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Fannie and Freddie Continue to Rely on Foreclosure Mills Despite Evidence of Fraud

Fannie and Freddie Continue to Rely on Foreclosure Mills Despite Evidence of Fraud


Posted by Yves Smith at 6:08 am

A good piece at Mother Jones, “Fannie and Freddie’s Foreclosure Barons” (hat tip Foghorn Leghorn) provides a window on a seamy big business: cut rate foreclosure processing machines that routinely ride roughshod over borrowers and the law.

Unfortunately, space limitations prevent the story from going deeply into some critical issues. The piece does a good job of explaining how these cut rate legal services operations are creations of Fannie and Freddie and illustrating how they are engaging in fabricating documents. The story focuses on a specific bad actor, a law firm founded by David Stern that handles roughly 1/5 of the foreclosures in Florida:

Ariane Ice sat poring over records on the website of Florida’s Palm Beach County…She and her husband, Tom, an attorney, ran a boutique foreclosure defense firm called Ice Legal…. Ice had a strong hunch that Stern’s operation was up to something, and that night she found her smoking gun.

It involved something called an “assignment of mortgage,” the document that certifies who owns the property and is thus entitled to foreclose on it….By law, a firm must execute (complete, sign, and notarize) an assignment before attempting to seize somebody’s home.

A Florida notary’s stamp is valid for four years, and its expiration date is visible on the imprint. But here in front of Ice were dozens of assignments notarized with stamps that hadn’t even existed until months—in some cases nearly a year—after the foreclosures were filed. Which meant Stern’s people were foreclosing first and doing their legal paperwork later. In effect, it also meant they were lying to the court—an act that could get a lawyer disbarred or even prosecuted. “There’s no question that it’s pervasive,” says Tom Ice of the backdated documents—nearly two dozen of which were verified by Mother Jones. “We’ve found tons of them.”

This all might seem like a legal technicality, but it’s not. The faster a foreclosure moves, the more difficult it is for a homeowner to fight it—even if the case was filed in error. In March, upon discovering that Stern’s firm had fudged an assignment of mortgage in another case, a judge in central Florida’s Pasco County dismissed the case with prejudice—an unusually harsh ruling that means it can never again be refiled. “The execution date and notarial date,” she wrote in a blunt ruling, “were fraudulently backdated, in a purposeful, intentional effort to mislead the defendant and this court.”…

But the Ices had uncovered what looked like a pattern, so Tom booked a deposition with Stern’s top deputy, Cheryl Samons, and confronted her with the backdated documents—including two from cases her firm had filed against Ice Legal’s clients. Samons, whose counsel was present, insisted that the filings were just a mistake. She refused to elaborate, so the Ices moved to depose the notaries and other Stern employees whose names were on the evidence. On the eve of those depositions, however, the firm dropped foreclosure proceedings against the Ices’ clients.

It was a bittersweet victory: The Ices had won their cases, but Stern’s practices remained under wraps. “This was done to cover up fraud,” Tom fumes. “It was done precisely so they could try to hit a reset button and keep us from getting the real goods.”

Backdated documents, according to a chorus of foreclosure experts, are typical of the sort of shenanigans practiced by a breed of law firms known as “foreclosure mills.” ….The mills think “they can just change things and make it up to get to the end result they want, because there’s no one holding them accountable,” says Prentiss Cox, a foreclosure expert at the University of Minnesota Law School. “We’ve got these people with incentives to go ahead with foreclosures and flood the real estate market.”

Yves here. This is far from the only form of document forgeries. A widespread abuse is what bankruptcy attorney Max Gardner calls the “alphabet problem.”

Mortgage securitizations were very carefully designed to satisfy a number of concerns. One of them was bankruptcy remoteness, that if an originator failed, as Countrywide, New Century, IndyMac and a host of others did, that the creditors in the bankruptcy would not be able to claw mortgages back out of securitizations (assets sold close to the date of a bankruptcy may be deemed to have been conveyed fraudulently, and thus can be seized by the court on behalf of the creditors).

To prevent this from occurring, the Pooling and Servicing Agreement (the master document that governs the securitization) would provided for a minimum of two independent legal entities to sit between the originator and the trust that would hold the mortgages being securitized (technically, the note, which is the IOU; the mortgage, which is a lien, follows the note in 45 states). So the prescribed minimum number of steps was A (originator) => B => C => D (trust). Some securitizations (for reasons unrelated to establishing bankruptcy remoteness) would provide for even more steps.

Keep in mind that the PSA also required that the notes be conveyed to the trust, with the proper chain of endorsements, by closing; certain exceptions and fixes were permitted up to 90 days after closing, but these would be applicable only to a very small proportion of the pool.

Continue Reading…NakedCapitalism

© 2010-15 FORECLOSURE FRAUD | by DinSFLA. All rights reserved.



Posted in CONTROL FRAUD, djsp enterprises, fannie mae, foreclosure, foreclosure fraud, foreclosure mills, foreclosures, forgery, Freddie Mac, ice law, Law Offices Of David J. Stern P.A., MERS, MERSCORP, mortgage, MORTGAGE ELECTRONIC REGISTRATION SYSTEMS INC., Notary, notary fraud, note, RICO, STOP FORECLOSURE FRAUDComments (2)

EXCLUSIVE: Fannie and Freddie’s Foreclosure Barons

EXCLUSIVE: Fannie and Freddie’s Foreclosure Barons


How the federal housing agencies—and some of the biggest bailed-out banks—are helping shady lawyers make millions by pushing families out of their homes.

— By Andy Kroll

Wed Aug. 4, 2010 12:01 AM PDT

LATE ONE NIGHT IN February 2009, Ariane Ice sat poring over records on the website of Florida’s Palm Beach County. She’d been at it for weeks, forsaking sleep to sift through thousands of legal documents. She and her husband, Tom, an attorney, ran a boutique foreclosure defense firm called Ice Legal. (Slogan: “Your home is your castle. Defend it.”) Now they were up against one of Florida’s biggest foreclosure law firms: Founded by multimillionaire attorney David J. Stern, it controlled one-fifth of the state’s booming market in foreclosure-related services. Ice had a strong hunch that Stern’s operation was up to something, and that night she found her smoking gun.

It involved something called an “assignment of mortgage,” the document that certifies who owns the property and is thus entitled to foreclose on it. Especially these days, the assignment is key evidence in a foreclosure case: With so many loans having been bought, sold, securitized, and traded, establishing who owns the mortgage is hardly a trivial matter. It frequently requires months of sleuthing in order to untangle the web of banks, brokers, and investors, among others. By law, a firm must execute (complete, sign, and notarize) an assignment before attempting to seize somebody’s home.

A Florida notary’s stamp is valid for four years, and its expiration date is visible on the imprint. But here in front of Ice were dozens of assignments notarized with stamps that hadn’t even existed until months—in some cases nearly a year—after the foreclosures were filed. Which meant Stern’s people were foreclosing first and doing their legal paperwork later. In effect, it also meant they were lying to the court—an act that could get a lawyer disbarred or even prosecuted. “There’s no question that it’s pervasive,” says Tom Ice of the backdated documents—nearly two dozen of which were verified by Mother Jones. “We’ve found tons of them.”

This all might seem like a legal technicality, but it’s not. The faster a foreclosure moves, the more difficult it is for a homeowner to fight it—even if the case was filed in error. In March, upon discovering that Stern’s firm had fudged an assignment of mortgage in another case, a judge in central Florida’s Pasco County dismissed the case with prejudice—an unusually harsh ruling that means it can never again be refiled. “The execution date and notarial date,” she wrote in a blunt ruling, “were fraudulently backdated, in a purposeful, intentional effort to mislead the defendant and this court.”

Stern has made a fortune foreclosing on homeowners. He owns a $15 million mansion, four Ferraris, and a 130-foot yacht.

More often than not in uncontested cases, missing or problematic documents simply go overlooked. In Florida, where foreclosure cases must go before a judge (some states handle them as a bureaucratic matter), dwindling budgets and soaring caseloads have overwhelmed local courts. Last year, the foreclosure dockets of Lee County in southwest Florida became so clogged that the court initiated rapid-fire hearings lasting less than 20 seconds per case—”the rocket docket,” attorneys called it. In Broward County, the epicenter of America’s housing bust, the courthouse recently began holding foreclosure hearings in a hallway, a scene that local attorneys call the “new Broward Zoo.” “The judges are so swamped with this stuff that they just don’t pay attention,” says Margery Golant, a veteran Florida foreclosure defense lawyer. “They just rubber-stamp them.”

But the Ices had uncovered what looked like a pattern, so Tom booked a deposition with Stern’s top deputy, Cheryl Samons, and confronted her with the backdated documents—including two from cases her firm had filed against Ice Legal’s clients. Samons, whose counsel was present, insisted that the filings were just a mistake. She refused to elaborate, so the Ices moved to depose the notaries and other Stern employees whose names were on the evidence. On the eve of those depositions, however, the firm dropped foreclosure proceedings against the Ices’ clients.

It was a bittersweet victory: The Ices had won their cases, but Stern’s practices remained under wraps. “This was done to cover up fraud,” Tom fumes. “It was done precisely so they could try to hit a reset button and keep us from getting the real goods.”

Backdated documents, according to a chorus of foreclosure experts, are typical of the sort of shenanigans practiced by a breed of law firms known as “foreclosure mills.” While far less scrutinized than subprime lenders or Wall Street banks, these firms undermine efforts by government and the mortgage industry to put struggling homeowners back on track at a time of record foreclosures. (There were 2.8 million foreclosures in 2009, and 3.8 million are projected for this year.) The mills think “they can just change things and make it up to get to the end result they want, because there’s no one holding them accountable,” says Prentiss Cox, a foreclosure expert at the University of Minnesota Law School. “We’ve got these people with incentives to go ahead with foreclosures and flood the real estate market.”

PAPER TRAIL

View the documents featured in this story:

Federal Securities Fraud Suit, Cooper and Methi v. DJSP Enterprises, David J. Stern, and Kumar Gursahaney, July 2010

Class Action Racketeering Suit, Figueroa v. MERSCORP, Law Offices of David J. Stern, and David J. Stern, July 2010

Fair Debt Collection Violation Suit, Hugo San Martin and Melissa San Martin v. Law Offices of David J. Stern, July 2010

Class Action Suit for Fair Debt Collecting Violations, Rory Hewitt v. Law Offices of David J. Stern and David J. Stern, October 2009

Florida Bar, Public Reprimand, Complaint Against David J. Stern, Sept. 2002

Florida Bar, Public Reprimand, Consent Judgment Against David J. Stern, Oct. 2002

Freddie Mac Designated Counsel, Retention Agreement with Law Offices of David J. Stern, April 2003

Freddie Mac Designated Counsel, Memo to Law Offices of David J. Stern, March 2006

Amended Complaint Alleging Sexual Harassment, Bridgette Balboni v. Law Offices of David J. Stern and David J. Stern, July 1999

Stern’s is hardly the only outfit to attract criticism, but his story is a useful window into the multibillion-dollar “default services” industry, which includes both law firms like Stern’s and contract companies that handle paper-pushing tasks for other big foreclosure lawyers. Over the past decade and a half, Stern has built up one of the industry’s most powerful operations—a global machine with offices in Florida, Kentucky, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines—squeezing profits from every step in the foreclosure process. Among his loyal clients, who’ve sent him hundreds of thousands of cases, are some of the nation’s biggest (and, thanks to American taxpayers, most handsomely bailed out) banks—including Wells Fargo, Bank of America, and Citigroup. “A lot of these mills are doing the same kinds of things,” says Linda Fisher, a professor and mortgage-fraud expert at Seton Hall University’s law school. But, she added, “I’ve heard some pretty bad stories about Stern from people in Florida.”

While the mortgage fiasco has so far cost American homeowners an estimated $7 trillion in lost equity, it has made Stern (no relation to NBA commissioner David J. Stern) fabulously rich. His $15 million, 16,000-square-foot mansion occupies a corner lot in a private island community on the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway. It is featured on a water-taxi tour of the area’s grandest estates, along with the abodes of Jay Leno and billionaire Blockbuster founder Wayne Huizenga, as well as the former residence of Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball. (Last year, Stern snapped up his next-door neighbor’s property for $8 million and tore down the house to make way for a tennis court.) Docked outside is Misunderstood, Stern’s 130-foot, jet-propelled Mangusta yacht—a $20 million-plus replacement for his previous 108-foot Mangusta. He also owns four Ferraris, four Porsches, two Mercedes-Benzes, and a Bugatti—a high-end Italian brand with models costing north of $1 million a pop.

Despite his immense wealth and ability to affect the lives of ordinary people, Stern operates out of the public eye. His law firm has no website, he is rarely mentioned in the mainstream business press, and neither he nor several of his top employees responded to repeated interview requests for this story. Stern’s personal attorney, Jeffrey Tew, also declined to comment. But scores of interviews and thousands of pages of legal and financial filings, internal emails, and other documents obtained by Mother Jones provided insight into his operation. So did eight of Stern’s former employees—attorneys, paralegals, and other staffers who agreed to talk on condition of anonymity. (Most still work in related fields and fear that speaking publicly about their ex-boss could harm their careers.)

Continue readingMOTHER JONES

Andy Kroll is a reporter at Mother Jones. For more of his stories, click here. Email him with tips and insights at akroll (at) motherjones (dot) com. Follow him on Twitter here.

— Illustration: Lou Beach

© 2010-15 FORECLOSURE FRAUD | by DinSFLA. All rights reserved.



Posted in chain in title, class action, CONTROL FRAUD, djsp enterprises, fannie mae, FDLG, florida default law group, foreclosure, foreclosure fraud, foreclosure mills, foreclosures, forgery, Freddie Mac, investigation, Law Offices Of David J. Stern P.A., notary fraud, racketeering, RICO, robo signers, stock, STOP FORECLOSURE FRAUD, Wall StreetComments (1)

Florida FORECLOSURE Lawyer David J. Stern (DJSP) ‘Su Casa es Mi Casa,’ Your House Is My House, Exclusive See His Photos

Florida FORECLOSURE Lawyer David J. Stern (DJSP) ‘Su Casa es Mi Casa,’ Your House Is My House, Exclusive See His Photos


Once again from Florida’s BEST PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR BILL WARNER!

Mr. Warner really deserves an enormous amount of credit for all his hard work in his investigative work!

Thank you!!

See the entire article link below…

Foreclosures Bring Wealth, Rebukes For Florida Lawyer David J. Stern Who Was Going To Name His 130 Foot Boat ‘Su Casa es Mi Casa,’ Your House Is My House, Exclusive See His Photo.

Thursday, July 22, 2010.

FROM THE ST. PETE TIMES…Sunday, July 18, 2010.  You could call him the foreclosure king of Florida. As lawyer for several major banks, David J. Stern handles 20 percent of all foreclosure cases in the nation’s fourth most populous state. It is from Stern’s law firm that well over 100,000 Floridians, including many in the Tampa Bay area, have received the dreaded notice to pay up or face losing their homes.The foreclosure business has been good to Stern, who lives in a $15 million Fort Lauderdale mansion and (STERN) reaped $58.5 million by selling his back-office operations to a new public company (DJSP enterprises) in which he is a major shareholder. But as his case load has grown, so have the controversies.  This spring, a Pasco County judge threw out a foreclosure case against a Wesley Chapel man after ruling that Stern’s firm had submitted a clearly fraudulent document.

In South Florida, a foreclosure defense lawyer discovered more than 20 mortgage documents submitted by Stern’s firm that bore notary seals that did not exist at the time the documents supposedly were notarized. The Florida Bar reprimanded Stern in 2002 for overcharging and misleading clients, and is now considering a complaint questioning whether he should be allowed to farm out so much of his firm’s business to nonlawyers. Stern declined to be interviewed for this story.  By 1999, Stern’s firm represented banks in foreclosure actions against more than 10,000 home­owners, according to records in a class action lawsuit filed in federal court in Tallahassee. The suit alleged that the firm overcharged homeowners for title searches, postage and other expenses, then submitted “false and fraudulent” invoices to support the charges. The case was closed in 2000 with Stern agreeing to pay a total of $2.1 million to homeowners.  He next drew scrutiny from the Florida Bar over complaints that his firm had misled its own clients as well as borrowers. more from the St Pete Times… The St Pete Times article is somewhat incorrect, they state that  ”Stern himself is something of an enigma. Other than references to his law firm and a sketchy biography, there is almost nothing on the Internet about him (David J. Stern).  No photos are available“.
Oh really, well I have been a private investigator in the State of Florida for 15 years and here is the short list of investigative reports that I have posted online about David J. Stern, above is one of his exclusive photos that the St Pete Times could not obtain;

Continue reading this incredible article….

Bill Warner Private Detective Blog

Posted in class action, djsp enterprises, foreclosure, foreclosure fraud, foreclosure mills, foreclosures, investigation, Law Offices Of David J. Stern P.A., STOP FORECLOSURE FRAUDComments (7)


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