Tag Archives: eviction

Foreclosure in California

16 Mar

925-957-9797

ISSUE:

Many Californians in default on their mortgage and facing foreclosure have filed quiet title and wrongful foreclosure actions. What is a quiet title action against a lender, and are plaintiffs successful in California?

BRIEF ANSWER:                                                                                                         

            A quiet title action in California to determine the owner of property does not generally allow a mortgage borrower in default on their payments to claim title to the land free of liens. However, the action when combined with a wrongful foreclosure claim is often successful in extending the amount of time a defaulted borrower can remain in the house. While in essence, this is simply prolonging the inevitable, it can give a borrower a temporary feeling of control over their own destiny.

DISCUSSION:

Quiet Title Actions as a Defense to Foreclosure

A cause of action to quiet title seeks to determine adverse claims to real or personal property. (Cal. Code Civ. § 760.020.) The action is commonly commenced by homeowners when a lender wrongfully forecloses on their property. My research has not found a favorable California decision quieting title in a mortgage borrower challenging foreclosure. The filing of quiet title actions only prolongs the amount of time a borrower can remain in a house after defaulting.

Theory behind the current suits

The UCC governs negotiable instruments such as mortgages, and it defines a loan as a transferable, signed document that promises to pay the bearer a sum of money at a future date or on demand. Most mortgages are made by investment banks, who then package many similar loans into a mortgage backed security and sell the securities. To convert the mortgages into stocks, each mortgage note must be destroyed. A mortgage and a stock certificate cannot exist at the same time. This creates a gap in the chain of title, and theoretically making the loan invalid. As a result, homeowners can fight foreclosure through a quiet title action and receive clear title. The current trend to argue a break in chain of title is weak, because a “plaintiff may recover only upon the strength of his or her own title, however, and not upon the weakness of the defendant’s title.” (Ernie v. Trinity Lutheran Church (1959) 51 Cal.2d 702, 706.)

A promissory note is usually secured by a deed of trust in the real property. The trust names the security owner as the beneficiary and a loan servicer as the trustee. A trust is a form of ownership in which the legal title of a property is vested in a trustee, who has equitable duties to hold and manage it for the benefit of the beneficiaries. (Restatement of Trusts, Second, §2 (1959).) The trustee under a valid trust deed has exclusive control over the trust property. Usually, the lender records a deed of trust with the county to secure the loan to the debtor. The deeds identify the trustee, and most often identify Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems (MERS) as the nominal beneficiary.

Challenges to MERS

MERS is a company created by the banking industry to bypass recording statutes and filing fees. MERS records who currently owns the notes on a mortgage. A foreclosure may be brought in the name of MERS, and the trustee may act on behalf of MERS to effectuate a non-judicial foreclosure. MERS may also directly initiate a foreclosure proceeding, and California’s “statutory scheme (§§ 2924–2924k) does not provide for a preemptive suit challenging standing.” (Robinson v. Countrywide Home Loans, Inc., (2011) 199 Cal. App. 4th 42, 46.)

The MERS system of foreclosure has been upheld in California based upon two rationales. First, courts have held that MERS, acting as the agent of the beneficial owner, does not need to prove authorization by the beneficiary to foreclose. (Gomes v. Countrywide Home Loans, Inc. (2011) 192 Cal.App.4th 1149, 55-56.) Second, contract law legitimizes the system, because recent deeds of trust require that the borrower agree that MERS can proceed with foreclosure in the event of default. (Id. at 1157.)

Procedural Requirements for Plaintiffs

California mortgagors must file in the Superior Court, which has the authority to grant the equitable relief of quieting title in an individual. (Cal. Code Civ. §760.040.) Once a party has filed the action, they must file a notice of pendency with the office of the county recorder. (Id. §762.010(b).) This notice puts all other parties who are claiming the party on notice that the plaintiff is claiming the land as his, and stops any transfers of the property during the lawsuit.

To survive a demurer, A plaintiff must file a verified complaint that includes: (1) A legal description and street address of the subject real property; (2) The title of plaintiff as to which determination is sought and the basis of the title; (3) The adverse claims to the title of the plaintiff against which a determination is sought; (4) The date as of which the determination is sought; and (5) A prayer for the determination of the title of the plaintiff against the adverse claims. It is highly likely that a claim merely alleging that the plaintiff has an interest in the land will not make it past a demurer. (See Mangindin v. Washington Mut. Bank, 637 F. Supp. 2d 700, 712 (N.D. Cal. 2009) (Dismissing claim merely alleging plaintiff had an interest in land foreclosed upon by bank).)

Tender Rule

A plaintiff seeking to quiet title in the face of a foreclosure must allege tender, which is “an unconditional offeror an offer of performance of their obligations under the Note, made in good faith, with the ability and willingness to perform.” The “Tender Rule” is derived from several cases involving disputes between junior and senior lienholders. (See Arnolds Mgmt. Corp. v. Eishen (1984) 158 Cal. App. 3d 575, 580; FPCI RE-HAB 01 v. E & G Investments, Ltd. (1989) 207 Cal.App.3d 1018, 1022.)

The policy behind the rule is that it would be a useless act to set aside a foreclosure sale based upon a procedural defect when a mortgage borrower cannot redeem the property in absence of that defect. (Karlsen v. American Sav. & Loan Assn. (1971) 15 Cal.App.3d 112, 118.) Some courts interpret the Tender Rule to only require that the mortgage borrower tender delinquent pre-foreclosure payments prior to any claim of quiet title. (Id. at 117; Ghervescu v. Wells Fargo Home Mortg., Inc., 2005 WL 6559918.)

Recently, defendants have successfully demurred to plaintiff’s complaints for quiet title for failure to allege valid tender. (Vasquez v. OneWest Bank, FSB (Cal. Ct. App., Nov. 4, 2011, B225624) 2011 WL 5248294; Dupree v. Merrill Lynch Mortg. Lending, Inc. (Cal. Ct. App., Oct. 24, 2011, B225150) 2011 WL 5142051 (Affirming demurrer and denial of leave to amend complaint).)

Qusetions I am being asked about the Mass Joinder and Kaslow and Kramer and Mitchell Stien

25 Aug

Attorney’s Frequently Asked Questions

1 Who is Mitchell J. Stein

2 Who is Philip A. Kramer

3 Lead Attorney Phillip A Kramer Introduces The Lawsuit(s)

4 Can I get a local lawyer to sue my lender or do a lawsuit myself?

5 What are Attorney Phillip A Kramer’s qualifications?

6 How do I know if my loan is the type that can join the suit?

7 What are my possible outcomes if I become a Named Plaintiff

8 What is MERS and why is it illegal and fraudulent?

9 What is the difference between Loan Modification and this Litigation?

10 What documents do I need to provide?

11 What is the flow of communication between my attorney and myself?

12 Should I continue to make my mortgage payments if I am accepted as a plaintiff on this suit?

13 What if I’m dealing with a pending foreclosure?

14 What about those annoying calls from my lender(s)?

15 How long until I can expect resolution?

16 What is the motivation behind this law suit?

17 In a nutshell, what did the banks do wrong?

18 How did this whole mess happen?

19 What is Securitization?

20 Litigation Verses Modification In Table Format

Who Is Mitchell J Stein?
http://members.calbar.ca.gov/fal/Member/Detail/121750

Who Is Philip A Kramer?

http://members.calbar.ca.gov/search/member_detail.aspx?x=113969

Lead Attorney Phillip A Kramer Introduces The Lawsuit(s)

Can I get a local lawyer to sue my lender or do a lawsuit myself?

What are Attorney Phillip A Kramer’s qualifications?

How do I know if my loan is the type that can join the suit?

What are my possible outcomes if I become a Named Plaintiff

What is MERS and why is it illegal and fraudulent?

What is the difference between Loan Modification and this Litigation?

What documents do I need to provide?
What is the flow of communication between my attorney and myself?

Should I continue to make my mortgage payments
if I am accepted as a plaintiff on this suit?

What if I’m dealing with a pending foreclosure?

What about those annoying calls from my lender(s)?

How long until I can expect resolution?

What is the motivation behind this law suit?

In a nutshell, what did the banks do wrong?

How Did This Whole Mess Happen?

The Breakdown

To put this in perspective…the banks got greedy, really greedy. They were not satisfied with just making the 6% interest on your mortgage, they wanted more. So they chopped up their home loan portfolios and packaged them into “mortgage backed securities” (MBS) that could then be sold to Wall Street investors for even bigger profits. The only problem was, Wall Street had a huge appetite for these MBS’s and could not get enough of them. They kept demanding more of them from the banks so they did everything in their power to churn more out but unfortunately they took time to package and properly securitize. What happened next is where they went wrong. The banks decided to cut corners and avoid two critical steps in the securitization process so they could speed up the funding of these loans from the standard 45 – 60 days to as quick as 4 to 5 days. We all know time is money on Wall Street right? They committed this fraud knowingly and just kept doing it, over and over again 62 million times as shown on all of the documents being currently presented to the courts. The banks left their fingerprints on the gun, providing homeowners with the legal leverage needed to expose this fraud and use it to save their homes from imminent foreclosure.

The question is….will you choose to take action like so many have already done or will you sit back and wait to see what happens? The banks are counting on you doing nothing and going quietly? Become the “squeaky wheel” – show them you are serious about defending your home!

Securitization Explained

The Alphabet Problem – The Pooling and Servicing Agreement

The Pooling and Servicing Agreement (PSA) is the document that actually creates a residential mortgage backed securitized trust and establishes the obligations and authority of the Master Servicer and the Primary Servicer. The PSA also establishes that mandatory rules and procedures for the sales and transfers of the mortgages and mortgage notes from the originator’s to the Trust. It is this unbroken chain of assignments and negotiations that creates what we have called “The Alphabet Problem.”

In order to understand the “Alphabet Problem,” you must keep in mind that the primary purpose of securitization is to make sure the assets (e.g., mortgage notes) are both FDIC and Bankruptcy “remote” from the originator. As a result, the common structures seek to create at least two “true sales” between the originator and the Trust. You therefore have in the most basic securitized structure the originator, the sponsor, the depositor and the Trust. We refer to these parties as the A (originator), B (sponsor), C (depositor) and D (Trust) alphabet players. The other primary but non-designated player in my alphabet game is the Master Document Custodian for the Trust. The MDC is entrusted with the physical custody of all of the “original” notes and mortgages and the assignment, sales and purchase agreements. The MDC must also execute representations and attestations that all of the transfers really and truly occurred “on-time” and in the required “order” and that “true sales” occurred at each link in the chain. Section 2.01 of most PSAs includes the mandatory conveyancing rules for the Trust and the representations and warranties. The basic terms of this Section of the standard PSA is set-forth below:

The complete inability of the mortgage servicers and the Trusts to produce such unbroken chains of proof along with the original documents is the genesis for all of the recent court rulings. One would think that a simple request to the Master Document Custodian would solve these problems. However, a review of the cases reveals a massive volume of transfers and assignments executed long after the “closing date” for the Trust from the “originator” directly to the “trust.” We refer to these documents as “A to D” transfers and assignments. There are some serious problems with the A to D documents. First, at the time these documents are executed the A party has nothing to sell or transfer since the PSA provides such a sale and transfer occurred years ago. Second, the documents completely circumvent the primary objective of securitization by ignoring the “true sales” to the Sponsor (the B party) and the Depositor (the C party). In a true securitization, you would never have any direct transfers (A to D) from the originator to the trust. Third, these A to D transfers are totally inconsistent with the representations and warranties made in the PSA to the Securities and Exchange Commission and to the holders of the bonds (the “Certificate holders”) issued by the Trust. Fourth, in many cases the A to D documents are executed by parties who are not employed by the originator but who claim to have “signing authority” or some type of “agency authority” from the originator. Finally, in many of these A to D document cases the originator is legally defunct at the time the document is in fact signed or the document is signed with a current date but then states that it has an “effective date” that was one or two years earlier. Hence, this is what we call the Alphabet Problem. In the eyes of the courts and millions of homeowners nationwide, all of this spells out the word FRAUD, and there is no legal defense for the lender on this.

editors comment

THEY COULD HAVE A LEGITIMATE CAUSE OF ACTION.
THE BIG FIVE LENDERS SAT AROUND A TABLE SOMEWHERE AND PLANNED FOR THE INFUSION OF CAPITAL AND THE PUMPING OF THE REAL ESTATE MARKET IN AN UNPRECEDENTED AMOUNT. SEE THE DOCUMENTARY “INSIDE JOB” ACADEMY AWARD WINNER FOR A DOCUMENTARY. AT SOME TIME THEY KNEW THAT THEY WHERE GOING TO STOP THE MUSIC AND THERE WOULD BE NO CHAIRS TO SIT IN ONCE THE MUSIC STOPPED.
THE KRAMER LAWSUIT IS ABOUT THIS FRAUD PERPETRATED ON THE AMERICAN TAXPAYER. THE PROBLEM IS IT WAS SOLD AS A FORECLOSURE DEFENSE METHOD WHICH IT IS NOT. THE OTHER PROBLEM IS THAT AN ATTORNEY NEEDS TO HAVE A RELATIONSHIP WITH HIS CLIENT TO DIRECTLY REPRESENT THE CLIENTS INTEREST. WITH OVER 10,000 CLIENTS AND 55 MILLION IN FEES THIS WOULD BE IMPOSSIBLE TASK. I BELIEVE THIS IS WHERE THE FALSE ADVERTISING ISSUE PRESENTS ITSELF.

2009-2010 livinglies recap

2 Jan

1. No governmental relief is in sight for homeowners except in isolated instances of community action together with publicity from the media.
2. State and federal governments continue to sink deeper into debt, cutting social and necessary services while avoiding the elephant in the living room: the trillions of dollars owed and collectible in taxes, recording fees, filing fees, late fees, penalties, financial damages, punitive damages and interest due from the intermediary players on Wall Street who created trading “instruments” based upon conveyance of interests in real property located within state borders. The death grip of the lobby for the financial service industry is likely to continue thus making it impossible to resolve the housing crisis, the state budget crisis or the federal budget deficit.
3. Using taxpayer funds borrowed from foreign governments or created through quantitative easing, trillions of dollars have been paid, or provided in “credit lines” to intermediaries on the false premise that they own or control the mortgage backed securities that have defaulted. Foreclosures continue to hit new highs. Total money injected into the system exceeds 8 trillion dollars. Record profits announced by the financial services industry in which power is now more concentrated than before, making them the strongest influence in Federal and State capitals around the world.
4. Toxic Titles reveal unmarketable properties in and out of foreclosures with no relief in sight because nearly everyone is ignoring this basic problem that is a deal-breaker on every transfer of an interest in real property.
5. Evictions continue to hit new highs as Judges continue to be bombarded with ill-conceived motions that do not address the jurisdiction or authority of the court. The illegal evictions are based upon fraudulent conveyances procured through abuse of the foreclosure process and direct misrepresentations and fraud upon the court and recording system in each county as to the documents fabricated for purposes of foreclosure — creating the illusion of a proper paper trail.
6. 1.7 million new foreclosed properties are due to hit the market according to published statistics. Livinglies estimate the number to be at least 4 million.
7. Downward pressure on both price and marketability continues with no end in sight.
8. Unemployment continues to rise, albeit far more slowly than at the beginning of 2009. Unemployment, underemployment, employment drop-outs, absence of entry-level jobs, low statistics on new business starts, and former members of workforce (particularly men) are harbingers for continued decline in median income combined with higher expenses for key components, particularly health care. The ability to pay anything other than rent is continuing its decline.
9. Concurrent with the increase in foreclosures and the decrease in housing prices, official figures put the number of homes underwater at 25%. Livinglies estimates that when you look at three components not included in official statistics, the figure rises to more than 45%. The components are selling discounts, selling expenses, and continued delusional asking prices that will soon crash when sellers realize that past high prices were an illusion, not a market fluctuation.
10. The number of people walking from their homes is increasing daily, including people who are not behind in their mortgages. This is increasing the inventory of homes that are not officially included in the pipeline because they are not sufficiently advanced in the delinquency or foreclosure process. This is a hidden second wave of pressure on housing prices and marketability.
11. With the entire economy on government life-support that is not completely effective in preventing rises in homelessness and people requiring public assistance, the likelihood of severe social unrest and political upheaval increases month by month. Increasing risks of unrest prompted at least one Wall Street Bank to order enough firearms and ammunition to start an armory.
12. Modification of mortgages has been largely a sham.
13. Short-sales have been largely a sham.
14. Quiet titles in favor of homeowners are increasing at a slow pace as the sophistication of defenses improves on the side of financial services companies seeking free homes through foreclosures.
15. Legislative Intervention has been ineffective and indeed, misleading
16. Executive intervention has been virtually non-existent. The people who perpetrated this fraud not only have evaded prosecution, they maintain close relationships with the Obama administration.
17. Judicial intervention has been spotty and could be much better once people accept the complexity of securitization and the simplicity of STRATEGIES THAT WORK.
18. Legal profession , slow to start went from zero to 15 mph during 2009. Let’s hope they get to 60 mph during 2010.
19. Accounting profession, which has thus far stayed out of the process is expected to jump in on several fronts, including closer scrutiny of the published financial statements of public companies and financial institutions and the cottage industry of examining loan documents for compliance issues and violations of Federal and State lending laws.
20. Prospects for actual economic recovery affecting the average citizen are dim. While there has been considerable improvement from the point of risk we had reached at the end of 2008, the new President and Congress have yet to address essential reforms on joblessness, regulation of financial services (including insurance businesses permitted to write commitments without sufficient assets in reserve to assure the payment of the risk. The economic indicators have been undermined by the intentional fraud perpetrated upon the world economic and financial system. Thus the official figures are further than ever from revealing the truth about about our current status. Without key acceptance of these anomalies it is inconceivable that the economy will, in reality, improve during 2010.
21. Real inflation affecting everyday Americans has already started to rise as credit markets become increasingly remote from the prospective borrowers. Hyperinflation remains a risk although most of us were off on the timing because we underestimated the tenacious grip the dollar had on world commerce. While this assisted us in moving toward a softer landing, the probability that the dollar will continue to fall is still very high, thus making certain non-dollar denominated commodities more valuable. This phenomenon could affect housing prices in an upward direction if the trend continues. However the higher dollar prices will be offset by the fact that the cheaper dollars are required in greater quantities to buy anything. Thus the home prices might rise from $125,000 to $150,000 but the price of a loaf of bread will also be higher by 20%.
22. GDP has been skewed away from including econometrics for actual work performed in the home unless money changes hands. Societal values have thus depreciated the value of child-rearing and stable homes. The results have been catastrophic in education, crime, technological innovation and policy making. While GDP figures are officially announced as moving higher, the country continues to move further into a depression. No actual increase in GDP has occurred for many years, unless the declining areas of the society are excluded from what is counted.
23. The stock market is vastly overvalued again based upon vaporous forward earnings estimates and completely arbitrary price earnings ratios used by analysts. The vapor created by a 1000% increase in money supply caused by deregulation of the private financial institutions together with the illusion of profits created by these institutions trading between themselves has resulted in an increase from 16% to 45% of GDP activity. This figure is impossible to be real. As long as it is accepted as real or even possible, public figures, appointed and elected will base policy decisions on the desires of what is currently seen as the main driver of the U.S. economy. The balance of wealth will continue to move toward the levels of revolutionary France or the American colonies.
24. Perceptible increases in savings and consumer resistance to retail impulse buying bodes well for the long-term prospects of the country. As the savings class becomes more savvy and more wealthy, they will, like their counterparts in the upper echelons of government commence exercising their power in the marketplace and in the voting booth.

Fabrication of Documents: MERS GAP Illuminated

23 Dec

Posted on July 30, 2009 by livinglies

Another example of why a TILA audit is grossly inadequate. A forensic audit is required covering all bases. Although dated, this article picks up on a continuing theme that demonstrates the title defect, the questionable conduct of pretender lenders and the defects in the foreclosure process when you let companies with big brand names bluff the system. The MERS GAP arises whether MERS is actually the nominee on the deed of trust (or mortgage deed) or not. It is an announcement that there will be off record transactions between parties who have no interest in the loan but who will assert such an interest once they have successfullly fabricated documents, had someone without authority sign them, on behalf of an entity with no real beneficial interest or other economic interest in the loan, and then frequently notarized by someone in another state. we have even seen documents notarized in blank and forged signatures of borrowers on loan closing papers.

NYTimes.com
Lender Tells Judge It ‘Recreated’ Letters
Tuesday January 8, 2008 11:38 pm ET
By GRETCHEN MORGENSON
The Countrywide Financial Corporation fabricated documents related to the bankruptcy case of a Pennsylvania homeowner, court records show, raising new questions about the business practices of the giant mortgage lender at the center of the subprime mess.The documents — three letters from Countrywide addressed to the homeowner — claimed that the borrower owed the company $4,700 because of discrepancies in escrow deductions. Countrywide’s local counsel described the letters to the court as “recreated,” raising concern from the federal bankruptcy judge overseeing the case, Thomas P. Agresti.

“These letters are a smoking gun that something is not right in Denmark,” Judge Agresti said in a Dec. 20 hearing in Pittsburgh.

The emergence of the fabricated documents comes as Countrywide confronts a rising tide of complaints from borrowers who claim that the company pushed them into risky loans. The matter in Pittsburgh is one of 300 bankruptcy cases in which Countrywide’s practices have come under scrutiny in western Pennsylvania.

Judge Agresti said that discovery should proceed so that those involved in the case, including the Chapter 13 trustee for the western district of Pennsylvania and the United States trustee, could determine how Countrywide’s systems might generate such documents.

A spokesman for the lender, Rick Simon, said: “It is not Countrywide’s policy to create or ‘fabricate’ any documents as evidence that they were sent if they had not been. We believe it will be shown in further discovery that the Countrywide bankruptcy technician who generated the documents at issue did so as an efficient way to convey the dates the escrow analyses were done and the calculations of the payments as a result of the analyses.”

The documents were generated in a case involving Sharon Diane Hill, a homeowner in Monroeville, Pa. Ms. Hill filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy protection in March 2001 to try to save her home from foreclosure.

After meeting her mortgage obligations under the 60-month bankruptcy plan, Ms. Hill’s case was discharged and officially closed on March 9, 2007. Countrywide, the servicer on her loan, did not object to the discharge; court records from that date show she was current on her mortgage.

But one month later, Ms. Hill received a notice of intention to foreclose from Countrywide, stating that she was in default and owed the company $4,166.

Court records show that the amount claimed by Countrywide was from the period during which Ms. Hill was making regular payments under the auspices of the bankruptcy court. They included “monthly charges” totaling $3,840 from November 2006 to April 2007, late charges of $128 and other charges of almost $200.

A lawyer representing Ms. Hill in her bankruptcy case, Kenneth Steidl, of Steidl and Steinberg in Pittsburgh, wrote Countrywide a few weeks later stating that Ms. Hill had been deemed current on her mortgage during the period in question. But in May, Countrywide sent Ms. Hill another notice stating that her loan was delinquent and demanding that she pay $4,715.58. Neither Mr. Steidl nor Julia Steidl, who has also represented Ms. Hill, returned phone calls seeking comment.

Justifying Ms. Hill’s arrears, Countrywide sent her lawyer copies of three letters on company letterhead addressed to the homeowner, as well as to Mr. Steidl and Ronda J. Winnecour, the Chapter 13 trustee for the western district of Pennsylvania.

The Countrywide letters were dated September 2003, October 2004 and March 2007 and showed changes in escrow requirements on Ms. Hill’s loan. “This letter is to advise you that the escrow requirement has changed per the escrow analysis completed today,” each letter began.

But Mr. Steidl told the court he had never received the letters. Furthermore, he noticed that his address on the first Countrywide letter was not the location of his office at the time, but an address he moved to later. Neither did the Chapter 13 trustee’s office have any record of receiving the letters, court records show.

When Mr. Steidl discussed this with Leslie E. Puida, Countrywide’s outside counsel on the case, he said Ms. Puida told him that the letters had been “recreated” by Countrywide to reflect the escrow discrepancies, the court transcript shows. During these discussions, Ms. Puida reduced the amount that Countrywide claimed Ms. Hill owed to $1,500 from $4,700.

Under questioning by the judge, Ms. Puida said that “a processor” at Countrywide had generated the letters to show how the escrow discrepancies arose. “They were not offered to prove that they had been sent,” Ms. Puida said. But she also said, under questioning from the court, that the letters did not carry a disclaimer indicating that they were not actual correspondence or that they had never been sent.

A Countrywide spokesman said that in bankruptcy cases, Countrywide’s automated systems are sometimes overridden, with technicians making manual adjustments “to comply with bankruptcy laws and the requirements in the jurisdiction in which a bankruptcy is pending.” Asked by Judge Agresti why Countrywide would go to the trouble of “creating a letter that was never sent,” Ms. Puida, its lawyer, said she did not know.

“I just, I can’t get over what I’m being told here about these recreations,” Judge Agresti said, “and what the purpose is or was and what was intended by them.”

Ms. Hill’s matter is one of 300 bankruptcy cases involving Countrywide that have come under scrutiny by Ms. Winnecour, the Chapter 13 trustee in Pittsburgh. On Oct. 9, she asked the court to sanction Countrywide, contending that the company had lost or destroyed more than $500,000 in checks paid by homeowners in bankruptcy from December 2005 to April 2007.

Ms. Winnecour said in court filings that she was concerned that even as Countrywide had misplaced or destroyed the checks, it levied charges on the borrowers, including late fees and legal costs. A spokesman in her office said she would not comment on the Hill case.

O. Max Gardner III, a lawyer in North Carolina who represents troubled borrowers, says that he routinely sees lenders pursue borrowers for additional money after their bankruptcies have been discharged and the courts have determined that the default has been cured and borrowers are current. Regarding the Hill matter, Mr. Gardner said: “The real problem in my mind when reading the transcript is that Countrywide’s lawyer could not explain how this happened.”

Filed under: CDO, CORRUPTION, Eviction, GTC | Honor, Investor, Mortgage, bubble, currency, foreclosure, securities fraud | Tagged: borrower, countrywide, disclosure, foreclosure defense, foreclosure offense, fraud, rescission, RESPA, TILA audit, trustee
« Lucrative Fees May Deter Efforts to Alter Loans

The lawyer is not competend to testify

5 Oct

If the lawyer is not a competent witness with personal knowledge, then he should shut up and sit down.

So you sent a QWR and you know the loan is securitized. The orignating lender says talk to the servicer and the servicer declines to answer all the questions because they didn’t originate the loan. Or you are in court and the lawyer is trying to finesse his way past basic rules of evidence and due process by making representations to the Judge as an officer of the court.

He’s lying of course and if you let it go unchallenged, you will lose the case. Basically opposing counsel is saying “trust me Judge I wouldn’t say it if it wasn’t so.” And your answer is that the lawyer is not a witness, that you don’t trust the lawyer or what he has to say, that if he is a witness he should be sworn in and subject to cross examaintion and if he is not a witness you are entitled to be confronted with a real witness with real testimony based upon real knowledge.

First Questions: When did you first learn of this case? What personal knowledge do you have concerning the payments received from the homeowner or third parties? What personal knowledge do you have as to who providing the actual cash from which the subject loan was funded?

Only when pressed relentlessly by the homeowner, the servicer comes up with a more and more restrictive answer as to what role they play. But they always start with don’t worry about a thing we control everything. Not true. Then later after you thought you worked out a modification they tell the deal is off because the investor declined. The investor is and always was the lender. That is the bottom line and any representation to the contrary is a lie and a fraud upon the court.

So whoever you sent the QWR to, always disclaims your right to ask, or tells you the name of the investor (i.e., your lender) is confidential, or that they have authority (but they won’t show it to you). That doesn’t seem to be a lender, does it? In fact they disclaim even knowing enough to answer your questions.

So AFTER THEY SERVE YOU with something file a motion to compel an immediate full answer to your QWR since under TILA service on the servicer is the same as service on the lender. You argue that everyone seems to be claiming rights to be paid under the original obligation, everyone seems to be claiming the right to enforce the note and mortgage, but nobody is willing to state unequivocally that they are the lender.

You are stuck in the position of being unable to seek modification under federal and State rules, unable to sell the property because you don’t know who can sign a satisfaction of mortgage or a release and reconveyance, unable to do a short-sale, and unable to refinance — all because they won’t give a simple answer to a simple question: who is the lender and what is the balance claimed by the real lender on the obligation? At this point you don’t even know that any of the real lenders wish to make a claim.

This is probably because they received TARP funds and insurance proceeds on defaults of pools that they had purchased multiple insurance policies (credit default swaps). But whether they are paid by someone who acquired rights of subrogation or they were not paid, you have a right to a FULL accounting and to know who they are and whether they received any third party money. If they were paid in part or otherwise sold their interest, then you have multiple additional unknown parties.

The reason is simple. They are not the lender and they know it. The lender is a group of investors who funded the transaction with Petitioner/Homeowner and others who purchased similar financial products from the same group of participants in the securitization chain relating to the subject loan.

The people currently in court do not include all the real parties in interest for you to make claims against the lender. Cite to the Massachusetts case where Wells Fargo and its lawyer were subject to an $850,000 sanction for misrepresenting its status to the court.

It is not enough for them to bluff their way by saying that they have already answered the interrogatories. When they lost and it came time to allocate damages and attorneys fees, Wells suddenly said they were NOT the lender, beneficiary or current holder and that therefore the damages and attorneys fees should be assessed against the real lender — who was not a party to the pending litigation and whom they refused to disclose along with their misrepresentation that they were the true lender.

It is not enough that the lawyer makes a representation to the court as an officer of the court. That is not how evidence works. If the lawyer wants to represent facts, then he/she should be sworn in and be subject to (1) voir dire to establish that he/she is opposing counsel that it came from some company.

The witness must be a competent witness who takes an oath, has personal knowledge regarding the content of the document, states that personal knowledge and whose testimony conforms to what is on the document.

There is no such thing as foundation without a witness. There is no such thing as foundation without a competent witness. So if the lawyer tries to finesse the subject by making blanket representations to the court(e.g. the property is “underwater” by $xxx,xxx and we need a lift of stay…yet, there is no certified appraisal entered into evidence with a certified appraiser that can be cross examined…just a statement from opposing counsel) point to Wells, or even point to other inconsistencies between what counsel has represented and what now appears to be the truth, and demand an evidentiary hearing. If the lawyer is not a competent witness with personal knowledge, then he should shut up and sit down.

File a motion to extend time to file adversary proceeding(in BK situation), answer, affirmative defenses and counterclaim UNTIL YOU GET A FULL AND COMPLETE ANSWER TO YOUR QWR so you can determine the real parties in interest and serve them with process. Otherwise, we will have a partial result wherein the real owner of the loan can and will claim damages and injunctive relief probably against all the current parties to this action including the Homeowner.

In short, the opposing counsel cannot just make statements of “fact” and have them accepted by the court as “fact” if they don’t pass the sniff test of real evidence corroborated by a competent witness. …and with every pleading ask for an evidentiary hearing and attorneys fees. Follow rule 11 procedure in Federal Court or the state law counterpart so you can get them later.

SB 94 and its interferance with the practice

5 Sep

CA SB 94 on Lawyers & Loan Modifications Passes Assembly… 62-10

The California Assembly has passed Senate Bill 94, a bill that seeks to protect homeowners from loan modification scammers, but could end up having the unintended consequence of eliminating a homeowner’s ability to retain an attorney to help them save their home from foreclosure.

The bill, which has an “urgency clause” attached to it, now must pass the State Senate, and if passed, could be signed by the Governor on October 11th, and go into effect immediately thereafter.

SB 94’s author is California State Senator Ron Calderon, the Chair of the Senate Banking Committee, which shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to anyone familiar with the bigger picture. Sen. Calderon, while acknowledging that fee-for-service providers can provide valuable services to homeowners at risk of foreclosure, authored SB 94 to ensure that providers of these services are not compensated until the contracted services have been performed.

SB 94 prevents companies, individuals… and even attorneys… from receiving fees or any other form of compensation until after the contracted services have been rendered. The bill will now go to the Democratic controlled Senate where it is expected to pass.

Supporters of the bill say that the state is literally teeming with con artists who take advantage of homeowners desperate to save their homes from foreclosure by charging hefty fees up front and then failing to deliver anything of value in return. They say that by making it illegal to charge up front fees, they will be protecting consumers from being scammed.

While there’s no question that there have been some unscrupulous people that have taken advantage of homeowners in distress, the number of these scammers is unclear. Now that we’ve learned that lenders and servicers have only modified an average of 9% of qualified mortgages under the Obama plan, it’s hard to tell which companies were scamming and which were made to look like scams by the servicers and lenders who failed to live up to their agreement with the federal government.

In fact, ever since it’s come to light that mortgage servicers have been sued hundreds of times, that they continue to violate the HAMP provisions, that they foreclose when they’re not supposed to, charge up front fees for modifications, require homeowners to sign waivers, and so much more, who can be sure who the scammers really are. Bank of America, for example, got the worst grade of any bank on the President’s report card listing, modifying only 4% of the eligible mortgages since the plan began. We’ve given B of A something like $200 billion and they still claim that they’re having a hard time answering the phones over there, so who’s scamming who?

To make matters worse, and in the spirit of Y2K, the media has fanned the flames of irrationality with stories of people losing their homes as a result of someone failing to get their loan modified. The stories go something like this:

We gave them 1,000. They told us to stop making our mortgage payment. They promised us a principal reduction. We didn’t hear from them for months. And then we lost our house.

I am so sure. Can that even happen? I own a house or two. Walk me through how that happened again, because I absolutely guarantee you… no way could those things happen to me and I end up losing my house over it. Not a chance in the world. I’m not saying I couldn’t lose a house, but it sure as heck would take a damn sight more than that to make it happen.

Depending on how you read the language in the bill, it may prevent licensed California attorneys from requiring a retainer in advance of services being rendered, and this could essentially eliminate a homeowner’s ability to hire a lawyer to help save their home.

Supporters, on the other hand, respond that homeowners will still be able to hire attorneys, but that the attorneys will now have to wait until after services have been rendered before being paid for their services. They say that attorneys, just like real estate agents and mortgage brokers, will now only be able to receive compensation after services have been rendered.

But, assuming they’re talking about at the end of the transaction, there are key differences. Real estate agents and mortgage brokers are paid OUT OF ESCROW at the end of a transaction. They don’t send clients a bill for their services after the property is sold.

Homeowners at risk of foreclosure are having trouble paying their bills and for the most part, their credit ratings have suffered as a result. If an attorney were to represent a homeowner seeking a loan modification, and then bill for his or her services after the loan was modified, the attorney would be nothing more than an unsecured creditor of a homeowner who’s only marginally credit worthy at best. If the homeowner didn’t pay the bill, the attorney would have no recourse other than to sue the homeowner in Small Claims Court where they would likely receive small payments over time if lucky.

Extending unsecured credit to homeowners that are already struggling to pay their bills, and then having to sue them in order to collect simply isn’t a business model that attorneys, or anyone else for that matter, are likely to embrace. In fact, the more than 50 California attorneys involved in loan modifications that I contacted to ask about this issue all confirmed that they would not represent homeowners on that basis.

One attorney, who asked not to be identified, said: “Getting a lender or servicer to agree to a loan modification takes months, sometimes six or nine months. If I worked on behalf of homeowners for six or nine months and then didn’t get paid by a number of them, it wouldn’t be very long before I’d have to close my doors. No lawyer is going to do that kind of work without any security and anyone who thinks they will, simply isn’t familiar with what’s involved.”

“I don’t think there’s any question that SB 94 will make it almost impossible for a homeowner to obtain legal representation related to loan modifications,” explained another attorney who also asked not to be identified. ”The banks have fought lawyers helping clients through the loan modification process every step of the way, so I’m not surprised they’ve pushed for this legislation to pass.”

Proponents of the legislation recite the all too familiar mantra about there being so many scammers out there that the state has no choice but to move to shut down any one offering to help homeowners secure loan modifications that charges a fee for the services. They point out that consumers can just call their banks directly, or that there are nonprofit organizations throughout the state that can help homeowners with loan modifications.

While the latter is certainly true, it’s only further evidence that there exists a group of people in positions of influence that are unfamiliar , or at the very least not adequately familiar with obtaining a loan modification through a nonprofit organization, and they’ve certainly never tried calling a bank directly.

The fact that there are nonprofit housing counselors available, and the degree to which they may or may not be able to assist a given homeowner, is irrelevant. Homeowners are well aware of the nonprofit options available. They are also aware that they can call their banks directly. From the President of the United States and and U.S. Attorney General to the community newspapers found in every small town in America, homeowners have heard the fairy tales about about these options, and they’ve tried them… over and over again, often times for many months. When they didn’t get the desired results, they hired a firm to help them.

Yet, even the State Bar of California is supporting SB 94, and even AB 764, a California Assembly variation on the theme, and one even more draconian because of its requirement that attorneys only be allowed to bill a client after a successful loan modification has been obtained. That means that an attorney would have to guarantee a homeowner that he or she would obtain a modification agreement from a lender or servicer or not get paid for trying. Absurd on so many levels. Frankly, if AB 764 passes, would the last one out of California please turn off the lights and bring the flag.

As of late July, the California State Bar said it was investigating 391 complaints against 141 attorneys, as opposed to nine investigations related to loan modifications in 2008. The Bar hasn’t read anywhere all of the complaints its received, but you don’t have to be a statistician to figure out that there’s more to the complaints that meets the eye. So far the State Bar has taken action against three attorneys and the Attorney General another four… so, let’s see… carry the 3… that’s 7 lawyers. Two or three more and they could have a softball team.

At the federal level they’re still reporting the same numbers they were last spring. Closed 11… sent 71 letters… blah, blah, blah… we’ve got a country of 300 million and at least 5 million are in trouble on their mortgage. The simple fact is, they’re going to have to come up with some serious numbers before I’m going to be scared of bumping into a scammer on every corner.

Looking Ahead…

California’s ALT-A and Option ARM mortgages are just beginning to re-set, causing payments to rise, and with almost half of the mortgages in California already underwater, these homeowners will be unable to refinance and foreclosures will increase as a result. Prime jumbo foreclosure rates are already up a mind blowing 634% as compared with January 2008 levels, according to LPS Applied Analytics.

Clearly, if SB 94 ends up reducing the number of legitimate firms available for homeowners to turn to, everyone involved in its passage is going to be retiring. While many sub-prime borrowers have suffered silently through this horror show of a housing crisis, the ALT-A and Option ARM borrowers are highly unlikely to slip quietly into the night.

There are a couple of things about the latest version of SB 94 that I found interesting:

1. It says that a lawyer can’t collect a fee or any other compensation before serivces have been delivered, but it doesn’t make clear whether attorneys can ask the client to deposit funds in the law firm’s trust account and then bill against thsoe funds as amounts are earned. Funds deposited in a law firm trust account remain the client’s funds, so they’re not a lawyer’s “fees or other compensation”. Those funds are there so that when the fees have been earned, the lawyer doesn’t have to hope his or her bill gets paid. Of course, it also says that an attorney can’t hold any security interest, but money in a trust account a client’s money, the attorney has no lien against it. All of this is a matter of interpretation, of course, so who knows.

2. While there used to be language in both the real estate and lawyer sections that prohibited breaking up services related to a loan modification, in the latest version all of the language related to breaking up services as applied to attorneys has been eliminated. It still applies to real estate licensed firms, but not to attorneys. This may be a good thing, as at least a lawyer could complete sections of the work involved as opposed to having to wait until the very end, which the way the banks have been handling things, could be nine months away.

3. The bill says nothing about the amounts that may be charged for services in connection with a loan modification. So, in the case of an attorney, that would seem to mean that… well, you can put one, two and three together from there.

4. Lawyers are not included in definition of foreclosure consultant. And there is a requirement that new language be inserted in contracts, along the lines of “You don’t have to pay anyone to get a loan modification… blah, blah, blah.” Like that will be news to any homeowner in America. I’ve spoken with hundreds and never ran across one who didn’t try it themselves before calling a lawyer. I realize the Attorney General doesn’t seem to know that, but look… he’s been busy.

Conclusion…

Will SB 94 actually stop con artists from taking advantage of homeowners in distress? Or will it end up only stopping reputable lawyers from helping homeowners, while foreclosures increase and our economy continues its deflationary free fall? Will the California State Bar ever finishing reading the complaints being received, and if they ever do, will they understand what they’ve read. Or is our destiny that the masses won’t understand what’s happening around them until it sucks them under as well.

I surely hope not. But for now, I’m just hoping people can still a hire an attorney next week to help save their homes, because if they can’t… the Bar is going to get a lot more letters from unhappy homeowners.

Brown Sues 21 Individuals and 14 Companies Who Ripped Off Homeowners Desperate for Mortgage Relief

17 Jul

News Release
July 15, 2009
For Immediate Release
Contact: (916) 324-5500
Print Version
Attachments

Los Angeles – As part of a massive federal-state crackdown on loan modification scams, Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr. at a press conference today announced the filing of legal action against 21 individuals and 14 companies who ripped off thousands of homeowners desperately seeking mortgage relief.

Brown is demanding millions in civil penalties, restitution for victims and permanent injunctions to keep the companies and defendants from offering mortgage-relief services.

“The loan modification industry is teeming with confidence men and charlatans, who rip off desperate homeowners facing foreclosure,” Brown said. “Despite firm promises and money-back guarantees, these scam artists pocketed thousands of dollars from each victim and didn’t provide an ounce of relief.”

Brown filed five lawsuits as part of “Operation Loan Lies,” a nationwide sweep of sham loan modification consultants, which he conducted with the Federal Trade Commission, the U.S. Attorney’s office and 22 other federal and state agencies. In total, 189 suits and orders to stop doing business were filed across the country.

Following the housing collapse, hundreds of loan modification and foreclosure-prevention companies have cropped up, charging thousands of dollars in upfront fees and claiming that they can reduce mortgage payments. Yet, loan modifications are rarely, if ever, obtained. Less than 1 percent of homeowners nationwide have received principal reductions of any kind.

Brown has been leading the fight against fraudulent loan modification companies. He has sought court orders to shut down several companies including First Gov and Foreclosure Freedom and has brought criminal charges and obtained lengthy prison sentences for deceptive loan modification consultants.

Brown’s office filed the following lawsuits in Orange County and U.S. District Court for the Central District (Los Angeles):

– U.S. Homeowners Assistance, based in Irvine;
– U.S. Foreclosure Relief Corp and its legal affiliate Adrian Pomery, based in the City of Orange;
– Home Relief Services, LLC, with offices in Irvine, Newport Beach and Anaheim, and its legal affiliate, the Diener Law Firm;
– RMR Group Loss Mitigation, LLC and its legal affiliates Shippey & Associates and Arthur Aldridge. RMR Group has offices in Newport Beach, City of Orange, Huntington Beach, Corona, and Fresno;
– and
– United First, Inc, and its lawyer affiliate Mitchell Roth, based in Los Angeles.

U.S. Homeowners Assistance
Brown on Monday sued U.S. Homeowners Assistance, and its executives — Hakimullah “Sean” Sarpas and Zulmai Nazarzai — for bilking dozens of homeowners out of thousands of dollars each.

U.S. Homeowners Assistance claimed to be a government agency with a 98 percent success rate in aiding homeowners. In reality, the company was not a government agency and was never certified as an approved housing counselor by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. None of U.S. Homeowners Assistance’s known victims received loan modifications despite paying upfront fees ranging from $1,200 to $3,500.

For example, in January 2008, one victim received a letter from her lender indicating that her monthly mortgage payment would increase from $2,300 to $3,500. Days later, she received an unsolicited phone call from U.S. Homeowners Assistance promising a 40 percent reduction in principal and a $2,000 reduction in her monthly payment. She paid $3500 upfront for U.S. Homeowners Assistance’s services.

At the end of April 2008, her lender informed her that her loan modification request had been denied and sent her the documents that U.S. Homeowners Assistance had filed on her behalf. After reviewing those documents, she discovered that U.S. Homeowners Assistance had forged her signature and falsified her financial information – including fabricating a lease agreement with a fictitious tenant.

When she confronted U.S. Homeowners Assistance, she was immediately disconnected and has not been able to reach the company.

Brown’s suit contends that U.S. Homeowners Assistance violated:
– California Business and Professions Code section 17500 by falsely stating they were a government agency and misleading homeowners by claiming a 98 percent success rate in obtaining loan modifications;

– California Business and Professions Code section 17200 by failing to perform services made in exchange for upfront fees;

– California Civil Code section 2945.4 for unlawfully collecting upfront fees for loan modification services;

– California Civil Code section 2945.45 for failing to register with the California Attorney General’s Office as foreclosure consultants; and

– California Penal Code section 487 for grand theft.

Brown is seeking $7.5 million in civil penalties, full restitution for victims, and a permanent injunction to keep the company and the defendants from offering foreclosure consultant services.

US Homeowners Assistance also did business as Statewide Financial Group, Inc., We Beat All Rates, and US Homeowners Preservation Center.

US Foreclosure Relief Corporation
Brown last week sued US Foreclosure Relief Corporation, H.E. Service Company, their executives — George Escalante and Cesar Lopez — as well as their legal affiliate Adrian Pomery for running a scam promising homeowners reductions in their principal and interest rates as low as 4 percent. Brown was joined in this suit by the Federal Trade Commission and the State of Missouri.

Using aggressive telemarketing tactics, the defendants solicited desperate homeowners and charged an upfront fee ranging from $1,800 to $2,800 for loan modification services. During one nine-month period alone, consumers paid defendants in excess of $4.4 million. Yet, in most instances, defendants failed to provide the mortgage-relief services. Once consumers paid the fee, the defendants avoided responding to consumers’ inquiries.

In response to a large number of consumer complaints, several government agencies directed the defendants to stop their illegal practices. Instead, they changed their business name and continued their operations – using six different business aliases in the past eight months alone.

Brown’s lawsuit alleges the companies and individuals violated:
– The National Do Not Call Registry, 16 C.F.R. section 310.4 and California Business and Professions Code section 17200 by telemarketing their services to persons on the registry;

– The National Do Not Call Registry, 16 C.F.R. section 310.8 and California Business and Professions Code section 17200 by telemarketing their services without paying the mandatory annual fee for access to telephone numbers within the area codes included in the registry;

– California Civil Code section 2945 et seq. and California Business and Professions Code section 17200 by demanding and collecting up-front fees prior to performing any services, failing to include statutory notices in their contracts, and failing to comply with other requirements imposed on mortgage foreclosure consultants;

– California Business and Professions Code sections 17200 and 17500 by representing that they would obtain home loan modifications for consumers but failing to do so in most instances; by representing that consumers must make further payments even though they had not performed any of the promised services; by representing that they have a high success rate and that they can obtain loan modification within no more than 60 days when in fact these representations were false; and by directing consumers to avoid contact with their lenders and to stop making loan payments causing some lenders to initiate foreclosure proceedings and causing damage to consumers’ credit records.

Victims of this scam include a father of four battling cancer, a small business owner, an elderly disabled couple, a sheriff whose income dropped due to city budget cuts and an Iraq-war veteran. None of these victims received the loan modification promised.

Brown is seeking unspecified civil penalties, full restitution for victims, and a permanent injunction to keep the company and the defendants from offering foreclosure consultant services.

The defendants also did business under other names including Lighthouse Services and California Foreclosure Specialists.

Home Relief Services, LLC
Brown Monday sued Home Relief Services, LLC., its executives Terence Green Sr. and Stefano Marrero, the Diener Law Firm and its principal attorney Christopher L. Diener for bilking thousands of homeowners out of thousands of dollars each.

Home Relief Services charged homeowners over $4,000 in upfront fees, promised to lower interest rates to 4 percent, convert adjustable-rate mortgages to low fixed-rate loans and reduce principal up to 50 percent within 30 to 60 days. None of the known victims received a modification with the assistance of the defendants.

In some cases, these companies also sought to be the lenders’ agent in the short-sale of their clients’ homes. In doing so, the defendants attempted to use their customers’ personal financial information for their own benefit.

Home Relief Services and the Diener Law Firm directed homeowners to stop contacting their lender because the defendants would act as their sole agent and negotiator.

Brown’s lawsuit contends that the defendants violated:
– California Business and Professions Code section 17500 by claiming a 95 percent success rate and promising consumers significant reductions in the principal balance of their mortgages;

– California Business and Professions Code section 17200 by failing to perform on promises made in exchange for upfront fees;

– California Civil Code section 2945.4 for unlawfully collecting upfront fees for loan modification services;

– California Business and Professions Code section 2945.3 by failing to include cancellation notices in their contracts;

– California Civil Code section 2945.45 by not registering with the Attorney General’s office as foreclosure consultants; and

– California Penal Code section 487 for grand theft.

Brown is seeking $10 million in civil penalties, full restitution for victims, and a permanent injunction to keep the company and the defendants from offering foreclosure consultant services.

Two other companies with the same management were also involved in the effort to deceive homeowners: Payment Relief Services, Inc. and Golden State Funding, Inc.

RMR Group Loss Mitigation Group
Brown Monday sued RMR Group Loss Mitigation and its executives Michael Scott Armendariz of Huntington Beach, Ruben Curiel of Lancaster, and Ricardo Haag of Corona; Living Water Lending, Inc.; and attorney Arthur Steven Aldridge of Westlake Village as well as the law firm of Shippey & Associates and its principal attorney Karla C. Shippey of Yorba Linda – for bilking over 500 victims out of nearly $1 million.

The company solicited homeowners through telephone calls and in-person home visits. Employees claimed a 98 percent success rate and a money-back guarantee. None of the known victims received any refunds or modifications with the assistance of defendants.

For example, in July 2008, a 71-year old victim learned his monthly mortgage payments would increase from $2,470 to $3,295. He paid $2,995, yet received no loan modification and no refund.

Additionally, RMR insisted that homeowners refrain from contacting their lenders because the defendants would act as their agents.

Brown’s suit contends that the defendants violated:

– California Business and Professions Code section 17500 by claiming a 98 percent success rate and promising consumers significant reductions in the principal balance of their mortgages;

– California Business and Professions Code section 17200 by failing to perform on promises made in exchange for upfront fees;

– California Civil Code section 2945.4 for unlawfully collecting upfront fees for loan modification services;

– California Business and Professions Code section 2945.3 by failing to include cancellation notices in their contracts;

– California Civil Code section 2945.45 by not registering with the Attorney General’s office as foreclosure consultants; and

– California Penal Code section 487 for grand theft.

Brown is seeking $7.5 million in civil penalties, full restitution for victims, and a permanent injunction to keep the company and the defendants from offering foreclosure consultant services.

United First, Inc.
On July 6, 2009, Brown sued a foreclosure consultant and an attorney — Paul Noe Jr. and Mitchell Roth – who conned 2,000 desperate homeowners into paying exorbitant fees for “phony lawsuits” to forestall foreclosure proceedings.

These lawsuits were filed and abandoned, even though homeowners were charged $1,800 in upfront fees, at least $1,200 per month and contingency fees of up to 80 percent of their home’s value.

Noe convinced more than 2,000 homeowners to sign “joint venture” agreements with his company, United First, and hire Roth to file suits claiming that the borrower’s loan was invalid because the mortgages had been sold so many times on Wall Street that the lender could not demonstrate who owned it. Similar suits in other states have never resulted in the elimination of the borrower’s mortgage debt.

After filing the lawsuits, Roth did virtually nothing to advance the cases. He often failed to make required court filings, respond to legal motions, comply with court deadlines, or appear at court hearings. Instead, Roth’s firm simply tried to extend the lawsuits as long as possible in order to collect additional monthly fees.

United First charged homeowners approximately $1,800 in upfront fees, plus at least $1,200 per month. If the case was settled, homeowners were required to pay 50 percent of the cash value of the settlement. For example, if United First won a $100,000 reduction of the mortgage debt, the homeowner would have to pay United First a fee of $50,000. If United First completely eliminated the homeowner’s debt, the homeowner would be required to pay the company 80 percent of the value of the home.

Brown’s lawsuit contends that Noe, Roth and United First:

– Violated California’s credit counseling and foreclosure consultant laws, Civil Code sections 1789 and 2945

– Inserted unconscionable terms in contracts;

– Engaged in improper running and capping, meaning that Roth improperly partnered with United First, Inc. and Noe, who were not lawyers, to generate business for his law firm violating California Business and Professions Code 6150; and

– Violated 17500 of the California Business and Professions Code.

Brown’s office is seeking $2 million in civil penalties, full restitution for victims, and a permanent injunction to keep the company and the defendants from offering foreclosure consultant services.

Tips for Homeowners
Brown’s office issued these tips for homeowners to avoid becoming a victim:

DON’T pay money to people who promise to work with your lender to modify your loan. It is unlawful for foreclosure consultants to collect money before (1) they give you a written contract describing the services they promise to provide and (2) they actually perform all the services described in the contract, such as negotiating new monthly payments or a new mortgage loan. However, an advance fee may be charged by an attorney, or by a real estate broker who has submitted the advance fee agreement to the Department of Real Estate, for review.

DO call your lender yourself. Your lender wants to hear from you, and will likely be much more willing to work directly with you than with a foreclosure consultant.

DON’T ignore letters from your lender. Consider contacting your lender yourself, many lenders are willing to work with homeowners who are behind on their payments.

DON’T transfer title or sell your house to a “foreclosure rescuer.” Fraudulent foreclosure consultants often promise that if homeowners transfer title, they may stay in the home as renters and buy their home back later. The foreclosure consultants claim that transfer is necessary so that someone with a better credit rating can obtain a new loan to prevent foreclosure. BEWARE! This is a common scheme so-called “rescuers” use to evict homeowners and steal all or most of the home’s equity.

DON’T pay your mortgage payments to someone other than your lender or loan servicer, even if he or she promises to pass the payment on. Fraudulent foreclosure consultants often keep the money for themselves.

DON’T sign any documents without reading them first. Many homeowners think that they are signing documents for a new loan to pay off the mortgage they are behind on. Later, they discover that they actually transferred ownership to the “rescuer.”

DO contact housing counselors approved by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), who may be able to help you for free. For a referral to a housing counselor near you, contact HUD at 1-800-569-4287 (TTY: 1-800-877-8339) or http://www.hud.gov.

If you believe you have been the victim of a mortgage-relief scam in California, please contact the Attorney General’s Public Inquiry Unit at http://ag.ca.gov/consumers/general.php.
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