Monday, June 21, 2010

Failure To Update Owner's Title Insurance Policy On Refinance Leaves Couple Facing F'closure As Escrow Agent Allegedly Failed To Pay Off Existing Lien

In Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, WTAE-TV Channel 4 reports:
  • Team 4's Paul Van Osdol spoke with one local family in danger of losing their home after being victimized by an accused fraudster. "We've been victimized many times over and this is getting ridiculous. I just want it resolved," said Heather Cerciello. Heather and R.J. Cerciello told Van Osdol that they refinanced their home in January through Wells Fargo.

  • The Cerciellos said that their closing agent was Jason Sheppard, the owner of TruClose Financial Services in Castle Shannon. They said that Sheppard was supposed to make sure that Wells Fargo [paid] $150,000 [to] Bank of America, their previous mortgage holder. "We found out the closing agent received the money from Wells Fargo and never paid off Bank of America," said Heather Cerciello.

  • Sheppard was indicted Tuesday on wire fraud charges, accused of taking more than $830,000 from multiple victims in a fraud scheme. "That was the issue with Mr. Sheppard, he failed to cause the payments to be made on the first mortgage and borrowers were now left with two," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Brendan Conway.

  • But the Cerciellos said they can't afford two mortgages and Wells Fargo is threatening them with foreclosure even though they haven't been accused of doing anything wrong. "It's just been very frustrating. We can't get anywhere and everyone you talk to they just give you the runaround," said R.J. Cerciello.

  • Conway was asked what the Cerciellos can do to keep from losing their house. "Well, I mean we're federal prosecutors. Our role here is limited here in terms of prosecuting criminals," said Conway.(1) TruClose Financial has since been evicted from its Castle Shannon office. Van Osdol went to Sheppard's home in Collier Township, where no one answered the door, but a BMW, Jaguar and Lotus were parked in the driveway.

For the story, see Mortgage Fraud Puts Family In Danger Of Losing Home (National Crackdown 'Operation Stolen Dreams' Targeting Mortgage Fraud).

(1) It may be that the homeowners failed to obtain an updated owner's title insurance policy when they refinanced their mortgage. If they had (although I doubt that many, if any, refinancing homeowners do), they could simply continue the house payments on the new mortgage, stiff the old lender, and upon the latter's start of foreclosure proceedings, the homeowners could file an insurance claim on their updated title policy and let the title underwriter straighten out the problem (that's why you pay for title insurance).

In this case, they presumably failed to update their policy, in which case they should probably continue payments on the new loan, stiff the old lender, and upon the latter's start of foreclosure proceedings, and hopefully/probably the new lender (whose interest would also be in jeopardy because of the allegedly corrupt escrow agent's actions) will file a title insurance claim on its mortgagee's title policy (which would bail it out and, in the process, hopefully bail out the otherwise uninsured homeowners).

Of course, all this presupposes that the allegedly corrupt closing agent ever had legal authority to issue title insurance and act as an authorized agent on behalf of a title insurance underwriter in the first place. If not, or if he once did but subsequently had his authorization revoked by his underwriter prior to presiding over the mortgage refinance closing at issue in this story, it may be that the homeowners and the new lender will both find themselves left holding the bag while the old lender proceeds on its foreclosure action.