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Foreclosure Lawsuits, Florida

Foreclosure Lawsuits, Florida

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Published by Albertelli_Law
Foreclosure fraud, Florida foreclosure fraud
Foreclosure fraud, Florida foreclosure fraud

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Published by: Albertelli_Law on Aug 21, 2010
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Home > Business
Foreclosure crisis
By Marcia Heroux Pounds, Sun Sentinel
August 20, 2010 
Like11 people like this.
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Homeowner fights foreclosure in lawsuit claimingdocuments are fraudulent
Text SizeAfter months of wrangling with CitiMortgage, Dennis and JoyceBrown got fed up and hired an attorney to fight CitiMortgage'sforeclosure on theirLauderdale Lakeshome. The Browns claimthey are victims of fabricated documents used to foreclose afterCitiMortgage failed to credit them for mortgage payments."They ran my blood pressure up so bad," said Dennis Brown, whohiredFort Lauderdalelawyer Kenneth Eric Trent to fight theforeclosure.CitiMortgage and its lawyers, David Stern Law Offices, voluntarilywithdrew the case against the Browns inBroward CountyCircuitCourt on June 16. But the Browns can't rest easy. Recently, they'vereceived new
foreclosure letters from another lawyer representingCitiMortgage.
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The Browns' story is just one example of foreclosures resulting fromallegedly fraudulent mortgage assignments and other tactics that"eliminate due process for the homeowner," Trent said.Trent also is suing Stern and Stern's Plantation law firm in federalcourt in a separate case with similar allegations.In that lawsuit, on behalf of Oakland Park homeowner IgnacioDamian Figueroa, Trent contends that Stern and a mortgageregistration firm
generated fraudulent mortgage documents that areintentionally ambiguous to cloud the real ownership of Figueroa'smortgage note.The foreclosure practices of Stern and two other law firms are underinvestigation by theFloridaAttorney General's Office. The attorneygeneral recently requested records going back to Jan. 1, 2008, fromStern as well as The Law Offices of Marshall C. Watson, P.A., andShapiro & Fishman, LLP.Thousands of Florida homeowners may have lost their homes as aresult of improper actions by the firms under investigation. Inannouncing the probe, Attorney GeneralBill McCollum, aRepublican who is a running for governor, said the law firms mayhave presented fabricated documents in court to speed theforeclosure process and obtain judgments against homeowners.Jeffrey Tew, a Miami attorney who represents Stern's firm, saidwhile the attorney general may have received complaints, there"will not be evidence of fraud." Due to the large volume offoreclosures, there may have been clerical mistakes, he said. "Inthe past two to three years, the Stern law firm has processed
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probably 100,000 foreclosures."But he disputes that Stern's law firm fabricated any documents. "Ihaven't seen any example where a bank didn't have a mortgage indefault," Tew said.Stern represents well-known mortgage lenders includingBank of America, Chase, CitiMortgage, Inc.,Fannie Mae,Freddie Mac,HSBC, SunTrust andWells Fargo. These lenders also are the shareholders of Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems (MERS).MERS is at theheartof the matter for Trent and other lawyers trying to stop what they view as illegal foreclosuresin the nation.The mortgage registry was created by lenders in the early 1990s to track home loans, including thoserepackaged as securities and sold to investors. When such loans were in foreclosure, MERS — not the originallender — was often the entity foreclosing. Some lawyers have successfully fought foreclosures by contendingthat 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 againstlong-standing principles of property law in assigning rights to a note or mortgage. He said
the "owner" of amortgage 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, butoften 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, citingcompany 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 ofAppeal that ruled in July against a homeowner who tried to fight foreclosure on the basis that MERS didn't ownthe note or mortgage.For the Browns, foreclosure troubles began with not getting credit for their payments from
CitiMortgage, theirmortgage servicer.The couple says they couldn't clear it up with the lender. "They were claiming I was behind in payment, but I waspaying every month," said Brown, a carpenter who works for theBroward CountySchool System and whosethree 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 is
the signature on the assignment of Brown's mortgage, giving rights toCitiMortgage, Trent said. The signature is by Cheryl Samons, who is identified as "assistant secretary ofMerscorp." 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 registeredagent. That process is absolutely legal and normal."But Trent contends that mortgage assignments need to be made on personal knowledge, not hearsay, to beadmissible in court.The Browns could be facing another foreclosure action, but Trent said he is confident he can fight it again. "Theydon't have the basis to foreclose," he said.CitiMortgage spokesman Mark Rodgers said privacy restrictions prevent the financial institution from discussinga customer's foreclosure action. But Rodgers said procedures may resume in cases "where, despite our bestefforts, 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 ashelpless victims. "Everyone is sympathetic, including us, for the homeowner who can't pay his mortgage. But it'snot fair to paint the banks and law firms that represent them as wearing the black hats."
Marcia Heroux Pounds can be reached at mpounds@SunSentinel.com or 561-243-6650.
Copyright © 2010,South Florida Sun-Sentinel
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Comments (1)
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at 10:25 AM August 21, 2010While you have the right to your opinion, racial slurs are never appropriate and solve nothing. Thiscase, like many others in the courts, will be up to judges to decide. The larger issue involvingallegedly fraudulent mortgage documents is being looked at by the Florida Attorney General'sOffice, as I write in the story. Marcia Heroux Pounds, Sun Sentinel
8/21/2010 Foreclosures: Homeowners sue mortgsun-sentinel.com//fl-citigroup-foreclo3/5

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