Fraud in foreclosure summons a disturbing trend

Fraud in foreclosure summons a disturbing trend

Fraud in foreclosure summons a disturbing trend

CALAMITY Summonses are being misplaced or forged by servers CAUSES Critics say sloppiness and fraud leading to sudden spike

Posted: October 22, 2010 – 12:00am
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The foreclosure case against Patrick Jeffs was thrown out of court when a Jacksonville judge ruled that the summons to inform him of the lawsuit was counterfeit.

Mark Browne was in Iraq when a process server tried to give his mother in New Mexico a summons to inform him that his house in Jacksonville was being foreclosed on. She didn’t accept it, but the server signed a document that said she did. A judge threw that out, too.

Nancy Rush sold her Jacksonville condo in March, walking away poorer after the short sale and was getting on with her life when her phone rang with unlikely news: She was in foreclosure. A week after she unloaded the unit at Kendall Town in Arlington, a Jacksonville judge ordered the home sold at auction to settle a $190,000 mortgage debt, even though Rush had never received a summons saying she was being sued. “I didn’t even know there was a court date,” Rush said. “It scared the crap out of me.”

Even the summons, the simple but important legal notice required to inform homeowners that they are being foreclosed on, has not been immune to the massive problems surrounding what has become known in Florida and across the nation as the foreclosure mess.

The Times-Union has reviewed documents where the same name with obviously different signatures was used to certify that papers were served to the homeowner.

While there is no simple way to know how often every type of irregularity occurs, there is documentation showing a sharp rise in one narrow area of concern.

Instances where summonses entrusted to servers have been reported as lost, once fairly rare, have skyrocketed, making it harder to document the fate of important paperwork. From barely more than 100 annually six years ago, more than 2,000 summonses have been lost in Duval County in each of the last two years.

Critics attribute the problems to both sloppiness and fraud.

Tammie Lou Kapusta, a paralegal in the office of David Stern, the foreclosure law firm at the center of much of the investigations, described the serving process as “a complete mess” during a recent deposition. Renters were served rather than property owners, Kapusta told the Florida Attorney General’s Office. An affidavit of service – the legal document required to verify that the summons was served properly – would be filed when the summons hadn’t been served, she said.

© 2010-17 FORECLOSURE FRAUD | by DinSFLA. All rights reserved.



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