steal the homeowners’ equity out of their property by inducing the homeowners to sell their property to Earnest Lewis and converting sale proceeds to the use of the conspirators. Lewis and his co-conspirators did this by fraudulently representing to the homeowners that their “lease/buy-back program” would help the homeowners to keep their homes. Lewis and Winston Thomas, a senior loan officer with a mortgage lender, told the homeowners that the “good credit” of Earnest Lewis would be used to temporarily refinance their homes, that they had to sign their homes over to Earnest Lewis and that they could repurchase the homes in roughly one year, or once they regained their financial footing. During the interim, they could remain in their homes only by paying inflated “rent” and fees by having their bank accounts directly debited to an account belonging to co-conspirator Cheryl Brooke’s company “In the House Technologies.” Brooke then made payments to Earnest Lewis and Thomas, with the remaining funds being used by Michael K. Lewis and Brooke for their personal benefit.(1)

For the entire U.S. Attorney press release, see Leader of Mortgage Fraud Scheme Sentenced to 6 ½ Years in Prison - Targeted Victims with TV Ads.

See also, WBAL-TV Channel 11: Lewis Gets 6.5 Years In Prison For Mortgage Fraud (Michael K. Lewis Convicted Of Defrauding People Out Of Homes).

(1) Earnest Lewis, age 52, of Takoma Park, Maryland, was sentenced to 54 months in prison, for his role in the scheme. Cheryl Brooke, age 52, of Upper Marlboro, Maryland, and Winston Thomas, age 43, of New Carrollton, Maryland pleaded guilty to their participation in the scheme and face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison for the conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Michael K. Lewis Financial Diet

Texas Judge Slams Foreclosure Rescue Operator With 350 Months For Pocketing Upfront Fees In Scam Offering False Promises Of Foreclosure Help

In San Antonio, Texas, the San Antonio Express News reports:
  • A San Antonio woman who defrauded several people out of more than $70,000 in foreclosure-rescue scams got a hard lesson Friday. After reportedly telling a victim a Spanish phrase along the lines of “Payback's a (expletive),” Rosario Castro Divins was sentenced to nearly 30 years in prison for her scams, the comment and misbehaving in jail. The comment came during a break in Divins' trial in June, and its recipient — one of her fraud victims — took it as a threat, the victim and a witness testified Friday.

  • The 350-month sentence imposed by U.S. District Judge Fred Biery was an exclamation point on a case that screamed a question even Biery asked: Where were state and local authorities when Divins was dishing out various forms of fraud for more than 30 years? The judge also ordered restitution, but acknowledged it wouldn't be likely any victim would be repaid.

  • An investigation by the San Antonio Express-News found disinterested police agencies, Texas attorneys general, assistant district attorneys and others nudged aside complaints as civil matters between Divins, 55, and her victims. Some of the homeowners ultimately lost their houses while other managed to stave off foreclosure through no help from Divins.


  • Biery noted it wasn't until Divins' shenanigans spilled into federal bankruptcy court that she finally was caught. The FBI investigated her after she was found in contempt in bankruptcy court and violated orders to stop her misleading, direct-mail foreclosure-rescue ads. Biery also read her 32-year criminal record of harassment, stalking and threats, including one case where she called one person 50 times. “Other than that, you've been a model citizen,” Biery said, sarcastically. [...] Biery said he admonished her for taking advantage of desperate people who shared her cultural, ethnic and religious background and trusted her.

For the story, see Woman sentenced to almost 30 years for fraud.

For the U.S. Attorney press release, see San Antonio Woman Sentenced To Federal Prison For Criminal Contempt And Mail Fraud In Foreclosure Prevention Scheme.

For the original indictment, see U.S. v. Divins.

Bond-Posting Pals Allowed To Reclaim Homes Previously Forfeited When Bailjumping Friend Fled Country As Brooklyn Federal Judge Lets Them Off The Hook

In Brooklyn, New York, the New York Post reports:
  • Pals who posted bail for a shady former Credit Suisse broker who fled to Spain are off the hook for backing the crook, a federal judge ruled [Wednesday]. Brooklyn Federal Judge Jack Weinstein let Julian Tzolov's friends reclaim their homes after prosecutors agreed to seize only the broker's assets to cover his $3 million bail bond. Tzolov, 36, was captured on the southern coast of Spain in July after a month-long manhunt and agreed to testify against his partner in crime, longtime friend Eric Butler. [Wednesday's] ruling was an about-face for Weinstein, who, when he first learned in June that Tzolov was missing, angrily told prosecutors that the friends should "lose everything."

For more, see Judge bails Tzolov pals.

For the earlier story on this bailjumping broker leaving his friends holding the bag, see Broker Fugitive Tzolov Leaves Friends Homeless.

Brooklyn Trial Judge Known For Slamming Sloppy Lenders In Foreclosure Actions Featured On CBS Evening News

In Brooklyn, New York, the CBS Evening News recently featured state trial judge Arthur M. Schack, a jurist who has developed a reputation for booting foreclosing lenders and their attorneys for sloppy, error-filled filings in foreclosure proceedings:
  • He's rejected more than 40 of the 100-plus foreclosure filings that have crossed his desk in the last two years because of what some call "small" errors in the bank's paperwork, from incorrect dates and signatures to unclear proof of ownership. "About half of the cases in the last two years you've thrown out for what some would describe as a procedural - small issue, " [correspondent Seth] Doane said. "I don't think it's a small issue when somebody lives in a house and you're going to disrupt their lives and take away their home," Schack said.

For the story, see N.Y. Judge Takes on Foreclosures (Arthur Schack Looks beyond the Routine Process for a Chance to Help the Little Guy).

To watch the story, see Fighting Foreclosure.

Battle Against Rent Skimming Florida Condo Investors Intensifies As Blanket Receivership Court Orders Become Broader In Scope

The South Florida Sun Sentinel reports on how the fight being waged by condo associations across South Florida and the state by seeking court-ordered, blanket receiverships against deadbeat investor/unit owners continues to heat up:
  • The first blanket receivership order was petitioned by the Association Law Group and signed in March by a Miami-Dade County judge on the behalf of the Oaks at Miami Gardens. Since then dozens have been signed or are pending in county courts throughout South Florida, as well as Orange and Seminole counties, attorneys say.

  • And as the practice spreads throughout the state, the blanket receivership orders also seem to broaden in scope. Last month, [professional receiver Seth] Heller was appointed as the receiver in Seminole County for an Orlando condo association, the first blanket receivership order outside South Florida. The order provides receivers like Heller with more authority compared to previous receivership orders granted in South Florida, including the authority to collect money from rent-paying tenants as well as those who don't pay rent but live in a unit owned by an investor in foreclosure (blanket receiverships are not used for owner-occupied units).

  • Whether a relative or friend of the investor, a non-rent paying tenant could be ordered by Heller to pay fair market rent to be turned over to the association. The Orlando order also now allows receivers to collect rent the moment an investor is delinquent, no 30 or 60 day late notices from the association necessary. And the order specifically reminds tenants that they could face jail and contempt of court charges for not complying with a receiver's order and not appearing in court to explain why.
For the story, see Condo associations turn to receivers to fight deadbeat investors (New weapon in the fight against delinquent owners).

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Wells Fargo Exec Spotted Squatting, Throwing Lavish Bashes At Lender-Owned, $12M Oceanfront REO Once Owned By Madoff Victims, Say Neighbors

In Malibu, California, The Los Angeles Times reports:
  • Bernard L. Madoff's massive fraud stunned some of the wealthy denizens of Malibu Colony, especially when a couple devastated by the scheme surrendered their oceanfront home to Wells Fargo Bank. But some neighbors say the real shocker came when they saw one of the bank's top executives spending weekends in the $12-million beach house and hosting eye-catching parties there.

  • What's more, Wells Fargo spurned offers to show the property to prospective buyers, a real estate agent said. "It's outrageous to take over a property like that, not make it available and then put someone from the bank in it," said Phillip Roman, an 18-year Colony resident who lives a few homes away from the property. Residents identified the house's occupant as Cheronda Guyton, a Wells Fargo senior vice president who is responsible for foreclosed commercial properties.

For more, see Wells Fargo exec used Malibu Colony home lost by Madoff-duped couple, neighbors say (A top bank executive was seen spending weekends and hosting parties in the $12-million beach house. The bank says it will 'conduct a thorough investigation of the allegations' by neighbors) (if link expires, try here).

For story update, see The Wall Street Journal's Deal Journal Blog: Wells Fargo Responds to Malibu Foreclosure Flap (Wells Fargo released a statement responding to the escalating flap over allegations that one of its senior executives was partying in a $12 million Malibu pad that the bank had taken from a struggling home owner).

Lender Erroneously Forecloses On Home Earlier Sold In Short Sale; Soon-To-Be-Married Couple Say Thieves Took Wedding Gifts, Leave Behind Beer Cans

In Novi, Michigan, WDIV-TV Channel 4 reports:
  • A metro Detroit couple set to be married in nine days said the house they purchased is now at the center of police investigation because of a foreclosure mixup. And to top it off, thieves broke into the house and stole thousands of dollars in wedding gifts.

  • Rachel Kozma, 24, and her fiancé purchased the Novi house in late August through a short sale. But the Dunbarton Pines subdivision house was apparently never taken off the foreclosure list. Kozma said she and her fiancé started doing improvements to house like painting and new tile. When she returned Wednesday to the house she found a notice on the front door stating the home had been winterized as part of the foreclosure process.

  • Kozma said she went around the house and noticed that several items were missing, including several wedding gifts and even her wedding band. Kozma said she even found beer cans, cigarette butts and chicken bones that the thieves had allegedly left behind.

For more, see Wedding Gifts Stolen From Novi House (Couple Says House Involved In Foreclosure Mixup).

Judge Allows Prosecution Of California Man Accused Of Using Forged Deed To Steal Home To Continue

In Santa Cruz, California, the San Jose Mercury News reports:
  • A man accused of taking ownership of a home that wasn't his knew the real story behind the Ben Lomond property when he moved in this spring, according to testimony in court Tuesday. The computer of Daniel Judd, formerly of Saratoga, contained records identifying the property's legitimate owner as Pleasanton couple Tom Decker and Maria McArthur, an inspector with the District Attorney's Office testified. The computer also contained what is thought to be a forged deed granting ownership to Judd, according to the inspector.


  • Santa Cruz County Superior Court Judge Paul Marigonda ruled [...] there was sufficient evidence for prosecutors to proceed with three felony charges against Judd. The counts involve the falsification of documents in connection with an alleged scheme to take possession of the Santa Cruz Mountains home.(1)

  • The case came to light when Decker and McArthur, who bought the three-bedroom Hubbard Gulch Drive house in 2007 as a place to retire, returned from a vacation in April to find their locks re-keyed, their furniture moved to the garage and Judd living there.

For the story, see Attorney: Computer records suggest Judd's involvement in Ben Lomond home heist.

(1) Reportedly, Judd's attorney maintained his client's innocence. According to Ken Azevedo, Judd bought the home in early April from another man, Santa Cruz resident Ray Tate, unaware that Tate did not have a legitimate claim to the property. Tate, too, faces charges of forgery as well as illegally obtaining property. DeedContraTheft

Water Shutoff, Deteriorating Conditions In Central Florida Apartment Complex Facing Foreclosure May Force Tenants Onto Street

In New Smyrna Beach, Florida, the Daytona Beach News Journal reports:
  • With only a trickle of water coming from their faucets, tenants of a Wayne Avenue apartment complex find themselves drowning in a sea of foreclosure red tape and unpaid water bills. As sprinklers rain H2O onto the golf course across the street from their residence [...], Melvin Brown and his son depend on drips to fill buckets they use to flush their toilets or take a sponge bath after the city's Utilities Commission turned off their water Aug. 24 because their landlord didn't pay the bill.


  • Property owner Robert Fiorenzi said he is as much of a victim of circumstance as his tenants. "Being in foreclosure I am losing money and cannot cover my bills," the New Smyrna Beach resident said. [...] The utility insist[s ...] he pay the entire $5,400 due for July, as well as late fees, penalties and surety bond payments, which total almost $8,300, according to Utilities Commission records.(1)


  • When the issue came to the attention of Mayor Sally Mackay, she pleaded with her fellow city commissioners to intervene, something they weren't willing to do. [...] Mackay said she didn't want the situation to deteriorate to a point where residents will have to be put out of their apartments because of health concerns.

For the story, see Tenants left dry over unpaid water bill.

(1) According to a Utilities Commission e-mail, 20 of the 45 apartments in the multifamily complex are occupied, although landlord Robert Fiorenzi said the figure is closer to 10, according to the story. Because a single water meter -- billed to the landlord -- serves the complex, renters are left dry because they aren't able to pay their bills individually.

"Grave-Robbing" Florida Man Used Forged Deed To Steal Dead Man's Home, Say Cops

In Panama City, Florida, The News Herald reports:
  • Police arrested Timothy James Benson, 52, on one count of forgery, one count of uttering a forged instrument and grand theft. The arrest stems from an investigation into the theft of a parcel of property and the house on that parcel, according to a news release from the Panama City Police Department.

  • On March 13, Benson forged a deed for the property located at 2705 E. First Court, police said. On March 20, he presented the forged document to the Bay County Clerk of Courts as a true and legal document to obtain the property. The rightful owner of the property died on July 14, 2008, and could not have signed the document on March 13, police said.

Source: Police: Man forged deed, dead owner's signature. DeedContraTheft