Lawyers Peter Ticktin, left, and Josh Bleil, of The Ticktin Law Group, are shown with depositions from 150 robosigners, alleging that the court documents reveal an industry-wide banking scheme to defraud homeowners, in Deerfield Beach, Fla. Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2010. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
Robo-signers: Mortgage experience not necessary
Banks hired hair stylists, teens to process foreclosure documents, workers’ testimony shows
Michelle Conlin, AP Real Estate Writer, On Tuesday October 12, 2010, 9:21 pm EDT
NEW YORK (AP) — In an effort to rush through thousands of home foreclosures since 2007, financial institutions and their mortgage servicing departments hired hair stylists, Walmart floor workers and people who had worked on assembly lines and installed them in “foreclosure expert” jobs with no formal training, a Florida lawyer says.
In depositions released Tuesday, many of those workers testified that they barely knew what a mortgage was. Some couldn’t define the word “affidavit.” Others didn’t know what a complaint was, or even what was meant by personal property. Most troubling, several said they knew they were lying when they signed the foreclosure affidavits and that they agreed with the defense lawyers’ accusations about document fraud.
“The mortgage servicers hired people who would never question authority,” said Peter Ticktin, a Deerfield Beach, Fla., lawyer who is defending 3,000 homeowners in foreclosure cases. As part of his work, Ticktin gathered 150 depositions from bank employees who say they signed foreclosure affidavits without reviewing the documents or ever laying eyes on them — earning them the name “robo-signers.”
The deposed employees worked for the mortgage service divisions of banks such as Bank of America and JP Morgan Chase, as well as for mortgage servicers like Litton Loan Servicing, a division of Goldman Sachs.
Ticktin said he would make the testimony available to state and federal agencies that are investigating financial institutions for allegations of possible mortgage fraud. This comes on the eve of an expected announcement Wednesday from 40 state attorneys general that they will launch a collective probe into the mortgage industry.
“This was an industrywide scheme designed to defraud homeowners,” Ticktin said.
The depositions paint a surreal picture of foreclosure experts who didn’t understand even the most elementary aspects of the mortgage or foreclosure process — even though they were entrusted as the records custodians of homeowners’ loans. In one deposition taken in Houston, a foreclosure supervisor with Litton Loan couldn’t define basic terms like promissory note, mortgagee, lien, receiver, jurisdiction, circuit court, plaintiff’s assignor or defendant. She testified that she didn’t know why a spouse might claim interest in a property, what the required conditions were for a bank to foreclose or who the holder of the mortgage note was. “I don’t know the ins and outs of the loan, I just sign documents,” she said at one point.
Until now, only a handful of depositions from robo-signers have come to light. But the sheer volume of the new depositions will make it more difficult for financial institutions to argue that robo-signing was an aberrant practice in a handful of rogue back offices.
Attorney General McCollum I applaud you for STANDING UP for Florida!
Assistant AG’s June M. Clarkson and Theresa B. Edwards what an amazing job! Thank you.
Investigate the law suit Shapiro and Stern had against each other…You might just find missing pieces there.
The facts are the facts…crystal clear. This glass is not half full but spilling out the rim of the glass!
Attorney General Bill McCollum today filed a Motion for Rehearing on last week’s ruling by Circuit Judge Jack Cox that the Attorney General could not investigate the Shapiro & Fishman law firm for the firm’s alleged involvement in presenting fabricated documents to the courts in foreclosure actions to obtain final judgments against homeowners. The Attorney General is currently investigating four law firms, The Law Offices of Marshall C. Watson, P.A.; Shapiro & Fishman, LLP, the Law Offices of David J. Stern, P.A., and Florida Default Law Group, PL for allegedly engaging in these practices.
“They have no personal knowledge of the issue and they are supposed to. That is what these judges rely on when they issue judgments against homeowners,” said Matt Englett, KEL Law Firm.
(I-Newswire) October 2, 2010 – CENTRAL FLORIDA — Thousands of Floridians may soon be rescued from foreclosure. Last week KEL Attorneys filed a motion with the Supreme Court asking Chief Justice Canady for a stay on foreclosure cases being handled by law firms currently under investigation for document fraud.
The State Attorney General launched a formal investigation against Shapiro & Fishman, Marshall Watson and David Stern last month. Lenders hired the three big law firms, which handle 80 percent of all foreclosures in Florida, now accused of fraudulently signing documents to speed up the foreclosure process.
“They have no personal knowledge of the issue and they are supposed to. That is what these judges rely on when they issue judgments against homeowners,” said Matt Englett, KEL Law Firm.
Attorney Matt Englett has testimony from one of the people hired to just sign documentation. He describes a conference room with thousands of documents. He testified he would sign one affidavit after another, taking no more than a minute on each one.
“Time is money. The longer it takes to get the property back and sell the property, the more money they lose on that loan,” Englett said.
Englett hopes the motion will stop wrongful foreclosure it its tracks. He estimates that tens of thousands of homes may have already been wrongfully foreclosed upon, and about 80-percent of pending foreclosure actions contains fraudulent documents.
If Englett is successful, homeowners who have already lost their homes could collect thousands from their lender. And for the hundreds of others in Central Florida in the middle of foreclosure, it would buy time to save their home.
About KEL Attorneys:
Our law firm has had the honor to represent clients all over the country. We are also licensed in federal courts throughout the country and we are able to represent your case in state or federal court. In either venue, rest assured that our law firm will pursue your case aggressively and in the most cost effective manner possible.
We are not just your ordinary law firm, we operate as a full-service law firm that provides legal services nationwide and have a strong presence, with a law firm in Orlando and a law firm in Tampa. Due to size, legal expertise and handling client matters for over ten years, we can handle any legal issue or situation you may have.
Company Contact Information KEL Attorneys
111 N Magnolia Ave
Phone : 4075131900
Chase Home Finance, LLC
Lender Processing Services
Long Beach Mortgage
Washington Mutual Bank
Action Date: September 30, 2010
Location: New York, NY
On September 29, 2010, financial giant JP Morgan Chase announced it was suspending 56,000 foreclosures because its documents may have been “submitted without proper review.” To assist JPMorgan Chase, Fraud Digest suggests that it dismiss those actions where the Affidavits or Mortgage Assignments were signed by the following robo-signers: Beth Cottrell, Whitney Cook, Christina Trowbridge and Stacy Spohn from the Chase Home Finance office in Franklin County, OH; Margaret Dalton and Barbara Hindman from the Jacksonville, FL office of JPMorgan Chase; and any of the Lender Processing Services robo-signers from the Dakota County, MN office including Christina Allen, Liquenda Allotey, Christine Anderson, Alfonzo Greene, Laura Hescott, Bethany Hood, Cecelia Knox, Topako Love, Jodi Sobotta, Eric Tate, Amy Weis and Rick Wilken. In particular, JP Morgan Chase should look at those cases where the bank has supposedly assigned mortgages to WaMu, WMALT, Long Beach Mortgage Company and NovaStar trusts years after the closing dates of these trusts. The number of questionable or fraudulent documents is likely to be much closer to 560,000 than to 56,000, and that will only be a good beginning.
It was a very sad day for Floridians yesterday when the Florida Supreme Court issued a statement that it does not have authority to intercede while a fraud investigation is pending. Although we may not agree with the decision, we must respect procedures that must be followed.
Florida, do not quit what you are doing because there are many states that we must continue to focus on. Judges need to put themselves in the homeowners situation and understand we cannot make these fraudulent documents up. These documents are sworn statements, under perjury of law and notarized. As officers of the court they must be held accountable. No ifs, ands, buts or suppose here. These are not errors.
Rest assured that The Florida Bar still has many pending investigations with these foreclosure firms and they have authority overseeing the misconduct of their members.
I am your voice, America. I share your fears, read your concerns and do try my best to reach out to you.
The Florida Constitution and court rules did not give the Chief Justice authority to intercede in pending cases involving attorney misconduct, or to investigate allegations of fraud or misconduct in foreclosure cases. The fraud cases must first beadjudicated in trial courts.
Congressman Grayson has asked the Florida Bar to take action.
Florida Default Law Group has been added as the fourth law firm under investigation along the Law offices of David J. Stern, Shapiro & Fishman and Law Office of Marshall Watson.
See where Judge Schack takes this and even if not mentioned he makes reference to MERS. Every judge must follow his example and read and research each case because it the end “each case is unique”.If we can only make a rubber stamp weigh 2 tons?? Hmm
By GREGORY BRESIGER Last Updated: 1:29 AM, September 26, 2010 Posted: 1:07 AM, September 26, 2010
With foreclosure filings growing by the month, some judges are holding banks and loan servicers’ feet to the fire to prove they “own” the mortgage and that they know what information is in the filing.
Recently, JPMorgan Chase, a mortgage servicer, was charged by a Florida judge with submitting fraudulent foreclosure paperwork on a home it did not own.
Ally Bank, formerly GMAC, the credit arm of the troubled automaker General Motors, suspended foreclosure proceedings in 23 states including New York last week, while it reviews its foreclosure procedures.
Ally, which has a $349.1 billion mortgage portfolio, according to industry records, and was also the beneficiary of more than $17 billion in US bailout funds, said this week it has amended its foreclosure procedure to make sure the documents contain truthful information and that there is a notary present when documents are signed.
Closer to home, in New York State Supreme Court no foreclosure hearing is routine in Judge Arthur Schack’s courtroom in Brooklyn. That’s where dozens of bank attorneys are learning that every detail must be right or else.
Judge Schack — the scourge of numerous banks and poorly prepared attorneys — has thrown out dozens of foreclosure applications for just the same reasons cited in Florida.
Judge Schack examines every filing in detail. That’s because “every case is unique,” said the 64-year-old judge, a former high-school social-studies teacher.
Why the large number of foreclosure dismissals for a procedure that is often routinely granted?
THIS IS HUGE! Coming in… Florida might halt all Foreclosures…While pending investigation of MILLS!
Do what is right and protect these families. This involves children that do not understand what is going on. I lost my home to this fraud and they do not have to go through my stressful experience. You set new rules and these foreclosure mills continued to ignore you. What is it going to take?
I revere the law, the judicial system, and the legal profession and will at all times in my professional
and private lives uphold the dignity and esteem of each.
I will further my profession’s devotion to public service and to the public good.
I will strictly adhere to the spirit as well as the letter of my profession’s code of ethics, to the extent
that the law permits and will at all times be guided by a fundamental sense of honor, integrity, and fair
play. I will not knowingly misstate, distort, or improperly exaggerate any fact or opinion and will not
improperly permit my silence or inaction to mislead anyone.
I will conduct myself to assure the just, speedy and inexpensive determination of every action and
resolution of every controversy.
I will abstain from all rude, disruptive, disrespectful, and abusive behavior and will at all times act
with dignity, decency, and courtesy.
I will respect the time and commitments of others.
I will be diligent and punctual in communicating with others and in fulfilling commitments. I will exercise independent judgment and will not be governed by a client’s ill will or deceit.
My word is my bond.
Oath of Admission to The Florida Bar
The general principles which should ever control the lawyer in the practice of the legal profession
are clearly set forth in the following oath of admission to the Bar, which the lawyer is sworn on
admission to obey and for the willful violation to which disbarment may be had.
“I do solemnly swear:
“I will support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of Florida;
“I will maintain the respect due to courts of justice and judicial officers;
“I will not counsel or maintain any suit or proceedings which shall appear to me to be unjust, nor
any defense except such as I believe to be honestly debatable under the law of the land;
“I will employ for the purpose of maintaining the causes confided to me such means only as are
consistent with truth and honor, and will never seek to mislead the judge or jury by any artifice or false
statement of fact or law;
“I will maintain the confidence and preserve inviolate the secrets of my clients, and will accept no
compensation in connection with their business except from them or with their knowledge and approval;
“I will abstain from all offensive personality and advance no fact prejudicial to the honor or reputation
of a party or witness, unless required by the justice of the cause with which I am charged;
“I will never reject, from any consideration personal to myself, the cause of the defenseless or
oppressed, or delay anyone’s cause for lucre or malice. So help me God.”
This should send a powerful message to each and every Foreclosure Mill out there! You are NEXT!
September 24, 2010
Michael J. Williams
President and Chief Executive Officer
3900 Wisconsin Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20016
Dear Mr. Williams,
We are disturbed by the increasing reports of predatory ‘foreclosure mills’ in Florida working for Fannie Mae servicers. Foreclosure mills are law firms representing lenders that specialize in speeding up the foreclosure process, often without regard to process, substance, or legal propriety. According to the New York Times, four of these mills are both among the busiest of the firms and are under investigation by the Attorney General of Florida for fraud. The firms have been accused of fabricating or backdating documents, as well as lying to conceal the true owner of a note.
Several of the busiest of these mills show up as members of Fannie Mae’s Retained Attorney Network, a set of legal contractors on whom Fannie relies to represent its interests as a note-holder. The network also serves as a pool of legal talent that represents Fannie in its pre-filing mediation program, a program designed to facilitate communication between borrowers and servicers prior to foreclosure. In other words, Fannie Mae seems to specifically delegate its foreclosure avoidance obligations out to lawyers who specialize in kicking people out of their homes.
The legal pressure to foreclose at all costs is leading to a situation where servicers are foreclosing on properties on which they do not even own the note. This practice is blessed by a legal system overwhelmed with foreclosure cases and unable to sort out murky legal details, and a set of law firms who mass produce filings to move foreclosures as quickly as possible. At the very least, we would encourage you to remove foreclosure mills under investigation for document fraud from the Fannie Mae’s Retained Attorney Network. We also believe that Fannie should have guidelines allowing servicers to proceed on a foreclosure only when its legal entitlement to foreclose is clearly documented. In addition, these charges raise a number of questions for us about the foreclosure process as it pertains to Fannie Mae’s holdings.
Why is Fannie Mae using lawyers that are accused of regularly engaging in fraud to kick people out of their homes? Given that Fannie Mae is at this point a government entity, and it is the policy of the government that foreclosures are a costly situation best avoided if there are any lower cost alternatives, what steps is Fannie Mae taking to avoid the use of foreclosure mills? What additional steps is Fannie Mae going to take to ensure that foreclosures are done only when necessary and only in accordance with recognized law? How do your servicer guidelines take into account the incentives for fraud in the fee structure of foreclosure attorneys and others engage in the foreclosure process? What mechanisms do you employ to monitor legal outsourcing?
We look forward to your responses and to understanding more about these disturbing dynamics in future hearings.
Ally Said to Tell Freddie Mac of Faulty Foreclosures Weeks Ago
By Lorraine Woellert and Dakin Campbell – Sep 24, 2010 12:01 AM ET
Ally Financial Inc.’s GMAC Mortgage unit told Freddie Mac that foreclosures by the auto and home lender might have been faulty weeks before halting its own evictions, according to two people briefed on the matter.
Ally informed Freddie Mac on Aug. 25 that affidavits for court proceedings might not be valid, according to a person with direct knowledge of the matter. By Sept. 1, Freddie Mac had notified its network of lawyers and stopped related foreclosures and evictions, said the person, who declined to be identified because the matter hasn’t been formally disclosed. GMAC told agents to halt evictions in 23 states on Sept. 17.
Fannie Mae, the largest government-backed mortgage firm, said it notified lawyers of flaws in GMAC documentation after it was alerted. Fannie Mae spokesman Brian Faith declined to say when GMAC contacted the company, and Gina Proia, the spokeswoman for Detroit-based Ally, said she couldn’t comment.
“We are obviously dismayed by reports of document problems,” Freddie Mac spokesman Brad German said in an interview. “The practices described in these reports are clearly not in compliance with Freddie Mac guidelines and servicer directives.” German wouldn’t say how many of the McLean, Virginia-based firm’s holdings were affected by the freeze.
Fannie Mae said in a statement that its servicers must adhere to all legal requirements. “It is their responsibility to put processes in place that ensure they are fulfilling this requirement, and they are accountable for rectifying any issues that may arise in this regard.”
I know if I purchased a stroller for my kid and later knew it these strollers are all defective …I hope the government would kick in and do a nationwide RECALL!!
GMAC stops some evictions, foreclosed home sales
By JANNA HERRON (AP) –
NEW YORK — GMAC Mortgage LLC said Monday it halted certain evictions and sales of foreclosed homes as it corrects “a potential issue” in its foreclosure process.
The action highlights what is becoming a larger problem for lenders and servicers that may have illegally driven homeowners out of their houses. The issue is threatening to clog up an already overloaded foreclosure process.
Lenders took back more homes in August than in any month since the start of the U.S. mortgage crisis, foreclosure listing firm RealtyTrac Inc. said last week. Banks have been stepping up repossessions to clear out their backlog of bad loans.
GMAC, which is owned by Detroit-based Ally Financial Inc., did not identify the specific internal issue that prompted the moratorium in its statement, but it has been linked to lawsuits this year surrounding the alleged falsification of a key foreclosure document.
The Florida attorney general is investigating three law firms for allegedly providing fraudulent affidavits that identify who holds the original mortgage note in foreclosure cases. In Florida and in other states, this document allows lenders to bypass a costly trial and proceed with a foreclosure.
Two of the three firms being investigated — the Law Office of Marshall C. Watson and the Law Offices of David J. Stern PA — have represented GMAC in foreclosure proceedings. And the person who signed many of these allegedly false affidavits was an employee of GMAC.
In a deposition taken in December, GMAC employee Jeffrey Stephan said he signed 10,000 affidavits or similar documents a month without personally verifying who the mortgage holder was. That means many foreclosures could have taken place based on false documentation. Stephan could not be located for comment.
“That’s hundreds of thousands of cases,” said Ice Legal PA attorney Christopher Immel who took the deposition. “And there are other people at other places who sign these kinds of documents as well.”
GMAC did not address how many homeowners would be affected by its suspension of evictions and foreclosure sales. It expects the issues to be resolved within a few weeks or, at latest, by year-end. The company didn’t respond to questions beyond its statement.
The issue of documenting who holds the mortgage is not unique to GMAC. Judges and lawyers nationwide are taking a second look at foreclosure affidavits. Many mortgages have been sliced up and sold to many investors as securities and that makes it harder to determine who is the ultimate mortgage holder.
In August, a judge in Duval County, Fla., ruled that JPMorgan Chase could not foreclose upon two homeowners because Fannie Mae carried the mortgage on its books and JPMorgan Chase only serviced the loan. JPMorgan Chase had identified itself as the owner of the loan. Similar cases across the country are pending.
The law firm that represented JPMorgan Chase in that case — Shapiro & Fishman — is the third law firm being investigated by the Florida state attorney.
Chief Justice Charles T. Canady
Florida Supreme Court
500 South Duval Street
Tallahassee, FL 32399-1900
Dear Chief Justice Canady,
I am disturbed by the increasing reports of predatory ‘foreclosure mills’ in Florida. The New York Times and Mother Jones have both recently reported on the rampant and widespread practices of document fraud and forgery involved in mortgage assignments. My staff has spoken with multiple foreclosure specialists and attorneys in Florida who confirm these reports.
Three foreclosure mills – the Law Offices of Marshall C. Watson, Shapiro & Fishman, and the Law Offices of David J. Stern – constitute roughly 80% of all foreclosure proceedings in the state of Florida. All are under investigation by Attorney General Bill McCollum. If the reports I am hearing are true, the illegal foreclosures taking place represent the largest seizure of private property ever attempted by banks and government entities. This is lawlessness.
I respectfully request that you abate all foreclosures involving these firms until the Attorney General of the state of Florida has finished his investigations of those firms for document fraud.
I have included a court order, in which Chase, WAMU, and Shapiro and Fishman are excoriated by a judge for document fraud on the court. In this case, Chase attempted to foreclose on a home, when the mortgage note was actually owned by Fannie Mae.
Taking someone’s home should not be done lightly. And it should certainly be done in accordance with the law.
Jeffrey Stephan, who actually works for GMAC Mortgage Corp. in Montgomery County, PA, signs thousands of Mortgage Assignments each month as an officer of other banks and mortgage companies in order to transfer mortgages TO GMAC. In Florida, the law firms that regularly present documents signed by Jeffrey Stephans as “proof” that GMAC has standing to foreclose include The Law Offices of Marshall Watson, The Law Offices of David Stern and Florida Default Law Group.
Stephan has admitted in depositions that he has no personal knowledge of the facts of documents he signs, does not verify the facts, and often does not sign in front of a notary (though the documents are eventually notarized).
Titles used by Jeffrey Stephan include the following:
(“MERS” stands for Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Inc.)
Vice President, MERS as Nominee for American Interbanc Mortgage , LLC;
Vice President, MERS as Nominee for Cardinal Financial Co., Ltd. Partnership;
Vice President, MERS as Nominee for Centerpoint Financial, Inc.;
Vice President, MERS as Nominee for Central Pacific Mortgage Corp.;
Vice President, MERS as Nominee for Certified Home Loans of Florida, Inc.;
Vice President, MERS as Nominee for Gateway Mortgage Group, LLC;
Vice President, NERS as Nominee for GMAC Bank;
Vice President, MERS as Nominee for GMAC Mortgage Corp. d/b/a Ditech.com;
Vice President, MERS as Nominee for Great Country Mortgage Bankers Corp.;
Vice President, MERS as Nominee for Greenpoint Mortgage Funding, Inc.
Vice President, MERS as Nominee for Group One Mortgage, Inc.;
Vice President, MERS as Nominee for Homecomings Financial Network, Inc,;
Vice President, MERS as Nominee for Lexon Financial Mortgage Corp. d/b/a Weslend Financial Corp.;
Vice President, MERS as Nominee for Mortgage Investors Corp.;
Vice President, MERS as Nominee for Pinnacle Financial Corp. d/b/a Tri Star Lending Group
Vice President, MERS as Nominee for Popular Mortgage Corp.;
Vice President, MERS as Nominee for Premier Mortgage Funding;
Vice President, MERS as Nominee for Quicken Loans;
Vice President, MERS as Nominee for Sky Investments d/b/a North Star Lending;
Vice President, MERS as Nominee for Transland Financial Services, Inc.; and
Vice President, MERS as Nominee for USAA Federal Savings Bank
Lynn E. Szymoniak, Esq.
The Metropolitan, PH 2-5
403 S. Sapodilla Avenue
West Palm Beach, Florida 33401
Mr. Ed Albrigo
Senior Vice President
8200 Jones Branch Drive MS 200
McLean, Virginia 22102
Mr. R.K. Arnold, President and CEO
1595 Spring Hill Road, Suite 310
Vienna, Virginia 22182
Senior Vice President
3900 Wisconsin Avenue
Washington, D.C. 20016
September 6, 2010
Re: Abuses and Forgeries By MERS Officers in Mortgage Foreclosures
Dear Mr. Albrigo, Mr. Arnold and Ms. Sullivan:
I am writing to you in your capacity as members of the Board of Directors of MERS.
This letter concerns certain widespread abuses by individuals using MERS titles. After extensive research regarding Mortgage Assignments prepared in Alpharetta, Georgia, purportedly signed by MERS certifying officers, it is apparent that:
1. there were widespread forgeries by individuals who signed over a million Mortgage Assignments as MERS officers with many different individuals signing the same four names;
2. the individuals signing these names also used many different MERS titles,with Linda Green, Korell Harp and Tywanna Thomas claiming to be authorized by many different lenders to convey mortgages as MERS
3. the information on the Mortgage Assignments is false particularly regarding the dates on which mortgages were conveyed. In several hundred thousand cases, Assignments to Residential Mortgage-Backed Securitized
Trusts state that the Trusts acquired the mortgages AFTER foreclosure litigation was filed by the Trusts. This has resulted in a tremendous backlog of cases as the wrong parties often file the foreclosure actions.
These Mortgage Assignments are being used extensively in foreclosure actions in Florida and other states. Because of the apparent authority of MERS, these assignments are most often assumed to be correct by judges. Because so many foreclosure litigants are unrepresented by counsel, these Mortgage Assignments
are going unchallenged even though they are obvious forgeries.
Please carefully examine the attached mortgage assignments signed by Linda Green, Korell Harp, Tywanna Thomas and Jessica Ohde as MERS officers as these examples plainly show many variations of the Green, Harp, Ohde, and Thomas signatures.
Many of the MERS job titles that have been attributed to Linda Green are listed in Schedule A attached hereto. Many of the MERS job titles that have been attributed to Korell Harp are listed in Schedule B. Many of the MERS job titles that have been attributed to Tywanna Thomas are listed in Schedule C.
TIME IS OF THE ESSENCE. There were nearly 11,000 mortgage foreclosures granted in Palm Beach County, Florida in the last six weeks. Many of these foreclosures were granted based on these Mortgage Assignments signed by individuals using MERS titles. It is apparent that these signatures and MERS titles are misleading judges and homeowners. The Palm Beach County experience is occurring throughout the country.
The Florida Attorney General is investigating fraudulent documents used to “facilitate” foreclosures.
Most often, in Florida, these fraudulent Assignments are used by the same law firms that are hired by Lender Processing Services, in its role as a foreclosure management company. In Florida, the firms that most often use these documents to foreclose are the Law Offices of David J. Stern, Florida Default Law Group, Shapiro & Fishman, and the Law Offices of Marshall Watson.
All four of these law firms have also been named by the Florida Attorney General as being under investigation for using fraudulent documents in foreclosures.
I am prepared to brief you or your designees fully on my research.
Thank you for your attention to this most serious matter.
Law firm Shapiro & Fishman has accused Attorney General Bill McCollum of pre-election grandstanding and “abuse of power” in connection with McCollum’s recent announcement that his office is conducting a foreclosure fraud investigation into that firm and two others.
The allegations are in response to a coordinated investigation announced by McCollum during an Aug. 10 press conference. McCollum said his office is looking at whether the three South Florida firms engaged in unfair and deceptive actions in their handling of foreclosure cases.
The other firms were the Law Offices of Marshall C. Watson in Fort Lauderdale and the Law Offices of David J. Stern, P.A. in Plantation.
The firm’s response came Friday in a motion to quash a subpoena in Palm Beach County Circuit Court.
“As a result of this economic crisis and political climate, politicians have joined in the blame game in an effort to demonstrate their concern for ‘consumers,’” the firm’s petition states.
The petition said the attorney general’s news release mentioned issues that are not even covered in the state’s subpoena, and that the subpoena is overly broad – requesting documents apparently unrelated to the investigation.
After months of wrangling with CitiMortgage, Dennis and Joyce Brown got fed up and hired an attorney to fight CitiMortgage’s foreclosure on their Lauderdale Lakes home. The Browns claim they are victims of fabricated documents used to foreclose after CitiMortgage failed to credit them for mortgage payments.
“They ran my blood pressure up so bad,” said Dennis Brown, who hired Fort Lauderdale lawyer Kenneth Eric Trent to fight the foreclosure.
CitiMortgage and its lawyers, David Stern Law Offices, voluntarily withdrew the case against the Browns in Broward County Circuit Court on June 16. But the Browns can’t rest easy. Recently, they’ve received newforeclosure letters from another lawyer representing CitiMortgage.
The Browns’ story is just one example of foreclosures resulting from allegedly fraudulent mortgage assignments and other tactics that “eliminate due process for the homeowner,” Trent said.
He also is suing Stern and his Plantation law firm in federal court in a separate foreclosure case with similar allegations.
In that lawsuit, on behalf of Oakland Park homeowner Ignacio Damian Figueroa, Trent contends that Stern and a mortgage registration firmgenerated fraudulent mortgage documents that are intentionally ambiguous to cloud the real ownership of the Figueroa’s mortgage note.
The foreclosure practices of Stern and two other law firms are under investigation by the Florida Attorney General’s Office. The attorney general recently requested records going back to Jan. 1, 2008, from Stern as well as The Law Offices of Marshall C. Watson, P.A., and Shapiro & Fishman, LLP.
Thousands of Florida homeowners may have lost their homes as a result of improper actions by the firms under investigation. In announcing the probe, Attorney General Bill McCollum, a Republican who is a running for governor, said the law firms may have presented fabricated documents in court to speed the foreclosure process and obtain judgments against homeowners.
Jeffrey Tew, a Miami attorney who represents Stern’s firm, said while the attorney general may have received complaints, there “will not be evidence of fraud.” Due to the large volume of foreclosures, there may have been clerical mistakes, he said. “In past two to three years, the Stern law firm has processed probably 100,000 foreclosures.”
But he disputes that Stern’s law firm fabricated any documents. “I haven’t seen any example where a bank didn’t have a mortgage in default,” Tew said.
MERS is at the heart of the matter for Trent and other lawyers trying to stop what they view as illegal foreclosures in the nation.
The mortgage registry was created by lenders in the early 1990s to track home loans, including those repackaged as securities and sold to investors. When such loans were in foreclosure, MERS – not the original lender — was often the entity foreclosing. Some lawyers have successfully fought foreclosures by contending that MERS doesn’t own the note, or the borrower’s obligation to repay.
University of Utah law professor Christopher Peterson said MERS mortgage processing system goes against long-standing principles of property law in assigning rights to a note or mortgage. He said the “owner” of a mortgage can’t be the same as the “agent” representing the homeowner, for example.
Yet MERS records “false documents” with names of people who are not executives of the registry system, but often paralegals and clerks of law firms, he said. “It’s an extremely controversial and arguably fraudlent practice,” Peterson said.
Merscorp spokeswoman Karmela Lejarde declined to comment on the criticism of MERS or Trent’s lawsuit, citing company policy not to comment on pending lititgation.
Tew, who represents Stern’s Law Offices, called Trent’s lawsuit “fiction.” He points to Florida’s 5th District Court of Appeal that ruled in July against a homeowner who tried to fight foreclosure on the basis that MERS didn’t own the note or mortgage.
For the Browns’, foreclosure troubles began with not getting credit for their payments fromCitiMortgage, their mortgage servicer.
The couple says they couldn’t clear it up with the lender. “They were claiming I was behind in payment, but I was paying every month,” said Brown, a carpenter who works for the Broward County School System and whose three children and four grandchildren also live in his Lauderdale Lakes home.
They stopped paying on their mortgage in late 2007 and sought legal help.
Another issue in Browns’ case isthe signature on the assignment of Brown’s mortgage, giving rights to CitiMortgage, Trent said. The signature is by Cheryl Samons, who is identified as “assistant secretary of Merscorp.” In reality, Samons is an employee of Stern’s law office.
Tew confirmed Samons’ employment by Stern, but said “it’s very common for companies to appoint a registered agent. That process is absolutely legal and normal.”
But Trent contends that mortgage assignments need to be made on personal knowledge, not hearsay, to be admissible in court.
The Browns could be facing another foreclosure action, but Trent said he is confident he can fight it again. “They don’t have the basis to foreclose,” he said.
CitiMortgage spokesman Mark Rodgers said privacy restrictions prevent the financial institution from discussing a customer’s foreclosure action. But Rodgers said procedures may resume in cases “where, despite our best efforts, we have been unable to arrive at a satisfactory resolution acceptable to all the parties involved.”
Tew said foreclosure defense lawyers are portraying homeowners who have defaulted on their mortgages as helpless victims. “Everyone is sympathetic, including us, for the homeowner who can’t pay his mortgage. But it’s not fair to paint the banks and law firms that represent them as wearing the black hats.”
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DinSFLA here: In my opinion this is trying to throw the towel and put the spot light on McCollum even when this was an investigation prior to…The AG did not instigate The Class Actions currently on the table against DJSP. It is the AG office job to protect the public and to look into the matter of the fraud that is coming out of DJSP and the other mills.
Fla. AG Probe: Did 3 Law Firms Get 1,000s of Foreclosure Judgments By Possible Wrongdoing?
“On numerous occasions, allegedly fabricated documents have been presented to the courts in foreclosure actions to obtain final judgments against homeowners,” says a press release from Attorney General Bill McCollum announcing the investigation.
“Thousands of final judgments of foreclosure against Florida homeowners may have been the result of the allegedly improper actions of the law firms,” it continues.
“There is a terrific problem with the collapse of the market and David, who is representing banks legitimately trying to foreclose on a property, gets fingers pointed at him,” Tew told the newspaper. “David doesn’t do anything outside of the circuit court where a circuit judge supervises everything that happens.”
He also wondered aloud whether McCollum, who is a Republican candidate for state governor, could have been influenced by political considerations.
It is alleged that the firms, which were hired by loan servicers to begin foreclosure proceedings when homeowners were behind on their mortgages, may have fabricated mortgage assignments in order to speed up the foreclosure process.
“Thousands of final judgments of foreclosure against Florida homeowners may have been the result of the allegedly improper actions of the law firms under investigation,” said McCollum, who is running for governor.
“We are seeing a paperwork trail where law firms, through a mill, prepared paperwork with signatures from lenders who had assigned the mortgage,” he said.
All they have to do is look into several blogs and attorney sites to see the evidence of fraud including this one.
Here is Stern’s subpoena below…
YOU ARE HEREBY COMMANDED to produce at said time and place all documents, as defined above, relating to the following subjects:
1. A list of all employees, independent contractors and/or subcontractors of the Law Offices of David J. Stern (DJS) for the past 5 years (former and current employees, independent contractors and/or subcontractors) including their job title(s), their duties and responsibilities and the length of their employment with DJS, including any contracts DJS has or had with them.
2. For the past five years, the names and addresses of any and all lawyers and/or law firms that DJS hires/uses throughout the State to represent their clients in foreclosure cases and in what capacity said lawyers/law firms serve DJS, including any contracts between DJS and the lawyer(s) and/or law firm(s).
3. The names and addresses of the lending institutions that DJS has represented in foreclosure cases over the past 5 years, including any contracts between DJS and said institutions.
4. The names and addresses of any and all companies used by DJS to draft and/or execute Assignments of Mortgage or Affidavits for the past 5 years, including any contracts between the lending institutions and DJS allowing for the use of the companies to draft and/or execute said Assignments of Mortgage.
5. The names and addresses of any and all persons and/or companies hired and/or used by DJS to perfect service of process on foreclosure defendants for the past 5 years, including their relationship to DJS and/or David J. Stern, individually including any and all contracts between the person or persons and/or company and DJS.
6. The names and addresses of any and all servicing companies DJS represents or represented for the past 5 years.
7. For the past 5 years, the names and addresses of any corporations, companies, partnerships or associations that David J. Stern and/or DJS has any interest in, including any foreign corporations, and detail what the business does and what type of interest is held by Stern and/or DJS.
9. List all notaries for the past 5 years that worked or works for DJS who notarized Affidavits as to fee and Assignments of Mortgage, include their names and addresses.
10. Copies of all non-disclosure agreements that DJS has or had over the past 5 years with any and all of its employees, subcontractor or independent contractors.
11. Copies of all checks and/or evidence of any other form of payment(s) from the plaintiffs that DJS represents in court in foreclosure cases to DJS and/or any of DJS’s affiliates and/or subsidiaries for services rendered in foreclosure cases.
12. Documents, including emails, that evidence what the pay scales, pay grades and/or bonuses paid by DJS to employees, subcontractors or independent contractors for completion of foreclosure cases within a certain time period.
13. Documents, including emails, that evidence what the pay scales, pay grades and/or bonuses paid by lenders to DJS or its employees, subcontractors or independent contractors for completion of foreclosure cases within a certain time period
DinSFLA here: MEDIATION without the true lenders disclosed may be an issue later…these mills have no right to play middlemen to no one! You must make sure who the real parties are before, during and after foreclosure!
Florida Default Group is emailing foreclosure defense attorneys with emails stating “Per your request, conciliation will be scheduled for your client…” that is how the are scamming even REPRESENTED defendants out of their right to a third party mediation (not that they are going to work anyway).
As I myself have witnessed on many occasions, some mill attorneys, or LOCAL COUNSEL, like Peter Porcaro local counsel for Stern’s office, bring pro se defendants out of the courtroom, smooth talk them into an agreement where there is an “extended sale date 120 days into the future, and an agreement for “conciliation” (which differs from mediation because mediation for primary residences cost the plaintiff $750 each and also there is a mediator) and a waiver of mediation. Conciliation is at no cost to the plaintiff and is between the two parties without a mediator. There is no explanation of mediation vs conciliation and no telling that the FL Supreme Court mandates mediation unless it is waived. There is no acknowledgment of months if not years of frustrated attempts at “conciliation” in terms of loan mods or short sales or deeds in lieu and how the defendants have a right to mediation. If any issues regarding the veracity and/or authenticity of the documents in the court file are raised, the answer given in these hallway dirty dealings, is “I’m not involved with that. I don’t work for their office.”
The same thing happens with all the mills. Attached is what the defendant in a Marshall Watson case walked away with…..just read it to see …………
See for yourselves. Stand outside of courtroom 10H or the other “foreclosure mill courtrooms” and watch this play out.
A 1,228-square foot home off Apalachee Parkway was the subject of recent controversy within the Florida political scene.
On June 14, the Deutsche Bank National Trust Company initiated a foreclosure filed in the Leon County Circuit Court against Marco Rubio and David Rivera, owners of the property in question. The lawsuit has since been dropped; a notice of voluntary dismissal and release of lis pendens was filed on June 23.
The Law Offices of Marshall C. Watson, who represented Deutsche Bank, declined to comment.
Rubio, former Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives, is running for the Republican seat currently occupied by George LeMieux in the U.S. Senate. Rep. Rivera, who serves District 112 of the Florida House, is campaigning as a Republican Congressional candidate in Florida’s 25th District. The two men purchased the house for $135,000 in 2005. The property is currently under contract pending sale.
Rivera delivered a cashier’s check for $9,525 to the plaintiffs on Thursday, June 17, prompting Rubio spokesperson Alex Burgos, who did not return calls for comment, to issue a statement that the men “took action right away to get this [matter] resolved.”
Court records reveal a debt of around $136,000 on the property, including late charges and accumulated interest. Mortgage payments had not been made since February because of an alleged dispute over how the adjustable rate mortgage would be calculated once the interest-only period expired.
This is not the first financial battle Rubio has been embroiled in.
During his tenure as House speaker, Rubio was questioned about his failure to disclose receiving a $135,000 home-equity loan, and charging $16,000 in personal expenses, including grocery bills and car repairs, to a Florida GOP credit card.