Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Texas Law Aims To Curb Property Owners' Errors, Fraud In Obtaining Real Estate Tax Exemptions On Homestead Claims

In Austin, Texas, the Austin American Statesman reports:
  • Some Texas homeowners are finding that they face new rules when applying for a homestead exemption on their property, the result of a new law that took effect in September.

  • The rules — which lawmakers say are intended to prevent fraudulent homestead exemptions — will affect people whose circumstances have changed. That includes first-time buyers, those purchasing a new home or people who have become eligible for a different type of homestead exemption, such as turning 65 or becoming disabled. It will not affect homeowners who already have a homestead exemption on their primary residence.


  • Homestead exemptions remove a portion of a home's value from taxation, lowering the amount of property tax a homeowner must pay. The measure's author, state Rep. Harvey Hilderbran, R-Kerrville, said the changes were needed to prevent property owners from claiming homestead exemptions on more than one property. Hilderbran said he heard complaints from appraisal districts across the state about homestead duplications — particularly from out-of-state and in-state residents filing exemptions for vacation homes.


  • Jim Robinson, the Harris County Appraisal District's chief appraiser and legislative chairman of the Texas Association of Appraisal Districts, said the state needed to crack down on duplication of homestead exemptions.

  • "You're talking about major theft, really, when (homestead duplication) occurs," Robinson said. "The homestead exemption is the single largest source of tax relief for people, and when you have people who are cheating on it and are saving gigantic amounts on taxes that they really should be paying, it means that the taxing units where this cheating is occurring have to set a higher tax rate, which penalizes everybody to raise the money that they need to fund their budgets."


  • Robinson said one problem occurring all around Texas has been property owners applying for homestead exemptions for rental properties.

  • "We had one case where a man and woman (in Harris County) had more than a dozen homesteads on their ... rental properties, and on each case, they used the address of the rental property, but they would use a different variant of their names. On some of them, they would show both of them as the owner; on some they would show either the husband or the wife as the owner," Robinson said.

For more, see Texans adjusting to changes in homestead exemption rules.

BofA Throws Foreclosure Contractor Under The Bus As Burglary Charge Brought For Alleged Unauthorized Entry, Disturbance Of Family's Belongings

In Martinsburg, West Virginia, The Journal reports:
  • A Martinsburg man contracted by Bank of America to cut grass at a home a day after its foreclosure was arraigned on one count of daytime burglary Wednesday after he allegedly entered the house and rifled through the family's personal belongings.

  • Warren Edward Brown, 30, of Herman Lane, was later released after posting $15,000 bail. One of the alleged victims told police that boxes in a family room had been disturbed, a bedroom closet was rummaged through, a safe in the basement was moved and copper wire had been moved from the garage to the driveway, according to court records.

  • Brown has denied any wrongdoing, telling police that another man working with him found that a back door had been kicked in and that it was part of his job to enter the residence to see if there were any damages or if anything was missing, records show.

  • Brown's supervisor and a Bank of America representative, however, told police that no one, including Brown, was authorized to enter the residence.


  • On Oct. 21, [West Virginia State Trooper N.F.] Alatta contacted the field service office for Bank of America and spoke with a representative about the situation. The representative told the officer that Bank of America had submitted an order for the grass to be cut at the residence and stated that no one should have gone into the home, including Brown, records show.

For more, see Bank contractor charged with burglary (Martinsburg man hired by Bank of America to cut grass at foreclosed home arraigned).

Deteriorating Conditions, Suspended Utility Service Leave Low-Income Tenants In Limbo With Financially Strapped Landlord, Foreclosing Lender

In Las Cruces, New Mexico, the Las Cruces Sun News reports:
  • Narine Rodriguez had brought her 2-day-old baby home for only an hour. "I am hoping there is not carbon monoxide here," said the 27-year-old single mom while standing with one foot propping open the apartment door at the Madrid Manor, 202 W. Madrid in Las Cruces.

  • She stood with a group of other tenants who gathered Wednesday afternoon outside her apartment to address what they say is an intolerable situation throughout their complex: roofs leaking and ceilings caving in, bath tubs held together with duct tape, inoperable toilets, neglected heaters they fear may be leaking poisonous carbon monoxide and - the final holiday topper - no water service until late Wednesday, when it was restored.

  • "I don't have any water, nothing running out of the sink," said Monica Salazar, a mother of five children ranging from 3 years of age to 10. She had just arrived home with her kids to find empty water pipes. "I don't know how I'm going to cook now. Obviously, I will have dishes to wash. My kids need to be bathed," said the 31-year-old, who said she always pays rent and bills promptly.

  • "I will call the landlord, but you can never reach them," she said. "All you get is the answering machine. I don't know what I'm going to do."

  • It's a problem that has tenants stuck between their low-income status and a landlord mired in a foreclosure that she says limits her responsiveness to tenant complaints about deteriorating living conditions and suspended utilities.

  • The landlord, who tenants identified as Cheryl Butler, had her published office number disconnected. Butler is listed on the as an agent for Abstract Real Estate and Rentals, [...] in Las Cruces.

  • When contacted on her cell phone, Butler said the Madrid Manor property had been foreclosed on and that she was not responsible for paying its bills. Butler said she was aware the water had been temporarily turned off and had done all she could to remedy it.

  • But, she said, it was the responsibility of "the bank" to pay the water bill and that she could not do anything without the bank's permission. "I can only do what the bank allows me to do," said Butler. When asked for the identity of the bank, she said she could not recall the name, adding: "I only report to the person I report to, and he deals with the bank." When asked for the name of person who reported to the bank, Butler declined to give that person's name.

For the story, see Apartment foreclosure leaves tenants in limbo.

Landlord's Foreclosure Drives Church Congregation Onto Streets; Hold Xmas Services In Parking Lot

In Phoenix, Arizona, KNXV-TV Channel 15 reports:
  • A congregation said they were just locked out of their Valley church four days before Christmas. Their Christmas tree was up and the toys were still inside. Members of the Destiny Center International Church told ABC15 that since their landlord lost the church in a foreclosure, they consequently were kicked out.


  • We decided we’re gonna stick it out,” he said. Service will carry-on, just in the parking lot. On Friday, Lephiew said the now banked-owned property allowed members to remove all of their belongings from the building near 35th and Northern Avenues. Everything that was once inside the church is now sitting inside a storage POD outside of it.

For the story, see Congregation evicted from church four days before Christmas.

See also, Parishioners of Foreclosed Church Attend Service in Parking Lot.

C. Florida Church On Verge Of Foreclosure Gets Boot Over Unpaid Electric Bill; Fire Marshal: Lack Of Power To Premises Makes Sanctuary Unsafe For Use

In Lakeland, Florida, The Ledger reports:
  • Polk County's largest church sanctuary sits idle, its power turned off and its future uncertain. Without Walls Central, the 9,000-seat sanctuary in North Lakeland formerly known as Carpenter's Home Church, has not held services since at least August, when Lakeland Electric disconnected electrical service because of missed payments by its owner, Tampa-based Without Walls International Church.

  • Rev. Randy White, a co-founder of Without Walls International and the ex-husband of its senior pastor, Paula White, told The Ledger in November that the Lakeland property was on the verge of either being sold or going into foreclosure and that an announcement on its future would come soon.


  • Lakeland Electric discontinued electrical service to the property in August, city spokesman Kevin Cook said. He said Without Walls owed more than $50,000 in unpaid bills at the time. Lakeland Electric applied the church's deposit of $51,180, he said, leaving the owners with a balance of $2,953.79.

  • Lakeland Fire Marshal Frank Bass posted notices at the property in late September reading, "This structure is unsafe for human occupancy and ordered vacated. This structure must remain vacant and unoccupied until all violations are corrected."

  • Bass said he posted the order because the lack of power to the sanctuary makes it unsafe for use.

For the story, see Future In Doubt for Without Walls Central Church Property (Without Walls Central has not held services since at least August).

Friday, December 30, 2011

Schack Blisters F'closing Bankster For Invoking "Absurd" "Pontius Pilate/Sgt. Schultz Defense" After Being Nailed For Submitting Robosigned Court Docs

In Brooklyn, New York, the New York Daily News reports:
  • A Brooklyn judge ridiculed HSBC's "know nothing" defense for filing a false document in a foreclosure case and slapped the bank with the maximum $10,000 penalty. “HSBC sounds like ... Sgt. Schultz in the classic 1960s television comedy, 'Hogan's Heroes,'" Supreme Court Justice Arthur Schack wrote in a Dec. 22 decision made public Wednesday.

  • "The inept Sgt. Hans Schultz ... would feign ignorance about the escapades of his Allied prisoners by telling his commandant, Col. Klink, 'I know nothing! Nothing!'"(1)

  • HSBC had incurred Schack's wrath earlier this year when he caught its lawyers submitting documents filed by “robo-signers" purporting to work for the bank who were were actually employed by a loan servicing firm.

  • Bank officials and their lawyers are required to review and verify the accuracy of filings in foreclosure cases under regulations issued by state Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman. Later, a bank senior vice president submitted a sworn affidavit claiming HSBC had no knowledge of the mortgage in question and blamed the fiasco on the loan servicer.

  • But Schack, whose blistering and colorful opinions from the bench have made him a folk hero for financially troubled homeowners — said HSBC is responsible for the actions of its agents. The ticked-off judge also docked the bank's Rochester-based law firm $5,000 for its conduct in the matter, according to court papers.

  • The judge had ordered HSBC President and CEO Irene Dorner to appear at a hearing last July, but she blew it off. "She was missing in action, demonstrating her personal contempt for the Supreme Court of the State of New York," Schack fumed.

  • A representative for the law firm Shapiro DiCaro & Barak said it is appealing Schack's decision. Bank spokesman Neil Brazil said HSBC neither serviced the loan nor “prepared nor filed any of the underlying legal documents presented to the court.”

  • The tumult stemmed from homeowner Ellen Taher's delinquent mortgage on her Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, residence.

Source: HSBC like ‘know nothing’ Sgt. Schultz from ‘Hogan’s Heroes,’ Brooklyn judge says; Blames bank in foreclosure errors.

For the ruling, see HSBC Bank USA, N.A. v Taher, 2011 NY Slip Op 52317(U) (NY Sup. Ct., Kings County, December 22, 2011, Schack, J.).

(1) In hammering the foreclosing bankster, Justice Schack made these comments:

  • Further, as indicated by the Musarra affidavit and the Michael Ware Memorandum of Law, HSBC sounds like a combination of Pontius Pilate and Sergeant Schultz in the classic 1960's television comedy, Hogan's Heroes.

    HSBC washes its hands of any responsibility and places any blame upon OCWEN, its servicer for the TAHER mortgage. To paraphrase Matthew 27:24, in the New Testament, "when HSBC saw that it could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, it took water, and washed its hands before the multitude, saying, 'I am innocent of responsibility and should not be sanctioned.'"

    John Banner, the actor who played the inept Sergeant Hans Schultz, a guard in World War II's Stalag 13, would feign ignorance about the escapades of his Allied prisoners by telling his commandant, Colonel Klink, "I know nothing! Nothing!"


  • Moreover, HSBC's Pontius Pilate/Sergeant Schultz defense is absurd. The case caption states that HSBC is the plaintiff, not OCWEN. If HSBC has its name on the caption, it can't claim ignorance. HSBC as plaintiff is responsible for the actions of its agents, such as OCWEN.

    Mr. Ware's claim that "neither HSBC not Dorner was in any practical position to control the prosecution of this action" is ludicrous. This does not absolve HSBC of its corporate sins. If HSBC is a ship, Ms. Dorner is the Captain and responsible for both the good and the bad. However, in the instant action, HSBC appears to be the RMS Titanic. Ms. Dorner, unlike Captain Edward Smith of the RMS Titanic, did not go down with the ship after it struck an iceberg.

Widow Wins Battle To Wrestle Back Control Of Her Vacated Home From Adverse Possession-Claiming House Hijackers; Squatter Claims $7.5K Mechanics' Lien

In Mansfield, Texas, the Star Telegram reports:
  • A teary-eyed widow got her house back from squatters Thursday morning without a fight. "This has made a toll on me and my family right now," said Brenda J. Thornton, who appeared in eviction court. "This needs to be told. ... How they can come in and do this to us? It hurts."

  • The latest squatter case in Tarrant County was resolved in about five minutes in Justice of the Peace Matt Hayes court after attorney Robert Frisch said his clients, Andre and Selena Brown, were not disputing their rights to the house on Hillgrove Court under state adverse possession law.

  • State law allows persons to claim a right to abandoned property if they maintain it and pay taxes on it. Over time, if no owner claims the property, then the person may stake a claim. The Browns filed an affidavit of adverse possession months ago, claiming a right to the property on Hillgrove Court.Thornton owns the title on the property and raised her family there, she said.

  • "It's a little bit of an unusual situation there but it looks like everything was resolved amicably," Hayes said after the eviction hearing. No testimony was heard and no arguments were presented. Frisch said his clients only wanted to make arrangements with Thornton and her attorney to get their belongings out of the house.


  • All told, about 55 affidavits have been filed in the last six months at [County Clerk Mary Louise] Garcia's office by people claiming rights to abandoned property. On Nov. 7, Tarrant County District Attorney Joe Shannon instructed Garcia's office to stop taking the affidavits because of alleged fraud. Shannon's office also has vowed to pursue criminal action against those who file fraudulent paperwork.

  • The Browns were arrested for burglary of a habitation almost two weeks ago. Family members Alicia and Andrew LaTour, who had filed affidavits on another Mansfield home, were arrested earlier on the same charges. Formal charges may be filed in upcoming days, officials said. Frisch represented the LaTours and the Browns.

  • Andre Brown also placed a mechanic's lien on Thornton's Hillgrove Court property, asking for compensation for about $7,500 in construction and repairs he made to the house since moving in. La Rue said that claim would be discussed in the next few days, among other items, such as arranging for the Browns to retrieve their possessions from the house.

For the story, see Widow gets Mansfield house back from squatters.

See also, Mansfield squatter suspects keep it all in the family.

Financially Strapped Homeowners Becoming More & More Comfortable Fighting Back Against F'closure, Using Technicalities To Leave Banksters Sucking Wind

CNNMoney reports:
  • Delinquent borrowers facing foreclosure are learning that they can stay in their homes for years, as long as they're willing to put up a fight. Among the tactics: Challenging the bank's actions, waiting to file paperwork right up until the deadline, requesting the lender dig up original paperwork or, in some extreme cases, declaring bankruptcy.

  • Nationwide, the average time it takes to process a foreclosure -- from the first missed payment to the final foreclosure auction -- has climbed to 674 days from 253 days just four years ago, according to LPS Applied Analytics.

  • It takes much longer than that in Florida, where the process averages 1,027 days, nearly 3 years. In D.C., foreclosure averages 1,053 days and delinquent borrowers in New York often stay in their homes for an average of 906 days.


  • Ironically enough, the banks have given delinquent borrowers some of the ammunition they need to delay the foreclosure process. During the "robo-signing" scandal in 2010, it was revealed that bank employees signed paperwork attesting to facts they had no personal knowledge of. Now, borrowers are routinely challenging that paperwork.

For more, see Foreclosure free ride: 3 years, no payments.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Brooklyn Judge Clips Bankster, Foreclosure Mill Sweatshop For $15K In Sanctions For Wasting Judicial Resources In Continuing Heavily Defective Suit

In Brooklyn, New York, The Buffalo News reports:
  • An outspoken State Supreme Court justice in Brooklyn known for taking on banks and throwing out foreclosures has fined HSBC Bank USA $10,000 for “frivolous conduct” in trying to seize a home without proper paperwork.

  • Justice Arthur M. Schack sanctioned the U. S. subsidiary of London-based HSBC Holdings Plc last week, citing the bank’s “waste of judicial resources” in continuing a foreclosure action “with all of its defects.”

  • In his ruling, he said the bank’s “use of robosigners” is “completely without merit in law,” and he accused the bank of asserting “material factual statements that are false.”

  • He also sanctioned HSBC’s legal counsel, the law firm of Shapiro DiCaro & Barak LLC, for the same reasons, putting blame specifically on attorney Frank M. Cassara but imposing a $5,000 fine on the firm instead of the attorney.

  • The judge did not fine HSBC USA CEO Irene M. Dorner, whom he had ordered to appear in a hearing July 15 to justify why he should not sanction her or the bank. Dorner was out of the country and did not appear at that hearing, but rather sent an attorney as her representative.

  • That had triggered indignant outrage among a few online pundits and foreclosure victims, but Schack acknowledged in his ruling that, because she had the attorney present, “It’s HSBC that I might be able to sanction, not Ms. Dorner as an individual.”

For more, see HSBC Bank USA fined $10,000 in home seizure.

For the ruling, see HSBC Bank USA, N.A. v Taher, 2011 NY Slip Op 52317(U) (NY Sup. Ct., Kings County, December 22, 2011, Schack, J.).

Sale Leaseback-Peddling Prosecution Ends Up With 6-Months House Arrest For One; Sentencing For Another Delayed Pending Evaluation Of Snitch's Help

In Concord, New Hampshire, The Nashua Telegraph reports:
  • A former Nashua man’s sentencing on federal mail fraud charges for stripping equity from troubled homeowners facing foreclosure has been postponed again. Walter Bressler, now of Frisco, Texas, will be sentenced on federal mail fraud charges March 12. Bressler has pleaded guilty to the charges and was supposed to be sentenced Dec. 5, according to documents filed at U.S. District Court in Concord.(1)

  • Meanwhile, a second man who admitted to his role in the same mortgage scheme was sentenced Dec. 6. Richard Winefield was sentenced in U.S. District Court on felony mail fraud charges and was given three years probation with special conditions, including a six-month period of home detention and electronic monitoring. He was ordered to pay $407,500 in restitution.

  • Bressler’s sentencing hearings have been postponed several times to give him and prosecutors time to evaluate his cooperation inresolving other targets,”(2) according to court documents. Bressler was supposed to be sentenced Aug. 11 and then Dec. 12, according to court records.

  • Prosecutors claim Bressler and Winefield helped persuade financially troubled homeowners to sign over the deeds to their properties with the promise they could stay on as tenants, pay rent for two years and then buy the property back at a prearranged price.

  • Instead, the scheme’s participants resold the homes to “straw buyers,” often in amounts that exceeded the original owner’s loans, according to the U.S. attorney. Some of the rent money was used to pay off the new mortgages, but the loans eventually went unpaid and the homes fell into foreclosure.

  • The original owners had no “realistic opportunities” to buy their homes back because they had been stripped of equity and encumbered with large defaulted loans, according to the U.S. attorney.

  • Michael Prieto has been identified by prosecutors as a partner of Bressler’s and Winefield’s, but he hasn’t been charged. Prieto said it was no scheme, but rather a refinancing program intended to help struggling homeowners, which would have worked if they had paid their agreed-upon rent.

  • The agreement and the program … was not a scam,” Prieto previously told The Telegraph. “It was designed for its purpose, which was helping people pay off their debts, giving them breathing room, giving them an opportunity to stay in their homes for two years.”

For the story, see Former Nashua man’s sentencing for mortgage scheme postponed.

(1) Go here for:

(2) "Resolving other targets" is an apparent euphemism used by the Feds and other insiders in place of the more common vernacular familiar to the public, 'throwing under the bus'. The existence of negotiations to assess the value of Bressler's contribution in dragging down more of the scam's confederates reinforces the observation made by one learned Federal judge with regard to plea deal negotiations and the so-called race to the prosecutor's office:

  • "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." United States v. Moody, 206 F.3d 609, 617 (6th Cir. 2000) (Wiseman, J., concurring) (referring to the not-uncommon 'race to the courthouse' that breaks out among participants in an uncovered criminal conspiracy).

Man To Stand Trial For Allegedly Forging Ex-Fiance's Signature To Strip Home Title, Allowing Scammer To Sell It, Pocket The Cash, Flee To Europe

In Elkhorn, Wisconsin, The Janesville Gazette reports:
  • Jacqueline Sharlein recognizes the forged signatures that stripped her ownership of her East Troy home, allowing someone to sell it and flee to Eastern Europe. The signatures were forged by her former fiancé, she said.

  • Gerald Nickels was ordered [] to stand trial after Walworth County Judge John Race ruled Nickels probably committed a felony.

  • Sharlein was the only witness to take the stand during the preliminary hearing, where Nickels silently watched with his attorneys. Sharlein testified she was familiar with Nickels' handwriting, and signatures on a quit claim deed and escrow check matched those of her former fiancé. Sharlein said her first name was even misspelled on one of the signatures.

  • Nickels is charged with forgery and misappropriating identity, both felonies carrying a maximum prison sentence of up to six years.

For the story, see Suspect ordered to stand trial for felony forgery charge.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

City Council Member Announces Re-Election Run Despite Alleged Ripoff Of 94-Year Old Man's Home; Deed Subsequently Voided; Criminal Trial Pending

In Phenix City, Alabama, the Columbus Ledger Enquirer reports:
  • Despite being under indictment for forgery and perjury, Phenix City Council member Arthur L. Sumbry Sr., announced [] that he is running for re-election. If Sumbry is convicted, he would have to vacate the office and would not be eligible to run.

  • His co-defendant, Ella Mae Sanders, was convicted of first-degree perjury but was acquitted of charges she forged a warranty deed that Sumbry notarized. She was sentenced to four years in prison.

  • The two were indicted in January on charges they forged a deed that transferred the Phenix City home of an ailing 94-year-old man to Sanders’ son. The man’s daughter claimed her father was not competent to execute legal documents in his failing health.

  • A judge declared the document null and void. Sumbry’s trial date has not been set, but will likely be next year after the Russell County Courthouse is reopened.

Source: Phenix City councilman Arthur L. Sumbry Sr. to run for re-election despite indictments for perjury, forgery.

Would-Be Tenant/Couple Stung For $2300 In Rent Scam; Cops: Matter Being Treated As A Crime

In Contra Costa County, California, the Martinez News-Gazette reports:
  • This week Rachael and Ray Gray are wishing they would have asked many more questions before handing over $2300 in first, last and security deposit on a two-bedroom Pacheco Blvd. rental house, they said.

  • The couple – desperate to avoid homelessness and wholly trusting that nothing was amiss – paid the advance rent and deposit via money order to a woman who represented herself as the agent for the property owner.

  • A couple of weeks later, the Grays came home to find the locks changed and a warning, from the real owner, that they would be arrested by the Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Office for trespassing and squatting at the home, [...].

  • The “agent” was apparently an impostor, and the Grays haven’t seen nor heard from her since. She’s long gone, say the Grays, along with the family’s entire savings and fake lease.

  • We are looking into this case,” said CCCSO spokesperson Jimmy Lee on Wednesday. “It is being treated as a crime.”

For more, see Rental scam hits home in Martinez (Impostor landlords fleece tenants).

Bklyn Judiciary, Guardianship System Strike Again; Hijack Supervision Over Elderly Widow, Control Over Her Assets; Victim "I Was Sold Like A Slave..."

In Brooklyn, New York, the The Washington Examiner reports:
  • Ella Card had it made in America. After emigrating to the United States from her native Belize, she earned a masters degree and taught third grade in the New York City Public School system for three decades.

  • She and her late husband Raymond, who died as a result of taking the recalled painkiller Vioxx, had saved and invested their money wisely, so Card was looking forward to a comfortable retirement.

  • But her well-laid plans took a terrible detour when she suffered temporary dementia after being struck by a car in 2010. Her two sons, whom she says lost their jobs as corrections officers due to drug abuse, petitioned the Brooklyn Supreme Court for guardianship over her affairs.

  • And after recovering from her injuries, the 73-year-old widow -- a naturalized U.S. citizen who retains dual citizenship in Belize -- finds herself in an ongoing guardianship nightmare that has now gone international.

  • On March 16, Brooklyn Judge Betsy Barros held one of five ex parte hearings on Card, appointing a temporary guardian. On April 26, Barros ignored Card's durable power of attorney, irrevocable trust, and two quit claim deeds and read the still-very-much-alive woman's will in open court before declaring her "incapacitated."

  • The court transcript obtained contains this Kafkaesque passage: "... the Incapacitated Person, Ella Card, vigorously contested the proceedings." "It felt like a hanging. I was the only one sticking up for my mother," Card's 43-year-old daughter Cindy told us. "Every one of them standing there and allowing it knew my mother was not incapacitated."

  • Card was then placed under the near total control of a court-appointed guardian, The Vera Institute of Justice, located in the same Brooklyn courthouse. The Vera Institute of Justice's website describes it as "an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit center for justice policy and practice." According to IRS records, $16.7 million of its $24 million annual funding comes from government grants.

  • Card told The Washington Examiner that The Vera Institute of Justice promptly froze all of her assets (valued at approximately $1 million), including her teachers' pension, began collecting rent on the property she owned, and forced her to live in her own home without heat, hot water or access to her own money.

  • Card petitioned the court to remove the guardianship. Her petition was denied. She had to borrow money to travel to Washington where, on June 14, she was one of 40 people from 17 states to tell a congressional listening session chaired by Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas, about abuses of the guardianship system that strip vulnerable seniors and disabled people of their civil and constitutional rights.

  • Card was the only witness deemed "incapacitated" to testify for herself: "I was sold like a slave to The Vera Institute ... which closed all of my bank accounts, took control of my money, filed a change of address to get my mail, demanded keys to my properties and contacted Belize to try to take control of my property and bank accounts in that country. ..."

  • Card says her niece, who works in the American consulate, told her that the Belizean authorities confirmed she was living there, but refused to give The Vera Institute of Justice any other information.

  • The Examiner has learned that Nestor Mendez, Belize's ambassador to the United States, read a November letter from Card requesting his protection and passed it on to the embassy's legal division for follow-up. Karen Goldstein, the Vera Institute of Justice's general counsel in New York, said she would look into the matter. We're still waiting for her response.

  • Meanwhile, the feisty Card -- who clearly demonstrated her mental and verbal acuity in an interview with this newspaper -- continues to fight for her freedom.(1)
Source: Retired NYC school teacher fights for her freedom.

(1) For other posts on the abuse of the guardianship system and 'granny-snatching' incidents, see:

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Another Screwed-Over Homeowner Needs Appeals Court To Reverse Trial Judge's Erroneous Summary Judgment In Foreclosure Case

In San Francisco, California, The Recorder reports:
  • The Sixth District Court of Appeal tossed out a summary judgment for Citibank and a loan servicer in a foreclosure case on Wednesday, giving a plaintiff another shot to prove he was a victim of predatory lending.

  • Jonas Lona — who claimed he was bamboozled in a mortgage refinancing scheme — had demonstrated triable issues of fact as to whether the loans were procedurally and substantively unconscionable, the three-judge panel concluded.

  • "And while this evidence may not ultimately be persuasive at trial, in this case, it was sufficient to defeat the motion for summary judgment," wrote Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Brian Walsh, sitting by assignment.

For more, see Mortgage Fraud Suit Can Proceed, Appeal Court Rules.

For the court ruling, see Lona v. Citibank, N.A., H036140 (Cal. App. 6th Dist. December 21, 2011).

San Bernardino DA: Pinched Pair Conspired To Forge Documents In Title Theft Of Recently-Deceased Woman's Home

From the Office of the San Bernardino County, California District Attorney:
  • Two men accused of using fraudulent means to obtain the certificate of title to a deceased woman’s home have been arraigned in San Bernardino Superior Court. Troy Lamar Preston, 41, of San Bernardino, and Mario Emile McKinley, 31, of Riverside, have been charged with two counts of forgery, two counts of offering a false or forged instrument, theft from elder or dependent adult, first degree burglary, and identity theft.

  • On November 14, 2008, Velma Jean Lee's residence in San Bernardino was paid off. Three days later, Lee died. Preston and McKinley conspired to take over title for the purpose of selling it to an investor to benefit from the proceeds.

  • On December 22, 2008, Lee's name was forged on a Grant Deed fraudulently transferring her property over to Seaboard Inc. The public notary was positively identified as McKinley. In the meantime, Preston signed an Affidavit-Death of Joint Tenant in an effort to avoid probate. McKinley was the notary for this document as well.

  • Upon interviewing the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Seaboard Inc., investigators learned that the CEO knew Preston, but was unaware that his corporate identity had been stolen to transfer Lee’s property over to his corporation.

  • Preston was positively identified in two separate interviews by the decedent's son and the Seaboard Inc. CEO Senior Investigator Maurice Landrum from the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office, Real Estate Fraud Division, obtained a search warrant for McKinley's Riverside residence.

  • During the course of the search, Landrum located and seized McKinley's notary journal, which placed him inside the decedent's home. Based on McKinley's statements and the notary journal, criminal charges were filed against McKinley and Preston (who, at the time, was on formal probation and had not reported in since April of 2011).

For the San Bernardino County DA press release, see Two Men Charged With Real Estate Fraud.

Latest Federal Program To Help Homeowners In Foreclosure "Looks Like More Of The Disappointing Same"

The New York Times reports:
  • THROUGHOUT the foreclosure crisis, Washington has done little to help people hang on to their homes. All those programs that were supposed to help — HAMP, HARP, Hope for Homeowners — have mostly failed.

  • So many were skeptical when the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency announced yet another program in April. This one was intended to provide reparations to homeowners who’d been hurt financially by foreclosure abuses at banks.

  • As the details trickle out, the program looks like more of the disappointing same. “This is just the next program that’s getting people’s hopes up,” said Alys Cohen, staff attorney at the National Consumer Law Center in Washington. “Not only will it not help people, it could easily harm them.”

For more, see Foreclosure Relief? Don’t Hold Your Breath.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Utah Federal Court Rulings On Unqualified BofA Foreclosure Trustee In Conflict

In Salt Lake City, Utah, KCSG-TV Channel 14 reports:
  • Utah senior federal Judges Dee Benson and Bruce Jenkins have ruled Bank of America's foreclosure arm, ReconTrust Company, N.A. (NYSE: "BAC") may not be qualified to perform non-judicial foreclosures in Utah.

  • However, [last] week senior federal Judge David Sam ruled that ReconTrust is operating under the National Bank Act regulated by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), is a trustee under the Texas law where ReconTrust is located rendering Utah Code 57-1-21(3) inapplicable. Ruling

  • The ruling comes in a case filed by attorney John Christian Barlow, in which ReconTrust is being sued by Utah homeowner Garry Franklin Garrett accusing ReconTrust of conducting an unlawful foreclosure sale because it's is not a qualified trustee under Utah Law. The judge's decision conflicts with rulings by other Utah federal judges over the Bank of America's Utah foreclosure activities.

  • The Utah Attorney General intervened in another Utah homeowner's lawsuit filing an Amicus Curiae petition charging that the Bank of America was illegally foreclosing on Utah homeowners. Peni Cox vs ReconTrust

  • The Utah Attorney General accused the Bank of America in May 2011 of illegal foreclosure activities using its subsidiary ReconTrust Company. In the letter, the Attorney General said that ReconTrust is in violation of Utah law as set forth in Utah Code Sections 57-1-21 and 57-1-23, which outline the requirements for lawful non-judicial foreclosures. Support for the attorney general's position is found in a recent 10th Circuit case, Shurtleff v. Kleinsmith in which Utah Code Sections 51-1-21 and 57-1-12 were found to be constitutional.

  • The letter said that ReconTrust is in violation of the National Bank Act, which does not allow national banks to operate in contravention of State and local law. ReconTrust's exercise of the fiduciary powers in the State of Utah is a violation of State law and applicable federal law, the Attorney General said.

For more, see Utah Federal Judges Decisions Conflict in ReconTrust Utah Home Foreclosure Actions.

Cops Pinch Two In Adverse Possession Home-Hijacking Scam; Use Of Forged Lease To Turn On Utilities Could Lead To More Charges

In Douglas County, Georgia, WSB-TV Channel 2 reports:
  • A man who told Channel 2 Action News that he could help anyone move into a foreclosed house and live for free, is now in jail. Roderick Walker filed an Affidavit of Adverse Possession for a $300,000 vacant home on Mackenzie Court in Douglas County, and has lived there for the past six months for free. He also started a Facebook page teaching others how to do the same thing, but that's not what he was arrested for. Deputies charged Walker with criminal trespassing Thursday night, saying he helped one of his clients get back into a house on Prestley Mill Road which he'd been evicted from.

  • "He'd come back in after the cleanup crews left. Went through the basement, up through the house and helped him move all his property right back in," said Douglas County Sheriff's Investigator Josh Skinner.

  • Deputies moved the belongings right back out, and charged the client that day. "If they would have just took the 3 or 4 months of rent free living as a good blessing and left, nobody would have gotten in trouble that day," said Skinner.

  • But he says Walker and the others' attempted use of Georgia's Adverse Possession law to occupy the vacant homes is not legal. He calls it fraud and says law enforcement intends to crack down on anyone using paperwork to try to claim houses they don't own.

  • "I think it's a very good way to wind up in jail," said Skinner, "We just won't tolerate this kind of behavior." [...] Walker interpreted Georgia's adverse possession law to say the house would be his if he could live in it for seven years. Investigators say a successful adverse possession cannot be rooted in fraud, but unless a neighbor or realtor calls, it would be hard to catch. Plus, many homes are in foreclosure limbo right now, making them ripe for adverse possession attempts.


  • [Skinner] says both Walker and his client could face even more charges relating to the house on Prestley Mill Road. The power company required proof of residency and investigators believe the pair forged a lease to open an account. Walker is being held in the Douglas County Jail on an $11,000 bond.

For the story, see Police arrest man who moved into vacant home.

Florida-Based Foreclosure Document Sweatshop Targeted Again In Another Nevada Lawsuit; Homeowners Seek Class Action Status

In Las Vegas, Nevada, CBS News reports:
  • A lawyer in Las Vegas has filed a civil lawsuit seeking class-action status on behalf of homeowners he says have been hurt by the filing of fraudulent foreclosure documents during an alleged "robo-siging" scheme.

  • Matthew Callister said he wants a state judge to stop tainted home sales and evictions and order Lender Processing Services Inc. and several bank and mortgage companies to modify loans and pay monetary damages to affected homeowners. "This is to say, 'Stop. Let us try to modify the loan appropriately,'" Callister said. "Then we'll seek damages."


  • The Las Vegas Sun first reported that the lawsuit alleging deceptive trade practices had been filed Tuesday in Clark County District Court on behalf of five homeowners. A hearing was not immediately scheduled.

  • Callister told The Associated Press that he had at least 20 more plaintiffs to add to the case. The civil lawsuit came days after Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto filed a civil lawsuit in Las Vegas accusing Lender Processing Services of orchestrating a massive robo-signing scheme to file fraudulent documents before the local housing market collapsed in 2008.

For more, see Lawyer seeks class status for robo-signing lawsuit.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Lawyers Behaving Badly: Payouts From Wisconsin 'Attorney Ripoff Reimbursement Fund' Double; Incidents Of Dipping Into Client Trust Funds Increase

In Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports:
  • A state fund that pays victims of misconduct by dishonest lawyers doled out nearly $2 million in the past six years, nearly double the amount paid in the previous six, records analyzed by the Journal Sentinel show.

  • The Wisconsin Lawyers' Fund for Client Protection - a little-known body created 30 years ago by the state Supreme Court - issued payments after lawyers pocketed unearned fees and embezzled client funds, among other acts.(1)

  • Officials and attorneys say the trends suggest there are more misbehaving lawyers, especially when it comes to stealing money from client trust funds. "It seems like there are more of them and they are for bigger amounts," said attorney Richard Cayo, who specializes in representing lawyers facing disciplinary charges.


  • In the six-year period that ended June 30, the fund paid out nearly $1.9 million. In the previous six years, it paid out slightly more than $1 million. The money in the fund, administered by the State Bar, comes from mandatory annual payments of $25 by each of the state's nearly 20,000 attorneys.

  • The Journal Sentinel also found: Since its creation in 1981, the fund has paid about $5.1 million to nearly 700 clients. Nearly 60% of that total has been paid since 2000.

For more, see $2 million paid after lawyer misconduct.

(1) For similar "attorney ripoff reimbursement funds" that sometimes help 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.

Justice Department Announces $335M Settlement With BofA Over Allegations That Countrywide Engaged In Race-Based Discrimination When Making Home Loans

The New York Times reports:
  • The Justice Department on Wednesday announced the largest residential fair-lending settlement in history, saying that Bank of America had agreed to pay $335 million to settle allegations that its Countrywide Financial unit discriminated against black and Hispanic borrowers during the housing boom.

  • A department investigation concluded that Countrywide loan officers and brokers charged higher fees and rates to more than 200,000 minority borrowers across the country than to white borrowers who posed the same credit risk. Countrywide also steered more than 10,000 minority borrowers into costly subprime mortgages when white borrowers with similar credit profiles received regular loans, it found.


  • The settlement is subject to approval by a federal judge in California; according to the proposed consent order filed Wednesday, Countrywide denied all of the department’s allegations.

For more, see Countrywide Will Settle a Bias Suit.

Desperate Homeowners Continue Falling For Loan Modification Scams

In Shawano County, Wisconsin, WGBA-TV Channel 26 reports:
  • A Shawano county woman looking for hope to save her home, finds only more financial heartache. Nancy DesJarlais gave $1700 to a company that promised to solve her foreclosure problem. But she claims the company took her money and ran.


  • DesJarlais and her husband were facing foreclosure on their Shawano County home when a letter came from American Law Centers, promising to help them stay in their home. “I did a lot to make it our home and now I was going to be out, no place to go, I was really upset, I didn't know what to do I felt like a total fool,” she said.

  • NBC 26 attempted to contact American Law Centers for comment, but emails were not returned and the phone number was disconnected.

For the story, see Woman Facing Foreclosure Gets Scammed.