Saturday, March 30, 2013

Disabled Homeowner's Lawsuit: Gun-Toting Cops Invaded My Home, Arrested & Dragged Me Out Into Hot Sun, & Left Me There Until I Nearly Passed Out, All In Response To Bogus Police Report By Foreclosing Bankster's Field Rep!

The following allegations were taken from a March 19, 2013 Opinion and Order on various motions to dismiss by defendants in a lawsuit currently floating around in a U.S. District Court in South Bend, Indiana.

The lawsuit was filed by a homeowner facing foreclosure against a whole slew of people, and who accuses an individual, acting allegedly on behalf of the foreclosing lender, of certain actions that allegedly set off a somewhat unpleasant chain of events for the homeowner and a companion, to say the least.

The banksters' motions, in substantial part, were denied, and the litigation (originally filed in 2011) has been allowed to continue:
  • On August 20, 2009, plaintiffs J. John Marshall ("Marshall") and Kimberly Wiley ("Wiley") (collectively "plaintiffs") were working at Marshall's residence located at 1625 Brookwood Drive, Elkhart, IN ("the property").

    The property was in foreclosure, but the foreclosure had not been completed.

    While plaintiffs were working at the property, an individual who did not identify himself entered the house in an aggressive manner, questioned plaintiffs about their right to be in the house, and demanded plaintiffs leave the house.

    This individual was later identified as defendant Robert Hashberger ("Hashberger"). Hashberger told plaintiffs that he owned and controlled the property, and also told plaintiffs that they should not be at the property.

    At that point, Marshall identified himself as one of the owners of the property, and peacefully removed Hashberger. After Hashberger was gone, plaintiffs went back to work.

    Shortly thereafter, four City of Elkhart police officers arrived at the property with their guns drawn.

    Plaintiffs believe the officers arrived at the property after receiving a call from Hashberger reporting a burglary. The officers pointed their guns at Wiley, handcuffed her, and dragged her outside. Once outside, the officers questioned Wiley about Marshall.

    The officers then entered the room where Marshall was working, pointed their guns at him, and told him to get down on the floor. Marshall informed the officers that he could not get on the floor because of a disability. The officers grabbed Marshall and handcuffed him instead. After Marshall was handcuffed, the officers dragged him outside for questioning.

    At some point, it became apparent to plaintiffs that the officers presence at the property was due to an alleged breaking and entering committed by plaintiffs. Plaintiffs therefore told the officers that Marshall was the owner of the property. Even with this information, however, the officers made plaintiffs stand outside in the sun for almost an hour.

    The officers eventually told plaintiffs that they were being taken to jail, and read plaintiffs their Miranda rights. Marshall asked the officers if he could contact his attorney, but the officers ignored his request.

    Marshall eventually began to lose consciousness because he was forced to stand in the sun for such a lengthy period of time.

    Plaintiffs were released from police custody without any charges being filed.
For the opinion, see Marshall v. JP Morgan Chase Bank, Dist. Court, ND Indiana 2013, No. 3:11 CV 332 (N.D. Ind.).

Thanks to Deontos for the heads-up on this court ruling.

Woman Who Failed To Search Public Records When Buying Mobile Home At Bankruptcy Auction Now Faces Boot After Foreclosure Of Undisclosed 1st Mortgage

In Polk City, Florida, The Ledger reports:
  • When Sharon Little moved to Polk City in 2005 from International Falls, Minn., she went from the freezer into the fire — in more ways than one.

    Little, 60, was burned to the tune of about $40,000 in a convoluted 2010 real estate deal on a mobile home. She thought she was buying a mobile home and lot for $22,000. Instead she bought the home; property; and, unbeknownst to her, a $20,000 mortgage attached to it.
  • Little put about $18,000 into the home, mostly for improvements like new windows and doors, floor coverings and appliances. That figure includes about $1,600 for lawyers who tried to help her keep the place.

    "This place was a real dump when I bought it," Little said. Now, it's an appealing home by most any standard. "If I can save one person from going through what I've gone through, then doing this story is worth it," she said.

    Little has done everything she could to keep her home at 8926 Jericho Court in Polk City but now faces an April 6 eviction.

    The main culprit: When she bought her mobile home and property in a bankruptcy sale in 2010 for $22,000 she didn't realize the $20,000 mortgage was attached to it. Her bid included a $2,000 premium.

    Little didn't do a records search on the property or pay a company to do that, something that usually costs about $125, depending on the work required. "I'll never buy anything like this again for the rest of my life without doing a search," Little said.
  • When people mortgage a standard house they are required to buy title insurance. A title ­company searches the property for any encumbrances, and if it doesn't find any problems but one later surfaces, it becomes the responsibility of the title company, not the homebuyer.

    But mobile homes in Florida are treated like cars, not houses. The title to a mobile home comes from the state Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.
  • In 2010, she saw a woman leaving the vacant mobile home next door. Little said she asked the woman whether the house and property was for sale and was told it was in a bankruptcy proceeding.

    When she bid on it and won at an auction, Little got a quit-claim deed for the property but never got a title for the mobile home. The quit-claim deed contained warning — oft repeated at other points in Little's purchase process — that said: The property is "subject to all liens and encumbrances, if any."

    She said she had no clue what she'd really bought until four months after the auction when she tried to pay her 2010 property taxes but discovered they'd already been paid by Bank of America.

Wife Locks Herself In Deceased Hubby's $25M Beachfront Mansion In Effort To Stall Estate Sale; Executors: We Need The Cash To Pay Down Debt On Dead Magnate's Heavily Mortgaged $70M Empire

In Southampton, Long Island, the New York Post reports:
  • A 1970s TV actress has locked herself in her late husband’s Southampton beachfront mansion and refuses to leave — even though a potential buyer is scheduled to close [] on the $25 million home, court documents charge.

    Tara Kulukundis, 51, who had minor roles in “Charlie’s Angels” and “Starsky and Hutch,” has allegedly changed the locks at the home and blocked efforts to boot her for more than six weeks, say executors of the will of her Greek shipping-magnate hubby, M. Michael Kulukundis.

    Her husband didn’t leave any of the property to her, but she was allowed to live in his “magnificent apartment” at The Pierre hotel on Fifth Avenue in Midtown.

    Executors for the estate said they need to sell off the Hamptons property to pay down debt.

    But Tara won’t let go of the beach house, executor Barbara de Mare wrote in Monday’s filing in Manhattan Surrogate’s Court.

    She “purposefully left her sumptuous estate-provided actual residence at The Pierre hotel and is now illegally ‘occupying’ the Southampton property,” de Mare wrote.

    The executors got a court order forcing Kulukundis to fork over the keys to the house last October. She relented and agreed to cooperate and allow movers to pack up the home’s furnishings.

    But she allegedly blocked the movers from getting into a second-floor room and changed the locks so the broker could not enter the house.

    Her husband’s heavily mortgaged $70 million real-estate empire included the Pierre apartment, as well as a second Southampton home and a townhouse on East 67th Street. Both were sold after his death.

    In 2011, she blocked Sotheby’s from coming into the Murray Place house to appraise artwork, and she pulled a similar stunt the next year at her Pierre pad, documents allege.

    The lawyers said they needed to raise funds to support her “lavish lifestyle.”

    Her lawyer declined to comment.

    Tara Kulukundis, who went by the screen name Tara Tyson, also acted in a 1989 movie called “Eden is Burning” and won two awards for her acting in the off-Broadway shows “Foreplay” and “Porno Stars at Home,” according to the film site IMDb, which says she was a fashion model as well.
Source: $25M squatter (Widow’s Hamptons siege).

NYCHA Inspectors Asleep At Wheel, Say 20+ Tenants In Building In Foreclosure; Renters Living In Improperly Carved Up Units Now Face Possible Boot For Having Section 8 Vouchers For Wrong Size Apartments

In The Bronx, New York, the New York Daily News reports:
  • At a troubled Highbridge apartment building that’s in foreclosure, more than 20 tenants are being asked to move out because their Section 8 vouchers are for the wrong size apartments.

    The tenants at 1380 University Ave. informed tenant association president Barbara Williamson that the city Housing Authority wants them moved.

    Landlord Martin Carlin installed illegal partitions to add a bedroom in some of the 144 apartments, Williamson said, and the NYCHA’s Section 8 inspectors didn’t check the units before issuing vouchers.

    “It’s bad the way Carlin put these tenants in a situation like this,” Williamson said. “Section 8 has been ripped off, just like a lot of tenants. That’s taxpayer’s money that’s being burnt up now.”

    Some tenants told Williamson that the court-appointed building manager, WinnResidential, offered to move them to a building in Mott Haven, but not everyone wants to go there. She said tenants have been told they can’t get their security deposits to move elsewhere.

    Tenant organizer Susanna Blankley of Community Action for Safe Apartments said Carlin should be held responsible. “How is possible no one goes after Carlin for that?” Blankley asked. “All these people going to be evicted because he did all this illegal stuff?”

    Blankley blasted NYCHA for failing to inspect the units before dispersing Section 8 vouchers. NYCHA did not respond to requests for comment.

    A Winn spokesman said 32 units are affected, and Winn will help tenants find new units in any of 6,000 properties they manage in every borough but Queens. He said NYCHA issued no timeline by which tenants must move.

    While Carlin still owns the building, Workforce Housing Advisors bought the mortgage and sought foreclosure in June against Carlin’s company, University Residence, Inc. A court-appointed receiver, Edmond Pryor, manages the building’s money.

    “Funds and accounting from the security deposit account is under active litigation as the existing deed holder has refused to provide the necessary information,” Pryor said. “Any tenant moving from the building will have his or her security deposit released pursuant to lease terms and rent regulations.”

    Carlin’s lawyer, Stephen Jones, said, “I have no reason to believe there are illegal partitions in that building put there by management. I really question the timing of the receiver coming in and starting to talk about putting people out of their homes in the middle of this.”

    Carlin faces jail and $1,000 a day in fines unless he convinces Bronx Supreme Court Justice Mark Friedlander to vacate a contempt order against him. Carlin allegedly continues to collect rents and has about $44,000 in tenants’ security deposits, according to Pryor. Friedlander has ordered Carlin to turn over the money to Pryor.
For the story, see Section 8 tenants may be forced to leave troubled 1380 University Ave. in Highbridge due to illegal apartment conversions (City Housing Authority didn't inspect units before issuing Section 8 vouchers, tenant advocates say). subdivided

Failed Health, Safety Inspections Spell The Boot For Chi-Town Renters In Bank-Owned Apartment House; City Officials Give Few Days Notice, Threaten Police Presence If No Compliance

In Chicago, Illinois, WLS-TV Channel 7 reports:
  • Dozens of residents at a Chicago apartment building could be forced out of their homes later Wednesday. The city of Chicago says the building in the 1200-block of South Kedvale is not safe, but many people who live there say they will not have a place to go if the city kicks them out.

    The city has a court order indicating the building fails to meet minimum standards of health and safety.

    Tenants, however, say they were given only a few days' notice. They say they were not notified soon enough, and they were planning to challenge that court order Wednesday. If the city prevails, Chicago police could be called to force the residents out.

    "Some guy came and gave us papers and said the building is being closed down. He said if we didn't leave, they were going to use police powers," resident Magdalen Ruffin.

    "They still could've given us more time. They didn't have to give us three to four days. At least they can give us 30 to 60 days to get our stuff together and go," said Keesha Wilkins, also a resident.

    North Community Bank is listed as the building's owner.

    "A lot of people have paid up through the month. We don't know if it's a foreclosure. The man said he was the manager, then he said he was the landlord. A few of us did pay up through the month. They wouldn't give them time to get their money to get a U-Haul truck. They just said we've got to go," said Wilkins.

    According to the court order, police could report to the building at 9:30 a.m. to remove the residents. The court hearing during which the tenants will challenge the court order was scheduled for 9 a.m.

Health, Safety Issues Lead To 'Condemnation-Eviction' Without Advanced Notice For Tenants In Building In Foreclosure

In Sacramento, California, KTXL-TV Channel 40 reports:
  • Dragging belongings by the bagful or in some cases, chucking them out of windows, people who live in an eight-unit apartment complex on Boxwood Street in North Sacramento were racing against the clock before the building was condemned and closed forever on Thursday.

    “Everybody in this place has to get their stuff out in less than an hour, he just gave us an extra couple hours today, or else we would have had to get out by 5 o clock yesterday afternoon,” Debborah Casillas, a mother of a tenant told FOX40.

    Documents indicate the property is in foreclosure. It’s also in terrible condition. Citing rodent infestations and structural issues, the property has been tagged as unlivable, conversely leaving residents without a home.

    “I’m gonna have to move in with a family member or something like that, in the meantime, I don’t really know,” said tenant LaBrandon Grayson.

    With U-Hauls backed up, piece-by-piece, it was a hasty attempt for some to pack up a life without perhaps a place to move it.

    “I knew there was a foreclosure, but we didn’t really find out, they just kinda crept on us with it, out of the middle of nowhere, you know what I mean?,” Grayson told FOX40.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Judge Kiboshes Proposed Settlement In Class Action Alleging Bankster Jerked Around Homeowners In Foreclosure; Wonders Whether Deal Will Keep Many From Recovering Their Losses

In San Francisco, California, Law360 reports:
  • A California federal judge again refused [] to approve a proposed settlement between Wells Fargo Bank NA and a class of 28,000 homeowners who say the bank sent them deceptive foreclosure-delay offers, arguing the deal could keep many plaintiffs from recouping their losses.

    U.S. Magistrate Judge Joseph Spero kicked the preliminary settlement back to the parties' attorneys, demanding details on how many class members are likely to make claims against the settlement fund, which is capped at $500,000 under California law.
For more, see Wells Fargo Must Show Foreclosure Deal Is Fair, Judge Says (requires subscription).

Living On $641/Month, Another Senior Citizen Gets Stung By Signing Over R/E Paperwork She Didn't Understand; Elderly Homeowner's Attorney: Education, Bad Eyesight Kept My Client From Understanding Details Of Reverse Mortgage

In Austin, Texas, the Austin American Statesman reports:
  • Aron Ezilla Ridge, 74, who has myriad health problems and is living on a monthly $641 check from Social Security, might lose the home she’s owned since 1968 if a mortgage company gets its way.

    James B. Nutter & Co., a Kansas City firm that approved a reverse mortgage for Ridge in 2007, has filed suit to foreclose on her small house on Webberville Road in East Austin for unpaid property taxes, according to court records. Ridge’s attorney, Nan Hazel of the George Brothers Kincaid & Horton, an Austin law firm that is representing her for free, says Ridge’s 2012 taxes were $49, and she has a receipt proving payment.

    James Madson, a vice president for James B. Nutter, however, says the wording in the suit is an error and that the real reason for seeking foreclosure has to do with Ridge not insuring the home for four to five years. The firm has been paying the insurance all this time. A Houston law firm representing Nutter erred in listing unpaid property taxes as the reason for foreclosure. “We are going to refile and list insurance as the reason,” Madson said.

    It doesn’t matter to Hazel that the mortgage company will make the change. “Miss Ridge didn’t understand the paperwork she signed,” Hazel said. “They knew that a woman of her education and bad eyesight would not be able to understand the details.”

    Ridge is distraught. “It’s my home. I worked very hard for many years, and I finished paying for it in 1995 despite my heart attacks and cancer and my diabetes,” she said.

    Ridge was served foreclosure documents in February and had 30 days to respond. Her niece, Brenda Files, found Hazel through Volunteer Legal Services.(1) “This just isn’t right,” said Hazel.

    Files blames the mortgage company from the time the reverse mortgage was approved in 2007. “They sent someone to her house to read her the papers to sign. She does not understand things too well. They saw how she was. They should have asked Auntie if there was a family member they could call to help her understand,” she said.

    Ridge said she approached the Nutter company about a reverse mortgage. Her home was paid for but she didn’t have any money to fix it. “I needed a new roof and repairs to my kitchen because it was dangerous to get around,” she said. She uses a wheelchair and is mostly homebound.

    Hazel said the mortgage company gave Ridge a lump sum of about $39,000. Ridge understood that she could remain in the home as long as it was her permanent residence. If she ever got too sick to live at home, a family member could purchase the house for the loan amount and value, about $66,000.
For more, see Mortgage Company Tried to Take Home of 75-Year-Old Blind Woman Over $49 She Already Paid (The company now claims that was an error, and is now filing for a different reason).

(1) Volunteer Legal Services of Central Texas helps low-income clients access the civil justice system by providing volunteer attorneys who donate free legal advice and representation, and by supporting and training those attorneys. .

Real Estate Operator Allegedly Dupes Dementia-Stricken 88-Year Old Woman Into Handing Over Deed To Home For $5K; Made Surprise Visits To Nursing Facility To Bulldoze Unwitting Victim Into Signing Paperwork: Daughter

In Charlotte, North Carolina, WCNC-TV reports:
  • This story begins on 515 Ideal Way in Dilworth.

    Last June, the property was in foreclosure and the house and two lots were set to be auctioned off. Seven bids were made, the highest bid being $48,358, according to court records.

    But none of the bidders got this house, instead, the house was reportedly acquired for just $5,000 by a company called Home Appeal, LLC which state records show is run by Laura Shields.
  • Pat Rader is sitting next to her mom, 88-year-old Mabel Bobo, who used to own the small quaint home on Ideal Way in Dilworth and did so for 56 years. Mabel told NBC Charlotte that the house holds “memories on top of memories, I could write a book, I could. I raised three kids there.”

    Mabel had taken out a loan some years ago and had tied it to the house, and when the loan wasn’t repaid, foreclosure proceedings began. Mabel wasn’t aware of the foreclosure because she has dementia, as we saw during this interview at the nursing home where she now lives.
  • It’s sad, and it’s hard for her children to watch their mother slowly slip away, which brings us back to Laura Shields and her company called Home Appeal.

    According to Mabel, and the mobile notary that was there, Laura Shields, an investor, made surprise visits to her room inside this nursing home last summer. And, during those visits, Mabel was asked to sign over the deed to her small home in Dilworth.

    Mabel’s family didn’t know, the nursing home didn’t know and even Mabel didn’t know. Mabel says she repeatedly told Shields “I’ll tell you what, you back off and leave me alone!”

    Patricia Rader, Mabel’s daughter is appalled saying “to come in to someone who is almost 90-years-old and shove a piece of paper in front of them, and do it repeatedly until she was so tired of seeing them, she signed it to get rid of them!

    The NBC Charlotte I-Team showed Mabel a copy of the deed she signed for those strangers while she was lying in her bed, but her blank look, was just that, blank. NBC Charlotte asked Mabel “Is that your signature?” Mabel takes a good look at the paper, her hands shaking as she holds it and looks up and replies “Yes, but I don’t remember signing it.”

    Sitting next to Mabel, her daughter Patricia says as she wipes her eyes, “That’s why I’m crying, cause they did this to my mom.”

    The I-Team and attorneys at the Surane Law firm are now fighting to get the home back as doctors say Mabel wasn’t in any mental condition to sign the house and two lots away in the first place.

    The property resale value of Mabel’s house in Dilworth is over $200,000.

    NBC Charlotte’s I-Team learned from the Bobo family that Laura Shields and her attorney asked for a legal mediation of the disputed real estate transaction.

    Mabel's family says a lawyer for Laura Shields told them during the mediation that Mabel was paid $5,000 for her house when she signed the deed in her bed in the nursing home, and that they have an undated check stub to prove it. But Mabel doesn’t have bank accounts anymore and her family says they never received a dime.

    NBC Charlotte has learned that Shields offered the Bobo family $5,000 for the property (so she doesn’t lose her buyer) beyond what she says she originally paid for it. We’re told by the Bobo family that they rejected the offer.

    NBC Charlotte confronted Laura Shields with a camera and microphone as she got off the elevator following the mediation.

    We had a variety of questions for her including “do you make it a routine practice to go into nursing homes an acquire property like that?” We got no answer.

    We asked “how would you feel if someone did that to your mom, would you be OK with that?” We got no answer. We asked “how did you even know she was in that nursing home?” We got no answer.

    Finally, we asked “do you feel you owe the Bobos any type of explanation?” We got no answer.
    Shields walked in silence to her Audi, got in, slammed the door and drove away.

    Laura Shields may own Mabel’s house at the moment, but she can’t do anything with it.

    The Surane Law firm filed for, and got, a temporary restraining order that now blocks any sale or any future development for the moment.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Home Loan Borrower Prohibited From Exercising TILA Rescission Rights Despite Unexpired 3-Year Time Limit Where Earlier-Obtained Foreclosure Judgment Becomes Final

From US Law:
  • Plaintiffs granted Eastern Savings Bank, FSB (Eastern) a mortgage on property as security for a loan. Plaintiffs defaulted on the loan, and Eastern filed an action to foreclose the mortgage.

    The circuit court foreclosed on the mortgage, and a public auction was held to sell the property.

    Eastern purchased the property and filed a motion for confirmation of sale.

    Plaintiffs subsequently filed a complaint in the U.S. district court seeking a declaratory judgment that the promissory note and mortgage had been timely cancelled pursuant to the federal Trust-in-Lending Act (TILA).

    The circuit court took judicial notice of Plaintiffs' pending federal case but declined to stay confirmation of the foreclosure sale in the meantime.

    Thereafter, the circuit court concluded Plaintiffs' pending TILA case did not bar confirmation of the sale of the property, confirmed the sale of the property to Eastern, and entered a deficiency judgment against Plaintiffs.

    The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that res judicata principles prohibit a debtor from asserting TILA rescission rights after a foreclosure judgment has become final, despite the rescission attempt being held within the time limit provided by TILA.(1)
Source: Opinion Summary - Eastern Savings Bank, FSB v. Esteban.

For the ruling, see Eastern Savings Bank, FSB v. Esteban, SCAP-30686 (March 15, 2013).

(1) A portion of the court's reasoning follows:
  • [T]he party asserting claim preclusion has the burden of establishing that (1) there was a final judgment on the merits, (2) both parties are the same or in privity with the parties in the original suit, and (3) the claim presented in the action in question is identical to the one decided in the original suit, or to a claim or defense that might have been properly litigated in the first action but was not litigated or decided. Bremer, 104 Hawai'i at 54, 85 P.3d at 161.

    Applying these requirements to the facts at hand, we conclude that the Estebans’ TILA rescission claims are barred by res judicata principles.

    First, under Hawai'i law, there was a final judgment on the merits when the time to appeal the Foreclosure Judgment expired. See Glover, Ltd. v. Fong, 42 Haw. 560, 574 (1958).10 Moreover, under Hawai'i law, res judicata principles apply to default judgments. Fuller v. Pac. Med. Collections, Inc., 78 Hawai'i 213, 219, 891 P.2d 300, 306 (App. 1995).

    Second, both the Estebans and Eastern were parties to the prior foreclosure proceeding.

    Third, a TILA rescission claim would have been properly litigated in the foreclosure action, whether as a counterclaim or as an affirmative defense.

FHFA Proposal To Kill Force-Placed Insurance Ripoff As To GSE-Owned/Insured Home Loans; Regulator Backpeddles From Earlier Move Kiboshing Fannie's Plan That Would Have Yielded 30%+ Savings

American Banker reports:
  • The Federal Housing Finance Agency has proposed banning force-placed insurance commissions in a blow to banks and other mortgage servicers.

    The regulator's move was first reported by the Wall Street Journal. It will prevent banks servicing loans owned or insured by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac from receiving payments from force-placed insurers. Ultimately the cost of force-placed premiums — including commissions paid to banks — is passed on to homeowners or investors, including Fannie and Freddie.

    For the GSEs to end up paying for servicer commissions, which regularly run between 10-15%, runs "contrary to prudent business practice" and "expose the Enterprises to potential losses as well as litigation and reputation risks," the agency wrote in a notice published in the federal register. "While FHFA plans a broader review of issues relating to the market for lender placed insurance, that includes receiving input from government and private sector parties, the practices that are addressed here are considered sufficiently distinct as to merit early action."

    The FHFA announcement comes less than two months after the FHFA, conservator for the government sponsored mortgage entities, told mortgage trade groups that it was killing a Fannie Mae plan to ban servicers from receiving commissions and lower force-placed costs by purchasing coverage directly from underwriters. Fannie's proposal would have produced savings for borrowers and the GSE in excess of 30%, according to proposal documents obtained by American Banker.

    The FHFA's February decision to block Fannie's plan was widely interpreted as a victory for banks by consumer advocates, industry sources and others. The regulator's new move to bar commissions was thus unexpected and caught even Fannie Mae officials off guard, sources familiar with it say.

St. Louis Feds: Suspect Fraudulently Offered To Broker REO Sales & Financing, Pocketed Customer Deposits, Never Closed Any Deals

In St. Charles, Missouri, the Suburban Journals reports:
  • A federal grand jury has indicted a St. Charles woman on fraud charges for a Ponzi-style scheme related to the purchase or sale of real estate.

    Daniela Spiridon, 41, faces six felony counts of wire fraud, each of which is punishable by a maximum of 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. She also could be required to forfeit money and property derived from the illegal activity.

    The March 13 indictment alleges Spiridon never completed a purchase or obtained bank financing for the purchasers, but deposited their escrow monies into her own accounts, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of Missouri.

    According to the indictment, Spiridon was affiliated with several businesses from an office in Chesterfield, which included A & AD Investments LLC, CDRS ESC Investments, Sentrix Loan Production Office and others. Spiridon is accused of fraudulently offering to broker purchases or arrange for financing to assist buyers in the purchase of properties acquired by lenders through foreclosure and held in inventory.

    She allegedly had potential buyers place deposits that were to have been put into an escrow account, but instead put the monies in a non-escrow account in one of her own companies. She often used buyers’ funds for personal expenses and to reimburse other buyers who demanded return of their funds, the indictment alleges.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Outfit Suspected Of Running Loan Mod, Bankruptcy Petition-Preparing Racket Slammed With Bay State AG Civil Suit; Currently Also Faces Concurrent Disgorgement Proceedings Brought By U.S. Trustee

In Lawrence, Massachusetts, the Eagle Tribune reports:
  • As a last resort, Pinnacle Financial Consulting LLC advised their clients they needed to file bankruptcy petitions to save their homes.

    “When their loan modification efforts fail, sometimes just days before the distressed homeowner’s home is scheduled to be sold at foreclosure, defendants pressure distressed homeowners into paying defendants thousands of dollars to file bankruptcy on their behalf in order to delay the foreclosure sale,” according to a lawsuit the state Attorney General’s Office filed against the downtown business.

    But about a quarter of the bankruptcy cases prepared by Pinnacle Financial were defective, according to court records filed in connection with the complaint.

    “Defendants’ bankruptcy filings on behalf of consumers are often incomplete or consist of erroneous paperwork, ultimately resulting in the dismissal of the bankruptcy proceedings,” the lawsuit alleged.

    “The U.S. Bankruptcy Trustee of Region I, District of Massachusetts, has identified, and the Commonwealth is aware of, 107 bankruptcy cases initiated by Defendants, at least 27 of which had fundamental defects in the documents Defendants prepared and filed,” the complaint noted.

    In eight of those cases, the U.S. Trustee has initiated disgorgement proceedings against defendants for illegally-prepared bankruptcy petitions.
  • The Attorney General’s Office maintains in its lawsuit that Pinnacle’s solicitation and acceptance of advance fees for loan modification and preparation of bankruptcy petitions was illegal.

    A Suffolk County Superior Court judge recently issued a preliminary injunction which prohibits Pinnacle from soliciting or receiving any fees for loan modification services, bankruptcy petition preparation services and investment advising services.

Failed Foreclosure Fraud Settlement Continues The Nightmare For Victimized Homeowners

eCreditDaily reports:
  • The much-anticipated notices from Rust Consulting — the bank regulators’ paying agent — was suppose to clear up how much compensation wronged foreclosure victims would get for actions taken three to four years ago.

    They were mailed out over the last few days to 4.2 million borrowers and have by now reached “infamous postcard” status, as one recipient put it. Many were expecting payment instead of a postcard.

    In a string of sometimes emotional comments to eCreditDaily, many of these borrowers who are eligible for payouts wrote of disappointment, frustration and anger caused by lender actions over the past four years or so.

    And now they are feeling victimized again from further delays by regulators in providing more information and rightful closure to a long nightmare.

    The cards that arrived in the mail this week offered few details and informed eligible buyers of another wait of four to eight weeks for getting payouts, more details or more paperwork to fill out. No one knows for sure.

Crackpot Invokes Sovereign Citizen Defense After Being Pinched For Allegedly Using Bogus Docs To Hijack Vacant 12-Bedroom Mansion Currently Up For Sale By Out-Of-Town Homeowner

In Bethesda, Maryland, The Washington Post reports:
  • Like many people excited about a new home, Lamont Butler invited friends over to check his out. He had a lot to show them. The Bethesda mansion is among the largest in the region and featured floors of imported marble, 12 bedroom suites, six kitchens and a history of playing host to political gatherings, including ones during which Bill Clinton and Al Gore helped plant trees out back.

    But the personable 28-year-old, known to wear a red fez, didn’t own the mansion; he had simply slipped inside and claimed it.

    Taking part in an odd and perplexing phenomenon popping up in cities across the country, Butler said the Bethesda mansion belonged to him because he is a Moorish American National. He’d drawn up paperwork that he said proved it all, with references to a 1787 peace treaty and the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations.

    When a man broke into an unoccupied six million dollar Bethesda mansion and claimed it on behalf of “Moorish Nation,” realtors and police alike were confused by the bizarre sequence of events.

    Montgomery County police call Butler’s stay in the mansion, which lasted only a few hours, something entirely different from a legitimate claim: breaking and entering, fraud and attempted theft. They say it is one of the most audacious local cases in what law enforcement officers called a growing national trend where self-described “sovereign” nationals try to move into homes they don’t own.

    This month in Memphis, a woman saying she was a Moorish American was evicted after a SWAT team moved in on a 9,000-square-foot mansion she said she owned. Tabitha Gentry was charged with trespassing and burglary, but in court she denied the legitimacy of the charges, repeatedly interrupted the judge and invoked her sovereign rights.

    Similar cases have occurred around the nation, where sovereign nationals have slipped into empty houses, sometimes going unnoticed for a week or two, authorities say.

    “It’s going on in every state,” said Kory Flowers, an investigator with the Greensboro, N.C., police and a national expert on sovereign groups.
  • Rashid Chaudary wasn’t thinking about sovereigns in 1995 when he moved into his new Bethesda home, which was worthy of the most lavish Washington occasions. The cosmetics company millionaire’s guests mingled on two levels. On warm nights, they could walk onto a series of limestone terraces with sweeping views of a hillside of trees.

    Several years ago, after Chaudary’s children were old enough to leave home, he and his wife moved to Chicago, where his company, Raani Corp., is based. They put the mansion on the market. “If only a palace will do,” one of the online real-state listings said, “this is your home.”

    It was a well-publicized target for Butler, a resident of Charles County who by last year was calling himself Lamont Maurice El, police say. Butler appeared in court last week, where he said that the charges against him are only allegations and that he is not a criminal. He also invoked his status as a Moorish national.

    “I only have one free national name. That is Lamont Maurice El,” he said.

    District Judge Eugene Wolfe ordered Butler held on $20,000 bond, which Butler posted shortly after the court hearing. He was released last week.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Outfit Using 'Dubious Deeds' To Snatch Vacant Homes In Foreclosure & Rent Them Out Runs Wild In Miami; Cops To Two Complaining Homeowners: Take A Hike, No Crime Here - It's A Civil Matter!

In Miami, Florida, the Miami Herald reports:
  • Scavenging the remnants of South Florida’s housing crisis, a partnership called Presscott Rosche appeared to gobble up almost three dozen foreclosed homes in Miami-Dade County last year. The company is currently listed as the owner of 12 homes worth about $3.5 million, according to the Miami-Dade property appraiser.

    But this seemingly thriving business is, in many ways, an illusion. The name of the company’s agent listed in state records is fake. So are many of the deeds the company has filed in Miami-Dade Circuit Court to stake its claim to more than 30 houses and condos, a Miami Herald investigation has found.

    The company has gained control of these homes — renting them out to unsuspecting tenants, in some cases — by filing dubious deeds and documents filled with legal-sounding jargon and shoddy punctuation. The author of many of these documents calls himself an “attorney in fact,” though he is not, in fact, a licensed attorney in Florida.

    “I never saw anything like that. It wasn’t even spelled right,” said Shelley Hallen, an actual attorney who beat back Presscott Rosche’s efforts to evict four college students from a Coral Gables house last fall.

    “They’re brazen,” said Frank Lopez, who says he found three people from Presscott Rosche inside a $700,000 Kendall house he owns. “They forged my signature, forged my wife’s signature.”

    Despite complaints about the company, Presscott Rosche has managed to vex police and prosecutors: A Presscott Rosche associate was arrested for burglary in November for allegedly breaking into a vacant home, yet Miami-Dade prosecutors dropped the case, saying they couldn’t prove the man didn’t have permission to use the house.

    Miami-Dade police detectives are continuing to investigate the company for possible fraud, The Herald has learned. Presscott Rosche representatives declined to comment or could not be reached.

    Presscott Rosche has primarily targeted homes in the legal limbo of foreclosure — homes vacated by their owners, and left untended by the lenders holding mortgages on the houses. In Miami-Dade County, more than 6,200 residences are now owned by banks, with thousands more left abandoned by their owners — and vulnerable to squatters.

    The squatter problem is not unique to Miami-Dade. In the past year, at least two people have been arrested in Broward County for trying to take homes with forged deeds. A Sarasota couple were charged with real-estate fraud last week.

    The drawn-out foreclosure process often makes it difficult for police or city inspectors to determine who owns a property. It can also lead to disputes over ownership that police are ill-equipped to handle.

    Two property owners told The Herald they complained to police about Presscott Rosche, but officers said the dispute was a civil, not criminal, matter.

Final Suspected Co-Conspirator Accused Of Snatching Homes By Peddling Sale Leaseback Deals To Homeowners Facing Foreclosure & By Forging Quit Claim Deeds Found Competent To Stand Trial

In San Diego, California, KGTV Channel 10 reports:
  • A 60-year-old man charged in a multimillion-dollar foreclosure fraud scheme in which notaries' identities were stolen and hundreds of deeds were forged around the state was found competent Friday to stand trial.

    David Zepeda is the last of four defendants to go through criminal proceedings in the case. He was hospitalized in San Bernardino County for an undisclosed medical condition after he was charged in September 2010.

    The defendants, including Zepeda, were accused of acquiring titles to properties by forging quitclaim deeds or convincing homeowners to transfer the property to them by promising the homeowner they would help avoid foreclosure.

    Once they had acquired the title, Zepeda and his brother John would rent out the property, prosecutors said. According to prosecutors, hundreds of victims were discovered in San Diego, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, Santa Barbara and San Bernardino counties, as well as in Clark County, Nevada.

    Authorities said they seized $335,000 in checks that hadn’t been cashed along with $33,000 in cash. They also found more than $8,000 in silver coins, gold watches and rings, and a Bentley automobile when they searched David Zepeda's home.

    His brother John Zepeda and two other men pleaded guilty to various charges in 2012.

    John Zepeda pleaded guilty to, among other things, rent skimming, forgery, identity theft and conspiracy to commit grand theft. He was sentenced to 12 years in state prison and agreed to pay $6 million restitution.

    Similar charges are lodged against David Zepeda. Judge Amalia Meza scheduled his trial for May 20, court officials said.
Source: Man charged in multimillion-dollar foreclosure fraud scheme found competent to stand trial (Hundreds of victims discovered throughout SoCal).

While Awaiting Trial, Two Since-Convicted Investment-Peddling Scammers Retaliated Against Prosecutor, FBI Agents By Tagging Them With $101.9M In Phony Liens On All Their Property

From the Office of the U.S. Attorney (Sacramento, California):
  • United States District Judge Kimberly J. Mueller sentenced two Sacramento men last Wednesday for an investment fraud scheme. Judge Mueller sentenced Ronald Wesley Groves, 71, to 10 years in prison and sentenced Donald Charles Mann, 56, to 17 years and six months in prison.

    Today, U.S. District Judge John A. Mendez sentenced each of them to one more year in prison, to be served consecutively to last week’s sentence, for retaliating against the prosecutor and FBI agents, United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced.

    According to court documents, on May 31, 2007, were indicted on 18 counts of wire fraud in connection with a fraudulent investment scheme.

    After their arraignment, they were released from custody on bond. In February 2008, while awaiting trial, Mann filed four fraudulent liens with the California Secretary of State in Sacramento: two liens against all property belonging to the federal prosecutor and one lien each against the properties belonging to the two FBI agents involved in the investment fraud investigation.

    Each lien claimed that $101.9 million was owed to either Groves or Mann with $100,000 per day in penalties.

    In September 2009, Groves and Mann were charged with four counts of retaliation against federal officials by false claim and slander of title and one count of obstruction of justice. They were taken into custody and have remained in custody since then. On December 13, 2011, both defendants pleaded guilty to two counts of retaliation against federal officials.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Foreclosure Reversals In Northern Ohio Appeals Court Gain Steam After Recent State Supreme Court Ruling

In Akron, Ohio, The Akron Legal News reports:
  • An Ashtabula County court erred by granting summary judgment in a foreclosure case to a financial institution that had no ownership interest in the mortgage at the time, the 11th District Court of Appeals recently ruled.

    Self Help Ventures Fund sued Lois J. Jones of Conneaut in May 2010 after she defaulted on a $61,100 residential home loan from Sky Bank.

    According to case summary, Jones bought the home in 2007 before Sky Bank merged into Huntington National Bank. Self Help claimed it was the holder of the promissory note Jones defaulted on.

    But although Self Help attached copies of the note and mortgage to the complaint, both showed Sky Bank — not Self Help — was the creditor.

    About two months later, Huntington assigned the note and mortgage to Self Help. Self Help then filed a motion for summary judgment against Jones with the new documentation.

    The appellant argued Self Help lacked standing but did not dispute defaulting on the note.

    In March 2012, the trial court entered summary judgment and a decree in foreclosure against Jones. However, the trial court granted Jones’ stay of the sheriff’s sale pending appeal.

    In her appeal, Jones alleged Self Help did not hold the note when it filed the complaint, and therefore lacked standing.

    Self Help argued although it did not hold the mortgage when it filed the complaint, it acquired standing when it became the holder after the complaint was filed.

    In a 2-1 decision, the 11th District panel reversed the court’s summary judgment and ordered the trial court to dismiss the complaint without prejudice.

    The appellate court cited an identical issue before the Ohio Supreme Court in Schwartzwald, supra, in Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp. v. Rufo. In that case, the [Ohio] Supreme Court held that standing is determined at the time of the complaint.

    “Further, the Court held that a mortgage holder cannot rely on events occurring after the complaint is filed to establish standing,” 11th District Judge Cynthia Westcott Rice stated. “Thus, the plaintiff cannot rely on Civ.R. 17(A) to cure its lack of standing by obtaining an interest in the subject of the litigation after the action is filed and substituting itself as the real party of interest.

    “Finally, the Court held that when the evidence demonstrates the mortgage lender lacked standing when the foreclosure action was filed, the action must be dismissed without prejudice.”

    11th District Judge Timothy P. Cannon concurred. Fellow appellate Judge Diane V. Grendell dissented, calling the dismissal of Self Help’s complaint unwarranted.

    “The better course for dealing with scenarios in which the plaintiff becomes a holder of the note and mortgage after the filing of the complaint was that followed by the Ohio Supreme Court in State ex rel. Jones v. Suster,” Grendell stated.

    “In that case, the court stated the following: `Although a court may have subject matter jurisdiction over an action, if a claim is asserted by one who is not the real party in interest then the party lacks standing to prosecute the action. The lack of standing may be cured by substituting the proper party so that a court otherwise having subject matter jurisdiction may proceed to adjudicate the matter.’ ”
For the story, see Court must dismiss foreclosure complaint due to lack of ownership.

For the ruling of the Ohio appeals court, see Self Help Ventures Fund v. Lois J. Jones, No. 2012-A-0014 (March 11, 2013).(1)

(1) Representing the homeowner in this case (as well as the successful homeowner in Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp. v. Rufo) were Anne M. Reese and Philip D. Althouse of the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland, a non-profit public interest law firm that serves low income Ohioans in Ashtabula, Cuyahoga, Geauga, Lake and Lorain counties.

Homeowner's Foreclosure Defense: Developer Hijacked Title To My Home While I Was Out Of The Country, Borrowed $1.77M Against It, Now Bank Is Trying To Take It From Me! Developer's Head Allegedly Invoked 5th Amendment

In Miami, Florida, the South Florida Business Journal reports:
  • A Miami-based bank is trying to seize Jorge Jaen’s home in the Florida Keys over a mortgage that he never signed.

    Jaen alleges that both he and Great Eastern Bank of Florida were victims of mortgage fraud, but he’s the one who could pay the price by losing his home in Plantation Key. The foreclosure lawsuit is set for trial April 1 in Miami-Dade Circuit Court.

    It all started in 2006 when the three-bedroom home, at 145 Venetian Way, was transferred for minimal monetary compensation by a quit-claim deed from Jaen to Remy Development of Florida. Jaen claimed in his motion to dismiss the complaint that he had no knowledge of the deed and it was a bogus.

    Jaen says it is not his real signature on the deed and he was out of the country at the time it was signed in Miami-Dade.

    Jaen’s motion cites testimony from attorney Raven Liberty and Leighton Brown, the two people who allegedly signed the deed as witnesses, saying they did see the first version of that deed, which was destroyed, but never saw the second version that was filed wit the court.

    Although Monroe County valued the home at $483,500 at the time the deed was filed, Great Eastern Bank gave Remy Development a $1.77 million mortgage, which was signed by Ramier Rodriguez on behalf of the developer.

    According to records uncovered in the lawsuit, the loan was for the construction of a low-income housing complex. The home was in the middle of a neighborhood of single-family homes with a tight lot line.

    “Due to the ‘development,’ Remy convinced [the] bank to tender millions of dollars in construction draws for work that Remy represented had been completed by Remy when, in fact, no such development had occurred,” stated the motion by Jaen, which was filed by his attorney, Geoffrey Ittleman in Fort Lauderdale.

    The head of Remy Development invoked the Fifth Amendment against self-incrimination at his deposition, Jaen’s complaint stated. The bank did not name Rodriguez in the lawsuit.

    The foreclosure lawsuit, filed in 2007, names Remy Development and Jaen. Monroe County property records still list Jaen as the homeowner, as he has been since 1992.

    Great Eastern Bank’s lawsuit also names title law firm Catlin, Saxon, Fink & Kolski LLP, which allegedly oversaw the transaction with Remy Development.

    Jaen wants the court to invalidate the deed to Remy Development and dismiss the bank’s attempt to foreclosure on the property. If he succeeds, it could be a big problem for Great Eastern Bank, the smallest bank in Miami-Dade, with $45.8 million in assets.

    Great Eastern Bank had $293,000 in noncurrent loans on Dec. 31, and that valuation is probably based on assuming that it can seize Jaen’s house and get some value from it. If it gets nothing from the lawsuit, the resulting write off in value could eat into its $5 million in Tier 1 capital.

    Great Eastern Bank was hit with a regulatory enforcement action in 2012, telling it to maintain higher capital ratios than normal and citing it for Bank Secrecy Act/anti-money laundering violations.

    Hollywood attorney Carlos Lerman, who represents Great Eastern Bank in the lawsuit, could not immediately be reached for comment.

NYS Scores $14M Settlement From Underwriter Associated With Force Placed Insurance Racket; Regulator: "Reverse Competition" Drove Homeowners' Premiums "Sky High"

In Albany, New York, Newsday reports:
  • An insurance company settled New York State allegations that it charged homeowners "unfair and unnecessary costs" and agreed to pay a $14-million civil penalty.

    In the settlement announced Thursday, the company, Manhattan-based Assurant Inc., also agreed to change its rate structure for so-called force-placed insurance policies and to refund some homeowners.

    "The force-placed insurance industry has for too long been plagued by an intricate web of relationships between insurers and banks that pushed distressed families over the foreclosure cliff," Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said.

    Force-placed insurance is a product that many homeowners will never encounter. Home borrowers take out insurance to protect their property, but the lender has an interest in making sure the house is protected as well. If a homeowner stops paying for insurance -- often due to financial difficulties including foreclosure -- the lender will take out a policy and charge the borrower.

    The state Department of Financial Services said that these forced policies can be two to 10 times more expensive than ordinary, voluntary homeowner's insurance, even though they offer less coverage. Voluntary homeowner's insurance pays out an average 63 cents in claims for every dollar collected in premiums. According to the department, one of Assurant's subsidiaries paid out as little as 17.3 cents on the dollar in 2008. The settlement requires the company to charge rates that more closely resemble voluntary homeowner's insurance.

    The state said that Assurant engaged in practices that the department called "reverse competition" in which it effectively shared profits with banks and mortgage servicers rather than offering its product at the lowest price.

    Benjamin Lawsky, superintendent of Financial Services, said those practices drove premiums "sky high."

    In settling, the company neither admitted nor denied wrongdoing. Assurant spokeswoman Shawn Kahle disagreed with the state's characterization that there was a conflict of interest in its activities.

    "We do not believe that the relationships that we have historically had with our clients, mortgage servicers, have created anything that would be perceived to be inappropriate," Kahle said. "We recognize that in the state of New York they would like the procedures to be different, and we have agreed that we will follow those procedures and those regulations when they're put in place."

    Assurant agreed to change those practices when the state institutes new regulations that apply to all insurers.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Suspended Lawyer Suspected Of Running Phony Upfront Fee Loan Mod Ripoffs Now Found Missing Along w/ $700K Allegedly Pocketed Peddling Bogus Business Deals

In Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, the Sun News reports:
  • Mark Brunty, a Myrtle Beach lawyer who has been suspended from his law practice by the state Supreme Court, is accused in court documents of forging the signatures of prominent business leaders in a scheme to steal $700,000 from a pair of out-of-state investors.

    Brunty allegedly forged the names of Burroughs & Chapin Co. Inc. President Jim Apple and Alec Elmore, the vice president of First Federal Savings & Loan in Charleston, on documents used to persuade brothers Morris and Saul Kravecas to invest in phony business deals along the Grand Strand, according to a lawsuit filed in Horry County’s circuit court. The brothers’ investment, which was supposed to be kept in Brunty’s trust account, now is missing.

    “It’s flat gone as far as we can tell,” said Amanda Bailey, a lawyer representing the Kravecas brothers.

    Brunty also is missing. Bailey said she has not been able to locate him in order to serve him with a copy of the lawsuit.

    Meanwhile, reports with Better Business Bureau offices here and in other states show consumers have filed numerous complaints about a mortgage loan modification program Brunty promoted through email and telephone solicitations he made to people facing foreclosures. According to the complaints, people who responded to the emails received generic loan modification information from Brunty’s law firm and a request for an advance payment of $3,000. The complaints state that Brunty cashed clients’ checks but did little work to help them save their homes.

    Brunty could not be reached for comment Monday. A recording states that his telephone number is out of service and an answering machine at his law offices states the business is temporarily closed.

Baltimore Feds: Lawyer Pocketed $747K From Peddling Bogus Real Estate Investment 'Opportunities'

From the Office of the U.S. Attorney (Baltimore, Maryland):
  • A federal grand jury has indicted Aaron G. Seltzer, age 36, of Trappe, Maryland, on nine counts of wire fraud in connection with a scheme in which he converted funds intended for real estate investments to his personal use.
  • According to the nine count indictment, Seltzer was a licensed Maryland attorney who handled real estate transactions and maintained an office in Crofton, Maryland. The indictment charges that from January 2008, through 2010, Seltzer offered victims fraudulent investment opportunities then diverted the money intended for the investments for his own benefit. The indictment alleges that Seltzer obtained a total of $747,860 through eight fraudulent transactions and seeks forfeiture of that amount as the proceeds of the scheme.

Loose Oversight - More Law Firm Mischief: Legal Secretary Pinched For Allegedly Ripping Off $57K From Attorney/Employer; Gets 'No-Bond' Hold Due To Open Obligation From Previous Grand Theft Charge

In Fort Lauderdale, Florida, the South Florida Sun Sentinel reports:
  • A former secretary at a Lauderhill law firm is accused of fraudulently writing 88 checks totaling nearly $57,000 from the company account to her self, authorities say.

    Cathy Cecilia Perez, 36, of Sunrise, has been charged with one count of grand theft and 88 counts of fraud for uttering a false instrument, according to a police report. She is being held in a Pompano Beach jail.

    At a Tuesday court hearing, Perez was given a no-bond hold for allegedly violating probation on a 2005 grand theft charge out of Tampa. Bond for the current charges was set at $93,000.

    Perez worked as a secretary for Charles Simon, P.A., a landlord/tenant attorney at 4987 N. University Drive. She is accused of cashing the checks between Aug. 3, 2012 and March 18, 2013.

    "It's a mess, I should have caught it sooner," Simon said. "She took my pleading stamp with my name on it and just decided to use it whenever she wanted, to write checks to herself — checks for rent, checks for bars, checks for all kinds of things, to the tune of nearly $57,000."

    Simon said he hasn't seen Perez since March 12 when she said she had to step out to pick up her kids at school. "She just ran off the job," Simon said. "She never came back, never returned calls, never returned texts."

    Two days later when Simon went to his local Bank of America branch he learned of the fraudulent activity on his account, he said.

    Perez appeared at the bank [] and attempted to cash a $906 check, but knowing that the account had been flagged, the bank manager contacted the Sunrise Police Department, the police report said.

    When questioned by detectives, Perez admitted to "signing and cashing" the checks, the report said: "The defendant admitted to using the money to pay her bills and other every day living expenses."

Jury Puts Jolt Into Power Company With $4M Award To Now-Foreclosed Homeowner Over Stray Electricity In Home That Utility Once Owned, Then Unloaded; Shocks Believed To Have Caused Nerve Damage In Victim's Hands, Feet

In Los Angeles, California, The Beach Reporter reports:
  • A Redondo Beach woman repeatedly shocked in her home by stray electricity from nearby Southern California Edison power lines has been awarded $4 million by a Superior Court jury.(1)

    The verdict, reached Monday after a civil trial in downtown Los Angeles, included $3 million in punitive damages against the utility giant.

    Simona Wilson [the mother of three young children] filed a lawsuit against Edison in 2011 after she was shocked by stray electricity pulsing through her bathroom shower head. The repeated electrical shocks is believed to have caused nerve damage in Wilson's hands and feet. The jury found that Edison's conduct was "outrageous," that the company acted with "reckless disregard" and that the utility was "negligent," according to court documents.

    "We are thrilled," Wilson's attorney, Lars Johnson, said Tuesday. "Simona has been in a long fight, and Edison put her through a lot. "

    In a statement released by Edison on Tuesday, the company said it "is disappointed in the conclusions reached by the jury and believes that the outcome is inconsistent with the totality of the evidence presented at trial."

    "(Southern California Edison) is reviewing the verdict and will determine its options, including whether to file an appeal," the company added in its statement.
  • Residents in the area have long complained about electricity emitting from overhead power lines and from the nearby Topaz Substation. Reports of crackling sounds coming from overhead wires and snaps of electricity when residents touched their mailboxes were common. Many believed the electrical current emitted from the substation traveled through subterranean gas pipes.
  • "(Edison) believes its response to the concerns raised by Wilson regarding her home located near SCE's Topaz Substation and its efforts to address those concerns were appropriate," the company said in a statement Tuesday. "The company also has cooperated fully with the investigation conducted by the Safety and Enforcement Division of the California Public Utilities Commission."

    Edison officials declined to offer further comment on the fixes it made to address Wilson's complaints.

    However, The Gas Co. began to make upgrades to its underground network of pipes around the Topaz Substation.

    "An official from The Gas Co. testified that they have been trying for years to get Edison to do something," Johnson said. "There is electricity jumping off the lines and into the ground," Johnson said. "The Gas Co. is worried about an explosion and they are also worried about their employees being shocked."
For the story, see Redondo Beach woman awarded $4 million in Edison lawsuit over stray electricity.

See also, the Mercury News: Stray electricity from shower head: Shocked California woman awarded $4 million:
  • Wilson, who could not be reached for comment, moved out of her house in September 2011, after an inspector told her to "get out" immediately, Johnson said. She filed the lawsuit about the same time. She lost the home in a foreclosure in February, according to her attorney.

    Edison built the house in 1960, Johnson said. It was located next door to an Edison facility known as the Topaz Substation, and the utility rented the home to employees before selling it.

    A former Edison employee sent a letter to Johnson prior to the trial detailing complaints similar to Wilson's made by prior occupants of the house.
  • During the civil trial, one of Edison's expert witnesses testified that the electrical current residents felt was within "acceptable" levels.

    "Edison still denies that there is anything dangerous in the area and denies that they did anything wrong," Johnson said. Edison officials insist the company worked with Wilson to resolve any issues with stray electricity.
(1) For stories on the deadliness of stray electricity/voltage, see:

CBS Evening News: Shocking investigation on stray electricity:

  • [L]uckily, most people who touch the metal don't make good enough contact to get seriously hurt. But if you're barefoot -- or wet -- the hazard can be deadly.

    It happened to 14-year-old Deanna Green in Baltimore in 2006. Her father Anthony says the ground was wet -- when Deanna touched a park fence at softball practice. Nobody knew it - but the fence was charged by frayed lighting wires buried underneath. 227 volts killed her instantly.

    "Never in a thousand years would you think that while you were there, and while your child was standing in front of you - you would lose her in such a manner," says Deanna's mother Nancy. "It's devastating."
  • A settlement was finally reached between the city of Baltimore and a former Millville High School football star turned Baltimore Colt defensive tackle whose daughter was killed by a stray electric current running through a fence in a city-owned park.

'Zapped' Couple's $2.3M Lawsuit: Stray Electricity From Local Power Station Gives Their Home Unwanted Sizzle

ABC News recently reported on "the story of Dr. Harold and Millie Mendelsohn, whose sprawling, six-acre estate in tony Pound Ridge, N.Y., carries an invisible sizzle":
  • Their neighbors include actor Richard Gere -- and one humungous power station. Recently, they felt vibrations on their property and Millie Mendelsohn was zapped. "The animals started going crazy on the property," Harold Mendelsohn said, "the horses and the dogs and the cats."

    They've long abandoned the pond at their home after the fish died, they avoid the guest house and had the pool emptied. Now, they say, the sizzles spread to their home. Among their reported maladies are intense headaches and a fear so strong, they've turned to using rubber. Harold Mendelsohn has to use rubber sheets to sleep while Millie uses rubber shoes in the shower.

    But it is the kitchen she fears most. She won't even touch the faucet for fear of shock.

    The Mendelsohns believe the stray power is coming from the power station just beyond the tree line in their backyard. They are suing their local power provider for $2.3 million. The utility said the couple is not entitled to any damages.(1)

    When they first moved in more than 20 years ago, the Mendelsohns didn't think the transformer would be a problem. But they estimate it has grown three times the size since.

    "It's infuriating," Harold Mendelsohn said. "This was our dream situation, and I wish they could just fix it." "It's just a nightmare," Millie Mendelsohn said. "We just have to leave it empty. Say goodbye to it."(2)
For this and two other home horror stories, see House From Hell: Buyers' Nightmare Homes.

(1) See also the New York Post: Stray-volt ordeal turns Westchester couple’s home into house of horror:
  • NYSEG [the local power company] says the couple’s claims “are false” and insists there’s no stray voltage at all. But records show NYSEG has known of the problem for two decades and has tried to fix it by installing voltage blockers near the Mendelsons’ home.

    Hal Mendelson, a 76-year-old doctor, forbids visits by anyone with a pacemaker. “The lights go on and off in the house all the time. Appliances burn out. My wife and I both have neurological issues,” he said.
  • The couple say they euthanized a favorite dog, an English setter named Glory Be, because the voltage made her chew the skin off her legs. “She was the most wonderful dog, and you would cry when you saw her legs,” Millie said. “She was chewing them until they bled. . . . They were like raw meat. They were horrible.”

    Hal says the power substation, which was there when they moved into the house in 1987, wasn’t a problem at first — but by 1991 enough voltage was leaking to prod the couple to file their first suit against the company.
(2) For stories on the deadliness of stray electricity/voltage, see:

CBS Evening News: Shocking investigation on stray electricity:

  • [L]uckily, most people who touch the metal don't make good enough contact to get seriously hurt. But if you're barefoot -- or wet -- the hazard can be deadly.

    It happened to 14-year-old Deanna Green in Baltimore in 2006. Her father Anthony says the ground was wet -- when Deanna touched a park fence at softball practice. Nobody knew it - but the fence was charged by frayed lighting wires buried underneath. 227 volts killed her instantly.

    "Never in a thousand years would you think that while you were there, and while your child was standing in front of you - you would lose her in such a manner," says Deanna's mother Nancy. "It's devastating."
  • A settlement was finally reached between the city of Baltimore and a former Millville High School football star turned Baltimore Colt defensive tackle whose daughter was killed by a stray electric current running through a fence in a city-owned park.