FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 15th, 2013
Contact: Kevin Harvey 1st Assistant Register
REGISTER JOHN O’BRIEN CALLS ON COURT FOR RESTITUTION ON BEHALF OF THE HOMEOWNERS OF ESSEX COUNTY; OFFERS NATIONAL SOLUTION TO PUBLIC LAND RECORDS CRISIS
On the heels of a guilty plea by DocX founder and president Lorraine Brown, to mail and wire fraud, in the Federal Court in Jacksonville, Florida, Massachusetts Southern Essex County, Register of Deeds John O’Brien has filed an affidavit and a request for restitution on behalf of the citizens of his district. DocX was one of the largest mortgage related document preparers in the country representing a number of the major banks.
O’Brien said, “The fact that DocX has admitted in Federal Court that they have been recording fraudulent documents in registries across the country only validates what my office and others have been saying all along. They have recorded over 10,567 mortgage related documents in my registry and the time has come for them to prepare and record valid documents to replace the fraudulent ones. Not only would this begin to correct the mess that they have made of homeowners’ chains of title, but the additional recording fees for the corrective documents will amount to $792,375 dollars in new revenue for the taxpayers of the Commonwealth.” O’Brien also said “It is one thing to record a corrected document, but that in its self will not insure a valid chain of title. That is why I have also asked the court for $492,015 dollars in restitution, so that I can seek proposals for a full forensic audit. This audit will show us just how far this fraud has gone in affecting other documents relating to homeowners’ chains of title. I suspect that we will find the validity of those documents to also be corrupted. Of the 10,567 fraudulent documents, the overwhelming majority are documents that have been recorded on properties that are not in foreclosure. My concern is that this may affect the property owners’ ability to refinance, convey or obtain title insurance. Responsible lenders and title insurers rely on the integrity and accuracy of the land records recorded in registries and obviously these 10,567 cannot be relied upon. I view this entire sad episode as no different from an oil spill, where the perpetrators are held criminally and civilly responsible to pay for the cleanup.
O’Brien is the first Register of Deeds in the country to seek restitution and this could have wide spread ramifications for other document preparers and the major banks that retained them. “The big banks cut corners and this has caused a national scandal, destroying the integrity of the land recordation system. Those lenders and document preparers trampled on peoples’ property rights by recording forged and fraudulent documents and that is not acceptable to me,” said O’Brien. “My proposal could be a national model for other registers across the country to implement in order to bring back the integrity of their land records.”
If successful, O’Brien intends to hold other preparers and banks that participated in this scheme responsible. Attorney Sarah McKee, a former General Counsel Interpol U.S. National Central Bureau in Washington D.C. prepared the affidavit for O’Brien at no cost to the taxpayers. “Had it not been for Attorney McKee’s assistance and her commitment to the integrity of our land recordation system and peoples’ property rights, I could never have taken this action. I am grateful, as I am sure the people of the Southern Essex District are, for her courage in taking this action on their behalf. Attorney McKee said, “Robo-signed, that is, forged mortgage documents corrupt the land records in registries of deeds nationwide. They now cloud the titles of millions of unsuspecting Americans’ homes. Register of Deeds John L. O’Brien’s request that guilty “robo-sign” executive Lorraine Brown pay restitution for corrupting homeowners’ title records is thus historic. It is a first in the nation.”
O’Brien also praised certified fraud examiner Marie McDonnell of McDonnell Property Analytics, Inc. for the work that she has done to bring this issue to the public’s attention and educate him and his staff on just how this scheme has dramatically impacted property owners’ chains of title. Ms. McDonnell said “John O’Brien was the first Register of Deeds in the country to have a forensic examination of a Registry of Deeds. He did so because he was troubled by the fact that he could no longer look his constituents in the eye and tell them truthfully who owned their property.” Despite his awareness, Register O’Brien was shocked by the results of my audit, and when he finished reading my report he declared publicly: “My registry is a crime scene.”
O’Brien feels strongly that this bold action for restitution is a reasonable and sound approach to bring an end to this national scandal once and for all. O’Brien said the duties of a register of deeds are to maintain and promote the integrity, transparency, accuracy and consistency of the registries land records. “All I am doing, is the job, that the people of Essex County elected me to do … no more and no less. I am trying to do everything I can to hold these banks and their document preparers accountable for what they have done. Hopefully, the Federal Court in Jacksonville, Florida will agree with me.”
O’Brien has contacted Massachusetts United States Senators John Kerry and Elizabeth Warren, Congressman John Tierney, United States Attorney General Carmen Ortiz, Governor Duval Patrick, Attorney General Martha Coakley, Secretary of State William Galvin and State Treasurer Steven Grossman asking that they file an affidavit in support of his actions.
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