Saturday, March 05, 2011

Profile Of A Vacant Foreclosed Home Hijacker

In South Florida, Broward/Palm Beach New Times recently ran a lengthy story on Mark Guerette, a local real estate "entrepeneur" of sorts who recently copped a plea to a racket involving the hijacking of vacant foreclosed homes under a claim of adverse possession, and then renting them out to unwitting tenants.

For his story, and the stories of a couple of tenants who did business with him, see The Lord of Squat: Mark Guerette Got Busted for Putting Families in Foreclosed Homes (for the entire story on a single web page, go here.)

Lawsuit: Scamming Romeo Conned Texas Woman Into Borrowing Against Home Credit Line To Finance His Personal Lifetstyle

In Jefferson County, Texas, The Southeast Texas Record reports:
  • A Jefferson County woman has filed suit against the man she claims is making a living by romancing women and then borrowing money from them. Beverly Hickman claims she lent defendant Robert Horowitz tens of thousands of dollars in 2009 after he wooed her and claimed to need money for himself and for his business, defendant Senior's Choice.

  • "He (Horowitz) has developed, and utilizes, a business practice for himself and for his business, Senior's Choice, in which he romances middle-aged, single women and borrows money from them to float his business, maintain his cash flow, and maintain his personal lifestyle," the suit filed Feb. 18 in Jefferson County District Court states.


  • "In order to loan this money to Mr. Horowitz, Mrs. Hickman drew on a home mortgage line of credit, making herself vulnerable to foreclosure on her home and loss of her residence in the event of Mr. Horowitz's default," the suit states. Horowitz failed to repay Hickman after he developed a new romantic interest, she claims.

For the story, see Suit says man romances, rips off women.

Campground Operator Pleads No Contest, Gets 7 Years Probation For Torching Premises After Elderly, Mortgage-Holding Prior Owners Begin Foreclosure

In Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania, WNEP-TV Channel 16 reports:
  • A woman was sentenced in Susquehanna County on Thursday, accused of setting several fires at a campground. Tamara Santarelli, formerly of Wilkes-Barre and now living in New York, was sentenced to seven years probation. She will also have to pay back nearly $100,000 to insurance companies, money that was paid out after two fires at the Shady Rest Campground near Gibson.

  • The couple who used to own the campground and sold it to Santarelli said they were just glad the ordeal is over and that they were able to get that property back. [...] Arnold and Alice Manning owned the Shady Rest Campground and sold it to Tammy Santarelli and her husband, even financing the property for them.

  • The Mannings said after the Santarelli's failed to make mortgage payments, they had started the foreclosure process. That was when the second fire nearly destroyed their decades of hard work. "We've been married for 60 years and we've worked together hard for all of our lives for what we have and it just seems a shame that people like Tamara can scam away from you what you've worked all your life for," said Alice Manning. "We trusted these people. We figured they were all right and it didn't take long," added Arnold Manning.


  • As part of Tammy Santarelli's plea agreement, she handed over the deed to the Shady Rest Campground, giving it back to Arnold and Alice Manning. The Mannings said they now plan to keep the campground in the family.

For the story, see Owner Sentenced for Campground Arson.

Failure To Pay Mortgage On Headquarters Leaves 31,000+ Florida Boy Scouts Facing The Boot

In Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, the South Florida Business Journal reports:
  • Forget tying knots and building campfires. The Boy Scouts need to start working on their foreclosure defense. TD Bank wants to boot the Boy Scouts organization for the Palm Beaches and the Treasure Coast out of its headquarters. It filed a foreclosure lawsuit Feb. 25 against the Gulf Stream Council of Boy Scouts of America.

  • According to its website, this nonprofit serves more than 31,000 scouts and 3,100 volunteers in seven counties, including Palm Beach, Martin, St. Lucie and Indian River. Unfortunately, those scouts could get a lesson in how the legal system treats debtors unless somebody comes to their aid.

  • This could be another loss for the children of Palm Beach County. Big Brothers Big Sisters of Palm Beach County filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy last year after shuttering its operations.

  • Gulf Stream Council CEO Jeff Isaac was not immediately available for comment. The lawsuit involves a $777,000 mortgage issued in 2007 by Riverside National Bank of Florida, which later failed and had its assets acquired by TD Bank.(1) It targets the 10,368-square-foot office building at 8335 N. Military Trail, in Palm Beach Gardens.

For the story, see Bank aims to boot Boy Scouts.

(1) Another mortgage foreclosure where the loan was originated by a now-defunct bank. I wonder what the chances are that there is some paperwork screw-up that the now-foreclosing bank is going to have to address where the originating lender is no longer around.

Foreclosure Sale Buyer Finds Recent Purchase Comes Filled With Four Dumpsters Of Rotting Garbage; Stench Gives Interior Designer Vomit Attack

In Mesa, Arizona, KPHO-TV Channel 5 reports:
  • Home buyers have seen some pretty nasty foreclosed homes – but one in Mesa just might be the worst. Justin Christman makes his living buying foreclosed homes, fixing them up and selling them months later. He picked up one in Mesa on the auction steps without seeing the inside until after the deal was done. Christman now realizes he might have bitten off a little more than he could stomach.


  • Crews with vacant home rescue have been collecting the rotting garbage in the home for three days --- filling four industrial-size Dumpsters. "The smell is just the most rancid smell you could ever imagine," Christman said.

  • Kay Christman, Interior Designer with TDG Designs, said, "We went upstairs and it was so repulsive that I had to come back out and throw up." "Speechless is the only adequate adjective I could use to describe it," Kay added.

  • This investment might not pay out like the Christmans originally hoped, but in the end, this neighborhood just lost another distressed property. Christman paid $93,000 for the home, which was a great investment on paper compared to assessments of the other homes in the neighborhood.

For the story, see Buyer Stuck With Rancid Foreclosure Home (Garbage From 1988 Litters House; Smell Repulses Interior Designer).

Go here for video, and here for slideshow.

Nursing Home Facing Foreclosure, Company Official Found Guilty Of Illegally Dipping Into Patient's Bank Account

In Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania, WNEP-TV Channel 16 reports:
  • A nursing home has been ordered to pay a big fine after an administrator stole from patients. Now, the president of the place said another state investigation could force the nursing home out of business. A nursing home in Snyder County was found guilty for stealing from its residents. Monday the corporation learned its punishment for the crime and Newswatch 16 learned of a state investigation into the place.

  • In December Loving Care Nursing Center in Selinsgrove was found guilty of misusing one resident's bank account. The vice president of the nursing home was also found guilty of using nearly $30,000 of that resident's money for the nursing home.

  • Monday a judge ordered the company to pay $100,000 in fines and the president, Thomas Pregant, said in court the nursing home is now in jeopardy of closing. "I hope that nursing homes, personal care homes, assisted living homes will take heart that the DPW regulations in place the protection that we have for the residents actually mean something," said Snyder County District Attorney Mike Piecuch.

  • Pregant refused to speak to Newswatch 16. "We are appealing the conviction and of course we'll be appealing the sentencing," said defense attorney Ted Seeber. The president of the company said the nursing home has been in Selinsgrove since 1999 and serves about 40 residents. The property is in foreclosure and the business is up for sale.

  • District Attorney Piecuch said the business is getting what it deserves. "What they did is took advantage of the one person who had money in his bank account," Piecuch added. The vice president of the company, who, by the way, is the wife of the president, is expected to be sentenced soon. Piecuch said Loving Care Nursing Center is under investigation by the department of public welfare for violating regulations and its license could be revoked.

Source: Nursing Home Fined for Theft.

Vegas Fire Officials: Disgruntled Tenant Foiled In Attempt To Torch House After Being Told He Was Getting The Boot Because Landlord Was In Foreclosure

In Las Vegas, Nevada, the Las Vegas Sun reports:
  • A 40-year-old Las Vegas man who was angry about being evicted from a house going into foreclosure allegedly attempted to burn the home down Saturday, fire officials said. Las Vegas Fire and Rescue spokesman Tim Szymanski said officials arrested James Edwards St. John in connection with attempted fourth-degree arson and booked him in the Clark County Detention Center.

  • The situation unfolded Saturday afternoon at a home in the 6200 block of Garwood Ave. St. John's roommates called 911 when he began dousing a room of the house in gasoline, Szymanski said. Police arrived minutes later and detained St. John before he was able to light the fire, Szymanski said. No one was injured.

  • St. John, who rented the house with several other people, had been notified by the owner that he needed to move out of the home because it was going into foreclosure, Szymanski said.

  • Officials said St. John was apparently upset about the situation, which prompted him to attempt to set the home on fire. A fire investigator arrested St. John after questioning him at the scene, Szymanski said. He is scheduled to appear in court Monday.

Source: Las Vegas man arrested for attempted arson.

Friday, March 04, 2011

West Virginia Court Voids Mortgage, Costs Bankster Over $3M+ With Punitive Damages, Legal Fees To Mom, Daughter Screwed Over By Predatory Practices

In Wheeling, West Virginia, The West Virginia Record reports:
  • An Ohio County judge has ruled against Quicken Loans in a $3 million predatory lending case. Circuit Court Judge Arthur M. Recht concluded an eight-day trial that spanned 17 months by awarding punitive damages, attorney fees and costs to mother and daughter Wheeling residents Lourie Jefferson and Monique Brown.

  • The award of more than $2.1 million in punitive damages, along with attorney fees and costs, brought the total verdict in the case against Quicken Loans to more than $3 million. Jefferson and Brown also had previously reached a settlement for a confidential amount with the loan appraiser.

  • Bordas & Bordas attorneys were representing Jefferson and Brown in foreclosure proceedings initiated by Quicken Loans, their mortgage lender. They alleged abusive and predatory conduct on Quicken Loans' part and filed a 12-count complaint on behalf of Jefferson and Brown, detailing predatory lending practices against Quicken Loans and its appraiser in Ohio Circuit Court.

  • At the first phase of the trial, the Court ruled in favor of Jefferson and Brown on numerous counts. The court found the lending practices of Quicken Loans unconscionable, based in part on Quicken's utilization of a highly inflated appraisal in making the loan.

  • The court also found that Quicken Loans defrauded the homeowners by misleading them into paying excessive loan origination fees; falsely promising to favorably refinance the loan in the near future; and concealing an enormous balloon payment from its own borrowers.

  • As a result, the court ruled the $144,800 loan that grew to $227,000 was unenforceable as a matter of law and would not have to be repaid and that Quicken Loans must return $17,000 in payments to Jefferson.

  • The second phase of the trial resulted in the punitive damage award and an order that Quicken Loans must pay Jefferson and Brown's attorney fees and costs. Jim Bordas said the major verdict was justified and that the case encapsulated much of what led to the collapse of the housing market and economy as a whole.

  • "Ms. Jefferson and Ms. Brown fought very hard for justice against a large national lender," Bordas said. Bordas said he hoped the award would send a message to other struggling homeowners.

Source: Quicken Loans on losing end of $3 million predatory lending verdict.

Go here for the court's Findings of Facts, and here for the Punitive Damages/Attorneys Fee Award.

Guilford Cnty Register Of Deeds Says MERS Is Screwing Up Chains Of Local Real Estate Titles, Stiffing It Out Of $1.3M In Recording Fees In The Process

In Greensboro, North Carolina, the News & Record reports:
  • Guilford County Register of Deeds Jeff Thigpen wants an investigation into a service used by major mortgage companies who may have made false statements to avoid fees that cost the county $1.3 million in lost revenue.

  • According to Thigpen, the Mortgage Electronic Registration System (MERS), a system established by mortgage lending heavy hitters like Wells Fargo, Countrywide Home Loans, Inc. and Bank of America, has allowed these companies to re-package and sell loans without filing with offices like his to maintain a publicly available chain of ownership. Thigpen said $1.3 million is a "conservative estimate" of what his office may have lost in recording fees since 2005.


  • "As register of deeds I have two primary responsibilities in land records," Thigpen wrote in the release. "A sworn durty to protect the chain of title and a fiduciary responsibility to collect recording fees. Quite frankly, MERS has undermined both. Through their own 'private-for-profit' Register of Deeds mortgage tracking office, MERS has created a dangerous centralization of power whose sole purpose is to protect and serve the interests of major banking conglomerates and undermine public recording officers."


  • In a Wednesday interview Thigpen said North Carolina law doesn't currently require the reassignment of mortgages to be filed in local register of deeds offices like his. But Thigpen said it has been common practice in Guilford County for 300 years and the creeping privatization of such information keeps the public from being able to see who owns what and follow a clear chain of title.

  • "Owning property is a foundational principle of our democracy," Thigpen said. "People who buy and sell property should be able to do that and have confidence that as part of living in the United States if America, the people and the laws mean something. Who really owns my property? Who am I really buying property from? For 300 years people have been able to walk into their local register of deeds office and find that out. They should be able to."

For the story, see Register of Deeds wants investigation into major mortgage companies.

Business As Usual At Chase-Owned EMC Mortgage As Banksters Refuse Comment On Possible Violations Of 2008 Court Order In Conduct Towards AZ Homeowners

In Phoeniz, Arizona, KNXV-TV Channel 15 reports on the trouble local homeowners Jason and Katherine Miller have been getting from Chase-owned EMC Mortgage in trying to work out payment arrangements on their home mortgage after initially being granted a trial modification:
  • We were ecstatic. We were happy. We (thought) this is the best thing that could happen to us,” said Jason. The deal allowed them to pay about $460 less per month. Then in about three months, EMC would decide if they could keep the lower interest rate. “We thought it was great; it was going to save us a lot of money,” said Jason.

  • But, months went by without a decision. Then last September, 15 months after submitting their application, the family got a trustee sale notice in the mail. Their house was going to be sold at auction. The next day, they received dozens of notices. Jason told ABC15 he thought, “They have set us up to fail.”

  • The ABC15 Investigators did some digging and found the Millers' mortgage company, EMC, is accused of doing the same thing to other homeowners across the country. In 2008, the Federal Trade Commission settled a lawsuit against EMC for $28 million, claiming the company violated Fair Debt Collection Practices, the Fair Credit Reporting Act and Truth in Lending Act.

  • The Millers immediately called EMC. They said the company told them they would have to repay all the money saved over the previous 15 months and bring the mortgage up to date. That would cost the Millers a total of $8,822.14. The Millers thought they could handle that until EMC said they would also have to pay $10,000 in fees. They would have to pay a total of $18,822.14 or lose the house.


  • The federal lawsuit specifically states EMC cannot collect fees that are not authorized. And the lawsuit states, the company can't give misleading information about the debt or services. [...] The ABC15 Investigators asked EMC for an on-camera interview. The company is now owned by Chase, which turned down our request. In an email, Chase would not address whether EMC violated the court order.

For the story, see Valley family fights back after loan modification fees pile up.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Sale Leaseback Peddler Starts "Singing" To NH Feds After Copping Guilty Plea In Equity Stripping, Foreclosure Rescue Conspiracy

In Concord, New Hampshire, the Nashua Telegraph reports:
  • Having lost their home to a refinancing swindle several years ago, Jonathan and Jan May came to U.S. District Court on Tuesday to see whether the criminal justice system might offer any consolation or, better yet, restitution. What they found was a judge and lawyers who see banks and mortgage companies as the scam’s principal victims.

  • However, the Mays were able to see and hear the Nashua real estate agent to whom they had entrusted their financial future declare himself a convicted felon. Richard Winefield, 32, of 6 Short Ave., Nashua, attained that status shortly after 10 a.m. Tuesday, with three words: “Guilty, your honor.”

  • Winefield was part of broader criminal conspiracy, whose members defrauded lenders and homeowners around New Hampshire, Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Gunnison told Judge Steven McAuliffe.

  • They sought out homeowners who were having trouble making mortgage payments and offered a deal: Winefield and his cohorts would buy the property and take over the payments. The homeowners would pay rent and would contract to buy back their homes at a higher price a few years hence, when they regained financial footing.

  • What the homeowners didn’t know is that Winefield and his co-conspirators were then flipping the properties. They would use inflated appraisals and bogus buyers and take out much larger mortgage loans, helping themselves to the difference after paying off the original mortgage.

  • It’s commonly referred to as an equity-stripping scheme,” Gunnison said, and not one of the homeowners ever got the chance to buy back his or her property.


  • Winefield admitted Tuesday to a single count of mail fraud, for using the mail to send fraudulent loan applications. It is clear that Winefield is but the first to fall: Gunnison has said the Winefield joined a scheme that was already in progress for at least a year, and before the hearing, Gunnison was heard to mention the name “Prieto” while speaking with an investigator in the courtroom.

  • Winefield set up limited liability companies in association with both Michael Prieto and Walter Bressler III, both of whom were named in a 2007 “cease and desist” order by the New Hampshire banking commissioner. Winefield was not named in that case, but it involved similar allegations, and Prieto and Bressler were ordered to repay eight different homeowners and refrain from any further involvement in home financing.

  • After Winefield pleaded guilty, he and his lawyer, Peter McGrath of Concord, cloistered themselves in a conference room with Gunnison and several investigators.(1) No charges have been made public against anyone else in the scheme.

  • Gunnison declined to comment later Tuesday on the scope of the scheme, saying the FBI and U.S. Postal Inspectors are still working on the investigation, along with the joint state and federal Mortgage Fraud Task Force. “It’s an ongoing investigation. There is a strong likelihood that others will be charged,” Gunnison said.(2)

For the story, see Real estate agent admits to mail fraud.

For the criminal complaint, see U.S. v. Winefield (go here for the Plea Agreement).

(1) Since it's only been about three weeks since the criminal complaint was lodged against him, it doesn't take an excess of genius to surmise that Winefield has decided win the "race to the prosecutor's office", "bellying-up" to investigators and spill his guts in an attempt to take down as many of his co-conspirators and "buy-out" of as much prison time as possible. See United States v. Moody, 206 F.3d 609, 617 (6th Cir. 2000) (Wiseman, J., concurring) for one Federal judge's observation, made in the context of drug conspiracy cases, involving the so-called "race to the courthouse/prosecutor's office" which seems equally suited to other types of major, multi-defendant felony cases:

  • In practical terms, drug conspiracy cases have become a race to the courthouse. When a conspiracy is exposed by an arrest or execution of search warrants, soon-to-be defendants know that the first one to "belly up" and tell what he knows receives the best deal. The pressure is to bargain and bargain early, even if an indictment has not been filed.

(2) See Criminal Prosecutions Of Sale Leaseback Peddlers In Equity Stripping Foreclosure Rescue Deals for other incidents that led to criminal prosecutions in sale leaseback deals.

HSBC Suspends All U.S. Foreclosures After Regulators Note Use Of Crappy Paperwork In Processing Legal Actions

Bloomberg reports:
  • HSBC Holdings Plc, Europe’s biggest bank, has suspended U.S. foreclosures following a joint examination by the Federal Reserve and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. The regulators issued letters noting “certain deficienciesin the processing, preparation and signing of affidavits andother documents supporting foreclosures” at HSBC Finance Corp. and HSBC Bank USA, the London-based lender said yesterday in its annual report.

For more, see HSBC Halts U.S. Foreclosures After Joint Examination by Fed, OCC.

Disbarred Attorney Gets 48 Months For Looting $3.9M Of Client Cash From Trust Account

In Fort Lauderdale, Florida, the South Florida Sun Sentinel reports:
  • A federal judge sentenced a former Fort Lauderdale attorney accused of ripping off clients to 48 months in prison and ordered him to pay $3.9 million in restitution. Joseph Sindaco, 63, accepted a plea deal in December in which he pleaded guilty to a mail fraud charge.

  • The mail fraud charge against Sindaco arose from his handling of the estate of Werner Clauss, an 82-year-old who died at a Lauderdale Lakes nursing home in 2008. Sindaco liquidated Clauss' investment account and transferred the money to his law firm's trust account, according to federal court records.

  • Sindaco, who practiced law in South Florida for three decades, also stole from three other clients' trust funds and used the money to pay personal expenses. He had specialized in estate and trust cases and real estate closings. Sindaco was disbarred last year.(1)

Source: Former Fort Lauderdale attorney who stole from clients sentenced to prison (Broward Lawyer Sentenced For Stealing Trust Funds).

(1) From the U.S. Attorney press release: Broward Lawyer Sentenced For Stealing Trust Funds:

If they haven't already, the victims in this story may be able to turn to the The Florida Bar's Clients' Security Fund (which was created to help reimburse clients for money they may have lost because of misappropriation or embezzle­ment by their attorneys) to recover some, if not all, of the swindled money.

For similar "attorney ripoff reimbursement funds" that cover the financial mess created by the dishonest conduct of lawyers licensed in other states and Canada, see:

Maps available courtesy of The National Client Protection Organization, Inc.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

$550K Payout OK'd To 2 Homebuyers, Landowners In RICO Suit Revolving Around Filing Of Unauthorized Lien Release; Judgment May Affect 100s Of Others

In Corpus Christi, Texas, the Corpus Christi Times Caller reports:
  • A final judgment has been issued against one of the nation's largest mobile homebuilders related to a jury trial last year that found the company liable for civil racketeering and fraud in a South Texas case. A federal jury in November found Vanderbilt Mortgage and Finance Inc. liable for collecting payments on a home for four years after it filed a release of the lien on the home.

  • The jury found the company engaged in unfair debt collection practices, committed common law fraud and violated the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations Act, also known as RICO. On Friday, U.S. District Judge Janis Graham Jack confirmed the jury's findings against that company and Clayton Homes Inc. and CMH Homes Inc. in a 13-page judgment. The companies plan to fight the judgment, their attorney said.

  • The judge also reduced some of the plaintiffs' monetary damages to comply with state laws that bar double recovery and limit exemplary damages. The jury decision had ordered Vanderbilt to pay the two homeowners $327,000 each. Under the final judgment, Vanderbilt Mortgage was ordered to pay about $216,000 in damages and prejudgment interest to each of the two men who had purchased the mobile home, for a total of $432,000.

  • The judge also awarded a couple that owned the land for the men's house more than $127,000 because she found all three companies were responsible for statutory damages, similar to a civil fine. The jury originally awarded no damages to the couple, Maria and Arturo Trevino.


  • Flores' and King's attorneys found a release of the lien that was filed with the county clerk in 2005 without the homeowners' knowledge. The company filed that release after it settled a round of lawsuits that alleged homebuyers' paperwork was fraudulently notarized.

  • The two men sued the companies alleging they had continued to make mortgage payments for four years after the loan had been declared fully paid.

  • They also faced foreclosure along with the landowners, the Trevinos, who alleged that their signatures were forged on documents to fraudulently use their land as collateral for the home.

  • "We think a lot of Clayton Homes customers will be affected by the precedent that this case sets," said attorney Javier Gutierrez, who represents King and Flores. Gutierrez says there is evidence that the companies filed hundreds of the release of lien documents in South Texas without their customers' knowledge. That would entitle those people to a refund of all their payments since 2005 and a discharge of their mortgage loan, he said.

  • The Trevinos' attorney, David Rumley, in a news release accused Clayton Homes of also misleading its investors by using fraudulent mortgages to raise more money because the loans were backed by real property. He estimated the judgment could expose Clayton Homes to more than $500 million in losses.


  • CMH Homes Inc. is the retail arm of Clayton Homes, Inc., which is owned by Berkshire Hathaway Inc. of Omaha.

For the story, see Federal judge finalizes judgment in Clayton Homes fraud case (A federal jury in November found Vanderbilt Mortgage and Finance Inc. liable for collecting payments on a home for four years after it filed a release of the lien on the home).

FTC Efforts Yield 24 Cents On The Dollar Recovery For Victims Of Nationwide Loan Modification/Foreclosure Defense Scam

The Federal Trade Commision recently announced:
  • An administrator working for the Federal Trade Commission is mailing 1,455 refund checks to consumers defrauded by a mortgage loan modification and foreclosure rescue scam. The FTC alleged, and the court found, that operators of the scam falsely told consumers they would prevent their homes from being foreclosed and negotiate lower mortgage interest rates, monthly payments, and principal balances. The court also found that homeowners got few, if any, loan modifications, and many people lost their homes to foreclosure after paying up to $5,500.

  • At the request of the FTC, in April 2010, a federal court issued an $11.4 million contempt order against the defendants, Bryan D’Antonio, The Rodis Law Group, Inc., America’s Law Group, and The Financial Group, Inc., for operating the scam, which violated a 2001 order that banned D’Antonio from telemarketing and misleading consumers about goods or services. The FTC obtained the 2001 order against D’Antonio and his former company, Data Medical Capital, Inc., for operating a work-at-home medical billing opportunity scheme.

  • Consumers who receive the checks should cash them, and they will have 60 days to do so before the checks become void. Those who submitted a valid claim form will receive about 24 percent of their total claim loss.

For the press release, see FTC Mails Redress Checks to Victims of Foreclosure Rescue Scam.

Role (Or Lack Thereof) Of Class Action Lawsuits When Exercising Rescission Rights Under TILA

The apparent lack of a role of class action lawsuits when enforcing rescission rights under the Federal Truth In Lending Act is the subject of a recent law review article in the Loyola of Los Angeles Law Review. From the synopsis:
  • The Truth in Lending Act (TILA) provides two primary civil remedies for aggrieved borrowers who received misleading loan disclosures: damages and rescission. While the damages remedy expressly caps class-action damages recoveries, TILA’s rescission remedy is completely silent as to class-action treatment.

  • Despite a split on the district-court level regarding the applicability of the class-action device to TILA rescission, the only two federal Circuit Courts of Appeal to consider the issue have foreclosed the right of borrowers to seek class-wide rescissory relief for TILA disclosure errors.(1)

  • This Article examines the judicial analysis in these two cases and finds that both courts erroneously construed TILA rescission in favor of lender rights and overstepped their constitutionally delegated power by completely foreclosing a right absent clear congressional intent.

For the article, see Class Retreat From Mass Deceit: Assessing Class Action Compatibility With Truth In Lending Act Rescission.

(1) See:

See also, James v. Home Constr. Co. of Mobile, Inc., 621 F.2d 727 (5th Cir. 1980), in which the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, without much of a discussion or analysis, agreed with a lower court ruling finding that class actions were not warranted by the language of Section 1635, that the rescission remedy was a "purely personal remedy" and that an obligor could not start a class action, merely by filing an individual claim.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Wells Fargo Backs Down In Attempt To Bully Elderly Georgia Woman From Home After Feds Express Interest In Dubious Documents Filed In Bankruptcy Case

In Decatur, Georgia, The New York Times reports:
  • WHEN Zella Mae Green of Georgia filed for bankruptcy to save her home from foreclosure in 2004, she and her lawyer wanted to know two things: Did she actually owe any back payments on her mortgage? And, if so, to whom? It didn’t seem like a lot to ask. But until last week, those questions had been unanswered for seven years.


  • But how Ms. Green’s case became her personal version of Jarndyce and Jarndyce, the endless lawsuit at the center of the Charles Dickens novel “Bleak House,” is a story for our times. The conflicting claims made over the years by employees and representatives of Wells Fargo, which says it holds the note on her property, are enough to make your head spin.

  • Wells Fargo and Ms. Green didn’t exactly agree on how much she owes on her mortgage. Ms. Green took out a $40,250 mortgage in 1988, never refinanced and figured she is four payments behind. Wells Fargo contended that she owes 113 back payments, totaling more than $48,000.

  • Ms. Green said she would have given up years ago if it weren’t for her lawyer. She would have forfeited her two-bedroom home in Decatur to one of the three institutions that have claimed — at the same time, mind you — to hold title to it. “It’s been a big mess for a long time,” she said in a recent interview.

  • Howard Rothbloom, a foreclosure defense lawyer in Marietta, Ga., represents Ms. Green. “The point of this whole case is that inaccurate, incomplete and conflicting information has been provided to Ms. Green over the course of seven years,” he said. “Determining the balance due on her loan should not have to be so difficult.”

  • THE whole episode makes you wonder, yet again, how many of the millions of foreclosures in recent years might have been based on questionable accounting or improper practices by loan servicers.


  • Over almost seven years, Wells Fargo employees swore to three different stories about the note on Ms. Green’s property. When asked two weeks ago how this could be, a spokeswoman for the bank said: “We regret any difficulties our customer experienced in this circumstance. This is the kind of situation we seek to avoid, and we are working on this customer’s situation to reach a solution.”

  • Late last week, Wells Fargo agreed to a settlement with Ms. Green. The terms are confidential. The deal came shortly after the United States Trustee, the unit of the Justice Department that oversees the nation’s bankruptcy courts, indicated it was interested in the facts of the case. Fascinating how quickly these things get resolved when some daylight shines in.

For the story, see Waiting Seven Years for Two Answers.

Thanks to Lisa E. for the heads-up on the story.

Loan Servicer Drives Homeowner Into Foreclosure After Clipping Her With Excessive Force-Placed Hazard Insurance

In Nassau County, Florida, The Florida Times Union reports:
  • Myrtle Harrison has lived in her mobile home for more than 25 years. For the first 20 years, she owned the home outright, free from any mortgage. But in a series of developments that began six years ago, Harrison has become ensnared in circumstances - partly due to bad decisions, partly due to being taken advantage of - that make it likely she will lose that home and its 1.4 acres near the south bank of the Nassau River.


  • The tipping point for Harrison - that triggered a recent foreclosure notice - was force-placed insurance added on top of her mortgage payments. [...] So what is force-placed insurance?

  • "This is a big scam," says April Charney, an attorney with Jacksonville Legal Aid, who counsels homeowners battling foreclosure.(1) A lucrative revenue stream for financial institutions, force-placed insurance often comes as a surprise to homeowners who are ill-prepared to pay its excessive premiums.

  • How Harrison got to force-placed insurance, which bills her at $200 per month on a home and property valued at $57,000, is not uncommon, Charney said. [...] Harrison said she wonders why the insurance for a mobile home valued at about $19,000 is costing her $200 a month. The land is valued at $42,000, according to a Duval County Property Appraiser's website.

  • Force-placed insurance sometimes actually covers more than just the value of the home, Charney said. Homeowner's insurance is supposed to insure only a home, not the land, although a mortgage finances both. That's because although a home can burn down or be destroyed in a storm, but land generally can't.

  • But force-placed insurance often is imposed for the full value of the loan, not just the home, Charney said. That means the force-placed insurance is debt insurance, not just homeowner's insurance. "They have the right to force-place property insurance, but not debt insurance," Charney said.

For the story, see Insurance required by mortgage company leaves owner of Nassau mobile home facing foreclosure (Myrtle Harrison will likely lose her $19,000 mobile home to foreclosure. Among the reasons: She must pay $2,400 a year in "force-placed" insurance required by her mortgage company).

(1) Jacksonville Area Legal Aid is a law firm of 30 attorneys specializing in providing civil legal assistance to low-income persons in Duval, Nassau, St. John's and Clay Counties in Florida.

Utah Homeowner Acknowledges Gullibility By Trusting BofA In Applying For Loan Modification

In Layton, Utah, KSL-TV Channel 5 reports:
  • More than 32,000 homes in Utah received a foreclosure notice last year. A lot of those foreclosure notices went to people who thought they were meeting all of the lender's demands while they were following the procedures to apply for a loan modification. One of those people is Steve Curtis, the mayor of Layton.

  • Two weeks before Christmas, Curtis came home and found a foreclosure notice taped to his door. It said his home would soon be put up for auction -- even though he had never missed a mortgage payment. This was just one of the many nightmares Curtis encountered by applying for a trial loan modification.

  • "Naturally our trust was with the bank," he said. "We saw no reason why not to trust. Call it gullibility or whatever." Curtis says he was stunned to see the foreclosure notice on the home he has lived in for 14 years. "It was very painful," he said. "Nobody should have to go through that. Nobody."


  • To further illustrate what a mess the whole process has been for the Curtis family -- just two weeks ago they received an e-mail stating that they are not eligible for a loan modification because their loan is in active litigation. But the only reason the loan is in litigation is because Bank of America wrongly foreclosed.

For more, see Layton mayor shares story of wrongful foreclosure.

The Double Standard Of Stategic Defaults - OK For Businesses, Unethical For Homeowners, Say Financial Industry Apologists

A recent story in The Palm Beach Post on the use of strategic defaults by homeowners who are underwater on their homes (where the money owed on their mortgage loan exceeds their home value) had this excerpt highlighting the apparent hypocrisy by those whose arguments against the manuever are limited to the context involving homeowners, and not businesses:
  • In the business world, strategic default is a common tactic - considered a savvy move for financially troubled companies. However, "consumers have been browbeaten and trained to believe that it's not honorable to not pay your debts," said Margery Golant, a Boca Raton attorney who represents the Pompano Beach couple in default. "Why should it be any different for consumers?"

  • Last year, Morgan Stanley walked away from a $1.5 billion mortgage on five buildings in San Francisco despite record-breaking profits in 2009.

  • Real estate giant Tishman Speyer Properties strategically defaulted on $4.4 billion in loans on two housing developments in New York after the properties lost $2.2 billion in value. The company had billions of dollars in assets, including Rockefeller Center and the Chrysler Building, which it could have leveraged to meet its loan obligations.

  • Even the Mortgage Bankers Association, whose president chastised homeowners who strategically default for the "message" it would send to their "family, kids and friends," dumped its Washington headquarters in a short sale. After working out a deal with its lender, the MBA sold the building for $41.3 million last year. In 2007, the group purchased it for $79 million .

  • "No, it's not wrong," said Randy Cohen, author of the weekly Ethicist column in The New York Times. Although homeowners are emotionally attached to their property, a house is still an investment. "I don't understand why you would be asked to make a decision on this investment any differently than you would on any other," Cohen said. "Why should homeowners be held to a higher ethical standard?"

For the story, see Some homeowners, who can afford the mortgage, still default as a strategy.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Loan Officer Gets 12 Months Prison Time For Swindling Victims' Home Equity In Sale Leaseback Foreclosure Rescue Ripoff

From the Office of the U.S. Attorney (Baltimore, Maryland):
  • U.S. District Judge J. Frederick Motz sentenced James Dan, age 46, of Annapolis, Maryland [] to a year and a day in prison followed by three years of supervised release for conspiracy to commit wire fraud in connection with a mortgage fraud scheme which promised to help homeowners facing foreclosure keep their homes, but left them homeless and with no equity. Judge Motz also ordered that Dan pay restitution but withheld determination of the amount until receiving further submissions from counsel.


  • James Dan met James Fox in Annapolis when both were loan officers for a mortgage lender. Although Dan left the mortgage company in 2005, Dan and Fox stayed in contact with each other.

  • According to their plea agreements, beginning in 2006, Fox began to identify prospective borrowers who owned and had equity in their homes, but who could not afford their mortgage payments and were at risk of losing their homes because they were either in foreclosure, bankruptcy or financial distress. Fox, and sometimes Fox and Dan, told potential victims that they could "rescue" them and save their houses.

  • The promises involved transferring the home to Dan or Fox, who would obtain a new mortgage loan. Dan and Fox promised to make the payments on the new mortgage loan for six months or a year, during which time the individual would "repair" their credit, refinance the property and reacquire it. During this six month or one-year period, the individual was to continue living in the house.


  • None of the victims is in title of their homes. Three victims are trying to regain title to their homes through civil law suits. Five victims have lost their homes.

  • Dan, as a mortgage loan officer, was aware of the implications of the sale: that the seller who deeded away his or her home lost control of their home; that the person who was facing foreclosure today would not likely be able to afford a mortgage loan at a higher amount a year from now; that the individual who could not qualify for re-financing today would not qualify for a mortgage loan in a year and could not re-purchase their home; that Dan and his associate could not likely afford to make the mortgage payments for more than six months or a year and might default on the new mortgage; and that the house had equity which Dan and his associate were taking out at settlement for their own uses.

  • Judge Motz sentenced James William Fox II, age 40, of Crofton, Maryland to 27 months in prison on January 28, 2011 for his participation in the conspiracy and ordered that Fox pay restitution in an amount yet to be determined.

For the U.S. Attorney press release, see Annapolis Loan Officer Sentenced to Prison For Mortgage Fraud.

See Criminal Prosecutions Of Sale Leaseback Peddlers In Equity Stripping Foreclosure Rescue Deals for other incidents that led to criminal prosecutions in sale leaseback deals.

Scammer Pleads Guilty To Eight Felonies For Running Upfront Fee Loan Modification Ripoff Fleecing Thousand$ From Homeowners Facing Foreclosure

In Ventura, California, the Ventura County Star reports:
  • A Ventura woman will have to pay $76,000 in restitution after pleading guilty this week to grand theft and unlawful acts by a foreclosure consultant stemming from a real estate case, authorities said.

  • Maria Victoria Santos, 55, pleaded guilty to eight felony charges for her involvement in a foreclosure-rescue operation she ran out of an office at 1701 W. Fifth St. in Oxnard, the District Attorney's Office reported Thursday. Prosecutors said Santos victimized predominantly Spanish-speaking residents by promising to save their homes from foreclosure and collecting thousands of dollars in upfront fees.

  • Under terms of her plea agreement, Santos will have to pay $76,000 in restitution to 15 victims, prosecutors said. She paid $15,000 of it when she pleaded Tuesday. She is scheduled for sentencing on May 24. Prosecutors said residents should never pay an upfront fee to an individual or business claiming they will rescue them from a pending foreclosure.

Source: Woman pleads guilty to 8 felonies (Will have to pay $76K in restitution).

Mastermind In "Land Patent" Foreclosure Rescue Scam Gets 20+ Years; Conned Victims Into Believing That They Could Save Homes By Declaring Sovereignty

In San Diego, California, KGTV Channel 10 reports:
  • The "brains" behind a scam in which hundreds of homeowners were falsely told that "land patents" would protect their properties from foreclosure was sentenced Friday to 20 years and four months in state prison.

  • Larry Smith, 63, was found guilty last June of 21 felony counts, including grand theft and unlawful practices by a foreclosure consultant. Deputy District Attorney Marlene Coyne told jurors that Smith and 17 co-defendants had homeowners shell out thousands of dollars for "land patents" under a false promise that their homes would be protected from foreclosure.

  • The 10News I-team investigated Smith years ago, showing how he convinced people that Spanish land patents from the 1800s could be used to keep the banks and government at bay during foreclosure proceedings. Authorities said all of it was a lie but beautifully presented by Smith and his team of co-conspirators at well-attended seminars.


  • Smith -- who has prior convictions for second-degree murder, robbery and burglary -- and 17 co-defendants put on seminars that convinced people that declaring sovereignty would help them avoid foreclosure on their homes. The sovereignty concept was "nonsense," according to Coyne.

For more, see Man Who Led Foreclosure Scam Sentenced (Larry Smith, 63, To Serve 20 Years, 4 Months In State Prison).

Go here for prior posts on this prosecution.

Church Pastor Cops Guilty Plea In Home Equity Ripoff; Conned Home-Selling Senior Into Holding Unrecorded Mortgage, Then Pocketed $420K Refi Proceeds

In Ventura County, California, the Camarillo Acorn reports:
  • A Camarillo man who is the pastor of a Christian church in Ventura has pleaded guilty to three felony charges, including stealing the home equity of a Ventura man in his 80s. Alonzo Gene McCowan, 50, pastor of Solid Rock Christian Center, pleaded guilty Feb. 17 before Superior Court Judge Bruce Young to charges of theft of real property from an elder, money laundering and grand theft related to a series of real estate transactions.

  • The Ventura County district attorney’s office said it reached a plea agreement with McCowan that provides for a year of jail time, extended probation and payments of restitution to the victim, Leo Gilmond, now 87. The agreement provides for dismissal of all felony charges against McCowan’s wife, Kimberly Ann McCowan, 47.


  • Senior Dep. District Attorney Miles Weiss said securing restitution payments to Gilmond weighed heavily in the prosecutor’s decision to reach a plea agreement. “One of the main components of the agreement was the district attorney’s main concern on behalf of the elderly victim of receiving actual money at this stage of his life,” Weiss said. “That was one of his primary requests in the handling of the case.”


  • The transaction with the elderly Ventura man dates to October 2004 when Gilmond sold his home to McCowan for $460,000 so it could be used by church visitors and students.

  • Weiss, outlining the case, said Gilmond carried the loan for McCowan, expecting monthly installments and a balloon payment for the balance in three years. Weiss said McCowan made payments totaling $10,000 but never had the deed of trust recorded after the title was signed over to him.

  • He instead gained access to $ 420,000 of the property’s equity by later taking out a separate loan in his wife’s name from a commercial lender. “And thus Mr. Gilmond was left without getting paid and now with a property that was encumbered by not one but two very sizable mortgages, now over $800,000 combined,” Weiss said.

  • The house went into foreclosure shortly before the balloon payment was due. According to court records, McCowan said that he had lost the money in the stock market. McCowan had faced up to 16 years and eight months in jail and $1.74 million in fines and restitution if he were convicted of all charges in a trial.

  • Weiss said that under the plea agreement, McCowan has already paid $75,000 in restitution from a verified source and owes a balance of $349,100. McCowan is required to pay $1,000 a month at 10 percent interest during a probation that could last up to 13 years. If he pays the full restitution balance before 13 years, he can request termination of probation, but he must serve a minimum of five years of probation, Weiss said.

  • Gilmond’s heirs will receive the balance of the restitution if he dies before it is paid in full, the prosecutor noted. [...] Weiss said that Gilmond sued McCowan based on essentially the same facts and won a civil judgment in excess of $500,000. When restitution is made in the criminal case, those funds will be subtracted from the civil judgment, Weiss said.

For the story, see Pastor pleads guilty to felony charges (Agreement allows case against his wife to be dropped).

California Regulator Continues Filing Record Number Of Enforcement Actions Against Upfront Fee Loan Modification Rackets

In Sacramento, California, the Centre Daily Times reports:
  • The California State Department of Real Estate (DRE) warns consumers to be wary of promises for loan modification and mortgage relief as scammers continue to prey on vulnerable, financially stressed homeowners.

  • The DRE, whose mission is to protect the public interests in real estate matters, continues to file record numbers of actions against persons illegally offering loan modification and loan mortgage relief services. The typical scam involves the assurance of a loan modification in exchange for an upfront fee, but once the fee is paid little or nothing is done to obtain a loan modification.

For more, see California Department of Real Estate Continues to Fight Loan Modification and Mortgage Relief Scams (Consumers warned not to pay upfront fees).

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Fannie Tags Foreclosure Mill With Lawsuit Demanding Immediate Turnover Of 15,000+ Case Files; Fears "Irreperable Harm" If Process Is Delayed

In Broward County, Florida, The Palm Beach Post reports:
  • Fannie Mae, the nation's largest provider of mortgage funding, has asked a Broward County judge to order the Fort Lauderdale law firm it fired this month to turn over its case files.

  • As part of a lawsuit filed by Fannie Mae on Feb. 11 —— one day after it cut ties with Ben-Ezra & Katz —— the mortgage giant sought a preliminary injunction to force the law firm to turn over files on its more than 15,000 cases statewide.

  • Fannie Mae claims it will suffer "irreparable harm" if the files are not transferred immediately because they contain original promissory notes and mortgages "which, of course, cannot be replaced." The judge has not yet ruled.

For more, see Fannie Mae wants files back from fired firm.

MERS & Its Deep-Pocketed Mortgage Lender Backers May Be On Hook For $200M+ For Massachusetts-Related Unrecorded Assignments

The Docket, the news blog of Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly, reports:
  • The Mortgage Electronic Registration System, better known as MERS, perhaps one of the most recognizable players in the foreclosure mess, may owe the commonwealth hundreds of millions of dollars.

  • The revelation surfaced following an investigation by John O’Brien, register of deeds in Southern Essex County. O’Brien and his staff found that the Salem registry alone had recorded more than 148,600 MERS mortgages since 1998, and that each mortgage had been assigned to other entities at least twice. MERS was supposed to pay a $75 recording fee for each assignment, but that never happened, according to O’Brien.


  • In some cases, MERS may have assigned mortgages to up to four other entities, based on a review from a nationally-renowned MERS expert who assisted in the investigation, Harvey said. Statewide, the loss could total more than $200 million.


  • Meanwhile, MERS recently announced several major policy changes. The electronic clearinghouse said it will now be recording assignments in the county land records throughout the country and that it will no longer foreclose under its name.

  • I am pleasantly surprised that MERS appears to recognize at long last that what they’re doing is illegal,” said Northampton foreclosure attorney Michael Pill of Green, Miles, Lipton & Fitz-Gibbon. Pill suspects that MERS lacks the assets to pay the recording fees it allegedly owes to the commonwealth and, most likely, registries throughout the country. But he said the mortgage lenders behind MERS have very deep pockets.

For the story, see MERS may owe commonwealth $200 million.

Sacramento Feds Squeeze Guilty Plea From Foreclosure Rescue Peddler Who Abused Bankruptcy Process To Fraudulently Delay Trustees' Sales

From the Office of the U.S. Attorney (Sacramento, California):
  • United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced [last week] that Charles C. Jamison, 30, of Rancho Cordova, pleaded guilty this week to bankruptcy fraud charges. [...] According to court documents, Jamison engaged in a scheme to, for a fee, use the bankruptcy process to fraudulently delay foreclosures pending on the residential properties of clients he solicited through a program called "Stop Now."(1)

  • Through blind mailings, distressed homeowners in the Sacramento area received a flyer in which Jamison, using a fictitious identity, falsely promised homeowners facing a trustee sale that he could help them save their homes.

For the U.S. Attorney press release, see Sacramento Man Pleads Guilty To Fraudulent Bankruptcy Filings In Foreclosure Delay Scheme.

(1) See Final Report Of The Bankruptcy Foreclosure Scam Task Force for a discussion of various foreclosure scams involving the abuse of the bankruptcy courts:

  • In recent years, the Central District has witnessed the emergence of a new phenomenon on a substantial scale: some people have apparently created whole businesses out of the delay possibilities provided by the automatic stay. Advertising themselves as “foreclosure services” or “mortgage consultants,” these opportunists know that, once a foreclosure trustee learns that a bankruptcy petition has been filed, the sale will be delayed until relief from stay is obtained from the bankruptcy court. They also know that title companies will not insure foreclosure title without a lift stay order. Most make false promises or misrepresentations to the homeowners. For the period from petition filing to stay termination, the opportunity exists for these services to collect partial mortgage payments or rent in exchange for stalling the foreclosure. In addition, some individuals indulge in serial filings on their own or with relatives.

(available online courtesy of the Loyola of Los Angeles Law Review).

Chicago Feds Squeeze Attorney With Dubious Past For Allegedly Screwing Over Clients Who Sought Help Saving Their Homes From Foreclosure

In Chicago, Illinois, the Chicago Tribune reports:

  • Philip Igoe, 61, promised clients facing foreclosure that he could help them by filing bankruptcy petitions or through loan modifications with lenders, according to the U.S. attorney's office. He then collected funds from clients by falsely representing that he would use the money to make payments on their mortgages or for Chapter 13 bankruptcy plan payments.

  • Instead, he used all or most of the money for his own benefit, the indictment charged. He was charged with one count of mail fraud, six counts of bankruptcy fraud and one count of obstruction of justice. Igoe's wife, Stacy, 45, also an attorney, also was indicted in connection with a part of the scheme.(1)

  • This is not the first time Igoe's actions as an attorney have been questioned. In 2002, a federal judge granted a new sentencing hearing to a Death Row inmate, saying Igoe did almost nothing during sentencing to save his client's life.

  • And in 1989 he was censured by the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission after it was alleged he took a $45,000 payment from a private attorney in return for resigning from his job at the Illinois secretary of state's office so someone else could take it.(2)

Source: Foreclosure attorney indicted for cheating clients.

For the indictment, see U.S. v. Igoe.

For the U.S. Attorney press release, see Attorney Indicted for Defrauding Clients Seeking Help Saving Their Homes From Foreclosure.

(1) An excerpt from the U.S. Attorney press release:

  • With respect to Stacy Igoe, the indictment alleges that she filed a bankruptcy petition on behalf of one client without the client’s consent or authorization, in an effort to make it appear that Philip Igoe had done work to justify the payment of at least $17,500. The indictment also alleges that Stacy Igoe lied under oath at two bankruptcy proceedings when asked about whether she had authorization to file this bankruptcy on the behalf of the client and about when the bankruptcy petition was prepared. Also alleged is that Philip Igoe and Stacy Igoe filed a false document in this bankruptcy case reflecting that the client had completed a credit counseling course, when he had not.

(2) If the charges are proven true, and the victimized homeowners can't recover any of their money from the attorney on account of the alleged ripoff, they might consider filing a claim with the Client Protection Program of the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission, which was established by the Supreme Court of Illinois to provide reimbursement to eligible clients who have lost money or property because of dishonest conduct by lawyers admitted to practice law in the State of Illinois. The Program reimburses eligible clients who cannot get reimbursement from the lawyers who caused their losses, or from other sources such as insurance.

According to its website, the Program may reimburse losses up to a maximum of $75,000 for each loss, and payouts arising from the conduct of any one lawyer shall not exceed $750,000.

For similar "attorney ripoff reimbursement funds" that cover the financial mess created by the dishonest conduct of lawyers licensed in other states and Canada, see:

Maps available courtesy of The National Client Protection Organization, Inc.

Florida AG Adds Another Foreclosure Mill To Its Target List In Ongoing Probe Into Allegedly Sloppy, Fraudulent Filings

The Tampa Tribune reports:
  • The Florida Attorney General's Office opened a formal investigation this week into another south Florida foreclosure law firm it says presented false and misleading court documents. The firm, Ben-Ezra & Katz, is based in and processes thousands of foreclosures for lenders.

  • The attorney general already is investigating four other firms for sloppy or fraudulent documentation used to take back homes. Earlier this month, the office said it had launched preliminary investigations into three more firms, including two in Tampa.(1)

  • The investigation into Ben-Ezra & Katz joins the Plantation-based Law Offices of David J. Stern; Florida Default Law Group in Tampa; Shapiro & Fishman, which has offices in Boca Raton and Tampa; and Marshall C. Watson in Fort Lauderdale. The Attorney General's Office has called these firms "foreclosure mills."

For the story, see Another law firm gets attention of Attorney General.

(1) According to the story, the Tampa firms under preliminary investigation are Daniel C. Consuegra and Albertelli Law. Those two firms, along with Plantation-based Kahane & Associates, received letters of inquiry in early December from the Economic Crimes Division of the attorney general's office, the story states.