Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, September 22, 2010; 9:22 PM
The nation’s overburdened foreclosure system is riddled with faked documents, forged signatures and lenders who take shortcuts reviewing borrower’s files, according to court documents and interviews with attorneys, housing advocates and company officials.
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.
I go through hundreds of cases each week and I have been saving this one for a rainy day. We’ll it’s raining today.
SUPREME COURT – STATE OF NEW YORK I.A.S. PART XXXVI SUFFOLK COUNTY PRESENT: HON. PAUL J. BAISLEY, JR., J.S.C.
DATED: MAY 10. 2010
The Court is at a loss to understand how a purported “correcting assignment” can be executed eight days before the assignment it is purporting to correct. Moreover, the Court is at a loss as to the identity of the true holder of the mortgage at the time of the commencement of the action (irrespective of any arguments regarding the validity of the purported assignment(s) by MERS as nominee of the original mortgagee; see, for example, US Bank, N.A. II Collymore, 200 NY Slip Op 09019 [2d Dept 2009]), While it is well established that any issues as to a plaintiff’s standing to commence a foreclosure action are waived by the defendant-mortgagor’s failure to appear and answer (HSBC Bank v Dammond, 59 A03d 679 l2d Sept 2009]), the contradictory and conflicting submissions on this motion implicate far more than the more issue of “standing.” Indeed, the submissions appear to have been drafted with utter disregard for the facts, or for counsel’s responsibilities as an officer of the Court, and border on the fraudulent.
In the the circumstances, the motion, which is unsupported either factually or legally, is denied in all respects. Moreover, in light of the failure of the movant to establish that any party was in fact the holder of the mortgage (and the underlying note, see KLuge v Fugm:y, 145 AD2d [2d Sept 1988J) at the time of the commencement of this action - an omission that in the circumstances may not be corrected by mere amendment -- the Court, on its own motion, hereby directs the plaintiff to show cause why the complaint should not be dismissed; and further directs Steven J. Baum, P.c. and Heather A. Johnson, Esq., the attorney of record for the plaintiff in this action and the scrivener of the affirmation referred to above, to appear before the undersigned on June 24, 2010 at II :00 a.m. to show cause why sanctions should not be imposed on plaintiff and/or its attorney(s) for frivolous conduct pursuant to 22 NYCRR §130-1.1 (c).
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
Glazy Ruscalleda and Jose Ruscalleda, Appellants,
HSBC Bank USA, etc., Appellee.
District Court of Appeal of Florida, Third District.
Opinion filed September 15, 2010.
John H. Ruiz and Karen Barnet-Backer, for appellants.
Shapiro & Fishman and Heidi J. Weinzetl (Boca Raton), for appellee.
Before WELLS, ROTHENBERG, and LAGOA, JJ.
ON MOTION FOR REHEARING OR CLARIFICATION.
Upon consideration of the appellee’s motion for rehearing or clarification, we withdraw our previous opinion filed on June 9, 2010, and substitute the following opinion in its stead.
This is an appeal of a final summary judgment in a mortgage foreclosure action entered in favor of plaintiff, HSBC Bank USA (“HSBC”), and against the defendants, Glazy Ruscalleda and Jose Ruscalleda. Based on the unique circumstances of this case, we reverse and remand for further proceedings.
The unique circumstances surrounding this case involve a rather confusing situation caused by two banks—the appellee, HSBC, and American Home Mortgage Servicing, Inc. (“American Home Mortgage”)—because they were simultaneously attempting to foreclose the same mortgage. On October 8, 2008, American Home Mortgage filed a foreclosure action against the defendants.[ 1 ] A week later, HSBC filed an action to foreclose the same exact mortgage. The complaint filed by HSBC falsely alleged that it was the current owner and holder of the mortgage and note, when, in reality, American Home Mortgage was still the holder of the note and mortgage.[ 2 ] On October 28, 2008, due to the actions of American Home Mortgage and HSBC, the defendants, who were acting pro se at that time, filed an answer and affirmative defenses only in the foreclosure action filed by American Home Mortgage, which was the holder of the mortgage and note, because they mistakenly believed that the complaints involved the same foreclosure action.
After filing their pro se answer and affirmative defenses, the defendants retained counsel. Continuing in their mistaken belief, they did not inform their attorney of the action filed by HSBC. On November 13, 2008, counsel filed an amended answer and affirmative defenses on behalf of the defendants in the American Home Mortgage action, but took no action on the HSBC complaint.
Although the defendants did not file an answer in response to HSBC’s complaint, HSBC never moved for a default judgment.[ 3 ] Instead, on January 22, 2009, HSBC moved for summary judgment, scheduling the hearing for March 24, 2009. When the defendants received the motion for summary judgment in the HSBC action, it sent the motion to their counsel. It was at that point, that the defendants and their counsel realized that two separate banks were attempting to simultaneously foreclose on the same mortgage, but that they only had been defending the initial action filed by American Home Mortgage.
On February 23, 2009, the defendants filed a memorandum of law in opposition to the motion for summary judgment, the affidavit of Glazy Ruscalleda, and a motion to transfer the case to the division where the foreclosure action filed by American Home Mortgage was pending (“Motion to Transfer”). On February 25, 2009, the defendants filed a request for production, request for admissions, and notice of interrogatory. American Home Mortgage waited until the day before the scheduled hearing to file its notice of voluntary dismissal, although it had executed the assignment of mortgage almost three months earlier.
At the scheduled hearing, the trial court heard the arguments raised by HSBC in its motion for summary judgment and by defense counsel in his memorandum of law filed in opposition. Although it is undisputed that the defendants’ discovery was still pending, the trial court entered final summary judgment on the same day as the hearing, March 24, 2009, in favor of HSBC.[ 4 ]
Based on the unique circumstances set forth above, we conclude that the order under review must be reversed, and the cause remanded for further proceedings, with directions to allow the defendants to file an answer and affirmative defenses and to require HSBC to respond to the defendants’ discovery requests. The record clearly demonstrates that the defendants’ failure to file a timely answer and affirmative defenses in the action filed by HSBC was due to the confusion caused by American Home Mortgage and HSBC when they were simultaneously attempting to foreclose on the same exact mortgage in two different divisions of the circuit court.
Reversed and remanded with directions.
Not final until disposition of timely filed motion for rehearing.
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.
Again… look towards the “Common Thread”chances are MERS is involved if they’ve been securitized . Remember every loan needs a “MOM“
FBI crackdown on fraudulent mortgages may underestimate scope of problem
by CHRISTINE RICCIARDI
Tuesday, September 14th, 2010, 1:00 pm
When the Federal Bureau of Investigation began Operation Stolen Dreams in March 2010, the government’s largest mortgage fraud takedown, the FBI estimated about $2.3 billion of fraudulent mortgages were originated in 2009. However, recent estimates from a source monitoring the operation indicates that number is now closer to $14 billion.
The numbers were put together recently by an European investment bank in the run-up to a mortgage fraud conference in the U.K. next month. It found that mortgage fraud in the U.K. stood at $120 million in 2009. “The phenomenon, though worrying and one that certainly requires strong intervention from authorities, is not of the same scale as in the U.S.,” said the source. “Securitization is therefore well protected from this issue.”
Judge Thomas A. Adams knows exactly what he is doing!Watch for more of his slam dunks…
WACHOVIA BANK, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION, AS TRUSTEE FOR THE CERTIFICATE HOLDERS FOR MERRILL LYNCH MORTGAGE INVESTORS TRUST, MORTGAGE LOAN ASSET-BACKED
CERTIFICATES, SERIES 2005
- against –
STUART BRENNER, et aI.
INDEX NO. : 014812/09
AUGUST 20, 2010
Defendant’ s answer contains a defense of “lack of standing.” Plaintiff has failed to establish it was the holder of the note and the mortgage securing it when the action was commenced. In that regard, plaintiff relies on an undated assignment of the mortgage by MERS as nominee acknowledged by a Texas notary on July 18, 2009. The note sued on does not contain an indication it has been negotiated. The undated assignment by MERS contains a provision at the assignment of the mortgage is “TOGETHER with the notes described in said mortgage.” The record before me is devoid of proof that MERS as nominee for purposes of recording had authority to assign the mortgage. However, assuming it had such authority since it is a party to the mortgage and such authority might be implied , there has been a complete failure to establish MERS, as a non-party to the note, to negotiate its transfer. A transfer of the note effects a transfer of the mortgage MERS vs. Coakley, 41 AD3 674), the assignment of a mortgage without a valid transfer of the mortgage note is a nullity (Kluge vs. Fugazv, 145 AD2 537).
I am working on a special project & need your help to gather as many MERS Assignments as we can possibly get.
What is especially needed are the Certifying Officers signing these assignments for MERS. I don’t care if it’s old, new, signed, undated, unmarked, lender has gone bankrupt ages ago…I just want them ALL!
The foreclosure and title processing company (NASDAQ: DJSP) reported net income of $3.8 million, or 32 cents a share, on revenue of $56.1 million. That’s down from net income of $14.1 million, or 73 cents a share, on revenue of $61.7 million in the second quarter of 2009.
DJSP handles foreclosure legal work for major lenders, and its largest client is the Law Offices of David J. Stern, P.A. The lawyer is chairman and CEO of DJSP.
On Aug. 10, Attorney General Bill McCollum announced he had started an investigation of David J. Stern, P.A., along with three other Florida law firms, over whether they engaged in unfair and deceptive actions in the handling of foreclosure cases. There have been allegations that the law firms fabricated mortgage assignments to speed up foreclosures.
David J. Stern, P.A. responded to the news by stating that it would cooperate with the investigation and it has done nothing wrong.
A few weeks ago our friend at Chink in the Armor said it best in his post Gretchen Swoops for the Kill, and Feints … Twice. He states “Gretchen Moregenson of the New York Times is circling the MERS story. Every once in a while she will seem to make a pass at it but at the last moment she diverts to something else, plucking a nice little morsel but leaving the main dish of MERS behind. She refrains, like everyone else, from coming in for the kill. I know for a fact she knows – from two different sources – but I don’t know why she holds her powder.”
He continues… “She had two stories this past week just like that.”
Again, don’t get me wrong, but there are other players just as important as, if not more so, than the Foreclosure Mills, such as MERS, Lender Processing Services, mortgage-backed security trusts, Freddie Mac/Fannie Mae (or GSEs??).
In today’s NYT’s article Gretchen and Geraldine did, however, manage to get in touch with David J. Stern. Of course, to no one’s surprise he “attributed any backdating to sloppiness on the part of paralegals“.
I am sure that statement will not sit well with any paralegals working there who are working hard, doing exactly what their supervisors are telling them to do.
I must say the most important statement from this article comes from the Florida Attorney General,… “Thousands of final judgments of foreclosure against Florida homeowners may have been the result of the allegedly improper actions of these law firms,” said Mr. McCollum in an interview. “We’ve had so many complaints thatI am confident there is a great deal of fraud here.”
My suggestion to any journalist that fine combs this site is to please do your research and, then, write a mind blowing article that will clear the smoke from the mirrors.
Gretchen, when will you finally swoop in for the kill?
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