HSBC v BUSET FLA 3rd DCA Remands for Final Judgment of Foreclosure

nuke going off
Sorry, Neil. Bad Idea.

A few months ago, attorney Neil Garfield wrote a glowing endorsement of the Florida 11th Circuit trial opinion in HSBC v Buset sending forth HSBC without day for a variety of reasons, none of them sensible. The Stop-Foreclosure blog echoed Garfield’s sentiment.  In due course the Florida 3rd District Court of Appeals overturned all of the holdings of the Buset opinion, and remanded the case back to trial court for a final judgment of foreclosure, holding the following:

  1. The trial court erred in accepting expert testimony on legal issues;
  2. The note is not merely a secured interest under UCC Article 9, but rather a negotiable instrument under UCC Article 3 and Florida law, in spite of its reference to the mortgage without incorporating it, and the definition of Note Holder does not destroy negotiability of the note;
  3. HSBC, as note holder and “PETE” (Person Entitled To Enforce the note under the UCC) or agent of the PETE, had standing to foreclose, irrespective of the incomplete or broken chain of ownership of the note during its securitization, and does not need to prove ownership or an unbroken chain of ownership of the note, AND the trial court erred by focusing on the irrelevant chain of ownership of the note instead of the relevant PETE;
  4.  Purported violations of the Pooling and Servicing Agreement (PSA) are irrelevant to the PETE status of the note holder and did not destroy HSBC’s standing to sue for foreclosure because borrowers are not parties to or beneficiaries of the PSA, and therefore borrowers may not raise PSA violations as defenses to foreclosure
  5. Assignment of the mortgage did not destroy HSBC’s standing to foreclose because the mortgage always follows the note and the PETE always has authority over the mortgage.
  6. The servicer’s business records were admissible, and the trial court erred by blocking admission of borrower payment history, default letters, and payoff printout.
  7. HSBC did not have unclean hands justifying dismissal

What does this prove?

Well, to begin with, borrowers facing foreclosure cannot trust attorneys like Bruce Jacobs and Neil Garfield to save them from foreclosure.  They will just make failing arguments, and waste a lot of money while leading their victim into the hungry jaws of foreclosure.

Second, it suggests that borrowers must find out how the creditor, servicer, lender, mortgage broker, loan officer, title company, or appraiser injured them in the loan transaction, and then GO ON THE ATTACK.

Where do we find such a strategy in action?

In foreclosure activities across the land every business day.  The borrower injures the creditor by breaching the loan agreement, so the creditor files a foreclosure lawsuit or takes the case to the trustee, and a foreclosure and sale of the property follow in due course.

Of course, creditors and their allies in the loan transaction make a host of errors in most loans, and if the borrower hires a competent examination firm like Mortgage Fraud Examiners to look for tortious conduct, legal errors, contract breaches, or violations of law, the examination will turn up injuries (typical of 95% of the loans in the past 15 years).  Some of the injuries might justify huge compensatory and punitive damages.

Don’t expect a foreclosure pretense defense attorney to look for causes of action in a loan transaction.  Such attorneys usually bilk their clients and withdraw from the case just in time for foreclosure.

Bob Hurt

Maven at MortgageAttack

 

 

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Garfield Wrong – Jesinoski Loses

Neil Garfield Wrong – Jesinoski Loses, Big Time

Jesinoski v. Countrywide Home Loans, Inc., 134 S. Ct. 1935 – Supreme Court 2014

JESINOSKI v. Countrywide Home Loans, Inc., Dist. Court, Minnesota 2016

Neil Garfield and his minions and fellow incompetent “Lawyers who get it” across America have ballyhooed the January 2015 SCOTUS decision that Larry and Cheryle Jesinoski did not have to sue for TILA rescission within the 3 year period of repose after loan consummation for violation of the Truth In Lending Act by failing to give the necessary disclosures of the right to rescind. Well, the case went back to the US 8th Circuit Court of Appeals and thence back to the Minnesota District Court for trial of the question of rescission for the Jesinoskis.

A few days ago Judge Donovan Frank issued the below Order dashing Jesinoskis’ ill-founded hopes. The order granted summary judgment to the creditor because Jesinoskis had signed an acknowledgment of receipt of the disclosures, and because they did not have the money to tender as required by TILA for a rescission. It also denied statutory damages because no TILA violations occurred, even thought Jesinoskis claimed they spent $800,000, mostly in lawyer fees, prosecuting their case all the way up to the US Supreme Court and back.

It looks to me like they stupidly heeded some nonsense Garfield or one of his foreclosure pretense defense attorney buddies “who get it” had written. Ever since the 2015 SCOTUS Jesinoski opinon, Garfield has insisted that every mortgage loan borrower should send a notice of TILA rescission to the creditor. He has insisted that the creditor must terminate the lien immediately upon receipt of notice of rescission, AND tender return of what the borrower paid. The Jesinoski opinion shows with crystal clarity why Garfield was dead wrong – many borrowers have no just reason to rescind, and creditors would be idiots to go through the rescission trouble without just cause.

 

WARNING to Home Loan Borrowers:

Listen to foreclosure pretense defense lawyers at your peril.  Most will not diligently look for injuries you have suffered in your loan (TILA violations is one kind, but many other kinds are typical), and most litigate ONLY to delay the ultimate loss of your home.  Both delay and non-diligence violate bar rules, so you should file a bar complaint against your attorney if he did that.  And you should get a competent professional to examine your loan transaction comprehensively to dig out the valid causes of action you have against the appraiser, mortgage broker, loan officer, title company, lender, servicer, creditor, or other scalawag involved in your loan process.  The mortgage exam will give you the evidence of your injuries to show the judge, AND it will give you the basis for suing your incompetent, negligent, scamming attorney for legal malpractice.

Note to Borrowers Hoping for a Favorable Yvanova Decision

 

Yvanova v. New Century Mortgage Corp., 365 P. 3d 845 – Cal: Supreme Court 2016

Forget about it.  The California Supreme Court ruled in the Yvanova case that the borrower has the right to challenge the right of a creditor to foreclose a loan that the borrower breached. Yvanova had lost her house to foreclosure, and sued for wrongful foreclosure because New Century, instead of its bankruptcy liquidation trustee, sold Yvanova’s loan to a securitization trust sponsor.  Yvanova claimed New Century did not have the right to do that.  Now her case heads back to trial court like Jesinoskis’ did.  She will get a similar result.  After she has blown all that money of her husband’s on pointless litigation, probably at Garfield’s urging, she will now learn the hard way that the foreclosure was legitimate because she has no right to challenge the validity of New Century’s sale of her loan because she was not a party to it, did not get injured by it, and had no beneficial interest in it.  She has told me that I don’t understand her case.  Oh, yes I do.  And she will lose it.

TRENDING:  Creditors make Foreclosed Borrowers Pay Legal Fees

I have seen several cases recently where the foreclosing creditor has asked the court to award legal fees, which the borrower must pay, for litigation related to the foreclosure.  Most borrowers do not put up a fight.  But look at the Jesinoski and Yvanova cases.  They have dragged on for years, stupidly.  Creditors have grown sick and tired of the frivolous efforts by borrowers to challenge righteous foreclosures.  Jesinoski said he spent nearly $800,000 on his legal fees.  I imagine he padded the bill, but I imagine the creditor padded theirs even more.  Maybe they will ask the court to award legal fees and costs.  In my opinion, they should.

I shudder to contemplate the damage Neil Garfield has done to borrowers across America by encouraging them to fight pointless battles (hiring him as a consultant or attorney, of course) to defeat foreclosure.  You cannot win with his ridiculous methods.

If you want to win, and I mean win MONEY or its equivalent, get your mortgage examined (call me for a recommendation), and go on the attack.
Get more info at http://mortgageattack.com.

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Bob Hurt, Writer

Bob Hurt

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JESINOSKI v. Countrywide Home Loans, Inc., Dist. Court, Minnesota 2016

Larry D. Jesinoski and Cheryle Jesinoski, individuals, Plaintiffs,
v.
Countrywide Home Loans, Inc., d/b/a America’s Wholesale Lender, subsidiary of Bank of America N.A.; BAC Home Loans Servicing, LP, a subsidiary of Bank of America, N.A., a Texas Limited Partnership f/k/a Countrywide Home Loans Servicing, LP; Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Inc., a Delaware Corporation; and John and Jane Does 1-10, Defendants.

Civil No. 11-474 (DWF/FLN).United States District Court, D. Minnesota.

July 21, 2016.Larry D. Jesinoski, Plaintiff, represented by Bryan R. Battina, Trepanier MacGillis Battina, P.A. & Daniel P. H. Reiff, Reiff Law Office, PLLC.

Cheryle Jesinoski, Plaintiff, represented by Bryan R. Battina, Trepanier MacGillis Battina, P.A. & Daniel P. H. Reiff, Reiff Law Office, PLLC.

Countrywide Home Loans, Inc., Defendant, represented by Andre T. Hanson, Fulbright & Jaworski LLP, Joseph Mrkonich, Fulbright & Jaworski LLP, Ronn B. Kreps, Fulbright & Jaworski LLP & Sparrowleaf Dilts McGregor, Norton Rose Fulbright US LLP.

BAC Home Loans Servicing, LP, Defendant, represented by Andre T. Hanson, Fulbright & Jaworski LLP, Joseph Mrkonich, Fulbright & Jaworski LLP, Ronn B. Kreps, Fulbright & Jaworski LLP & Sparrowleaf Dilts McGregor, Norton Rose Fulbright US LLP.

Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Inc., Defendant, represented by Andre T. Hanson, Fulbright & Jaworski LLP, Joseph Mrkonich, Fulbright & Jaworski LLP, Ronn B. Kreps, Fulbright & Jaworski LLP & Sparrowleaf Dilts McGregor, Norton Rose Fulbright US LLP.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

DONOVAN W. FRANK, District Judge.

INTRODUCTION

This matter is before the Court on a Motion for Summary Judgment brought by Defendants Countrywide Home Loans, Inc. (“Countrywide”), Bank of America, N.A. (“BANA”) and Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Inc. (“MERS”) (together, “Defendants”) (Doc. No. 51).[1] For the reasons set forth below, the Court grants Defendants’ motion.

BACKGROUND

I. Factual Background

This “Factual Background” section reiterates, in large part, the “Background” section included in the Court’s April 19, 2012 Memorandum Opinion and Order. (Doc. No. 23.)

On February 23, 2007, Plaintiffs Larry Jesinoski and Cheryle Jesinoski (collectively, “Plaintiffs”) refinanced their home in Eagan, Minnesota, by borrowing $611,000 from Countrywide, a predecessor-in-interest of BANA. (Doc. No. 7 (“Am. Compl.”) ¶¶ 7, 15, 16, 17; Doc. No. 55 (“Hanson Decl.”) ¶ 5, Ex. D (“L. Jesinoski Dep.”) at 125.) MERS also gained a mortgage interest in the property. (Am. Compl. ¶ 25.) Plaintiffs used the loan to pay off existing loan obligations on the property and other consumer debts. (L. Jesinoski Dep. at 114-15; Hanson Decl. ¶ 6, Ex. E (“C. Jesinoski Dep.”) at 49-50; Am. Compl. ¶ 22.)[2] The refinancing included an interest-only, adjustable-rate note. (L. Jesinoski Dep. at 137.) Plaintiffs wanted these terms because they intended to sell the property. (L. Jesinoski Dep. at 125-26, 137; C. Jesinoski Dep. at 38, 46-7.)

At the closing on February 23, 2007, Plaintiffs received and executed a Truth in Lending Act (“TILA”) Disclosure Statement and the Notice of Right to Cancel. (Doc. No. 56 (Jenkins Decl.) ¶¶ 5, 6, Exs. C & D; L. Jesinoski Dep. at 61, 67, 159; C. Jesinoski Dep. at 30-33; Hanson Decl. ¶¶ 2-3, Exs. A & B.) By signing the Notice of Right to Cancel, each Plaintiff acknowledged the “receipt of two copies of NOTICE of RIGHT TO CANCEL and one copy of the Federal Truth in Lending Disclosure Statement.” (Jenkins Decl. ¶¶ 5, 6, Exs. C & D.) Per the Notice of Right to Cancel, Plaintiffs had until midnight on February 27, 2007, to rescind. (Id.) Plaintiffs did not exercise their right to cancel, and the loan funded.

In February 2010, Plaintiffs paid $3,000 to a company named Modify My Loan USA to help them modify the loan. (L. Jesinoski Dep. at 79-81; C. Jesinoski Dep. at 94-95.) The company turned out to be a scam, and Plaintiffs lost $3,000. (L. Jesinoski Dep. at 79-81.) Plaintiffs then sought modification assistance from Mark Heinzman of Financial Integrity, who originally referred Plaintiffs to Modify My Loan USA. (Id. at 86.) Plaintiffs contend that Heinzman reviewed their loan file and told them that certain disclosure statements were missing from the closing documents, which entitled Plaintiffs to rescind the loan. (Id. at 88-91.)[3] Since then, and in connection with this litigation, Heinzman submitted a declaration stating that he has no documents relating to Plaintiffs and does not recall Plaintiffs’ file. (Hanson Decl. ¶ 4, Ex. C (“Heinzman Decl.”) ¶ 4.)[4]

On February 23, 2010, Plaintiffs purported to rescind the loan by mailing a letter to “all known parties in interest.” (Am. Compl. ¶ 30; L. Jesinoski Dep., Ex. 8.) On March 16, 2010, BANA denied Plaintiffs’ request to rescind because Plaintiffs had been provided the required disclosures, as evidenced by the acknowledgments Plaintiffs signed. (Am. Compl. ¶ 32; L. Jesinoski Dep., Ex. 9.)

II. Procedural Background

On February 24, 2011, Plaintiffs filed the present action. (Doc. No. 1.) By agreement of the parties, Plaintiffs filed their Amended Complaint, in which Plaintiffs assert four causes of action: Count 1—Truth in Lending Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1601, et seq.; Count 2—Rescission of Security Interest; Count 3—Servicing a Mortgage Loan in Violation of Standards of Conduct, Minn. Stat. § 58.13; and Count 4—Plaintiffs’ Cause of Action under Minn. Stat. § 8.31. At the heart of all of Plaintiffs’ claims is their request that the Court declare the mortgage transaction rescinded and order statutory damages related to Defendants’ purported failure to rescind.

Plaintiffs do not dispute that they had an opportunity to review the loan documents before closing. (L. Jesinoski Dep. at 152-58; C. Jesinoski Dep. at 56.) Although Plaintiffs each admit to signing the acknowledgement of receipt of two copies of the Notice of Right to Cancel, they now contend that they did not each receive the correct number of copies as required by TILA’s implementing regulation, Regulation Z. (Am. Compl. ¶ 47 (citing C.F.R. §§ 226.17(b) & (d), 226.23(b)).)

Earlier in this litigation, Defendants moved for judgment on the pleadings based on TILA’s three-year statute of repose. In April 2012, the Court issued an order granting Defendants’ motion, finding that TILA required a plaintiff to file a lawsuit within the 3-year repose period, and that Plaintiffs had filed this lawsuit outside of that period. (Doc. No. 23 at 6.) The Eighth Circuit affirmed. Jesinoski v. Countrywide Home Loans, Inc., 729 F.3d 1092 (8th Cir. 2013). The United States Supreme Court reversed, holding that a borrower exercising a right to TILA rescission need only provide his lender written notice, rather than file suit, within the 3-year period.Jesinoski v. Countrywide Home Loans, Inc., 135 S. Ct. 790, 792 (2015). The Eighth Circuit then reversed and remanded the case for further proceedings. (Doc. No. 38.) After engaging in discovery, Defendants now move for summary judgment.

DISCUSSION

I. Summary Judgment Standard

Summary judgment is appropriate if the “movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). Courts must view the evidence and all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Weitz Co. v. Lloyd’s of London, 574 F.3d 885, 892 (8th Cir. 2009). However, “[s]ummary judgment procedure is properly regarded not as a disfavored procedural shortcut, but rather as an integral part of the Federal Rules as a whole, which are designed `to secure the just, speedy and inexpensive determination of every action.'” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 327 (1986) (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 1).

The moving party bears the burden of showing that there is no genuine issue of material fact and that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Enter. Bank v. Magna Bank of Mo., 92 F.3d 743, 747 (8th Cir. 1996). A party opposing a properly supported motion for summary judgment “must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 256 (1986); see also Krenik v. Cty. of Le Sueur, 47 F.3d 953, 957 (8th Cir. 1995).

II. TILA

Defendants move for summary judgment with respect to Plaintiffs’ claims, all of which stem from Defendants’ alleged violation of TILA—namely, failing to give Plaintiffs the required number of disclosures and rescission notices at the closing.

The purpose of TILA is “to assure a meaningful disclosure of credit terms so that the consumer will be able to compare more readily the various credit terms available to him and avoid the uninformed use of credit . . .” 15 U.S.C. § 1601(a). In transactions, like the one here, secured by a principal dwelling, TILA gives borrowers an unconditional three-day right to rescind. 15 U.S.C. § 1635(a); see also id. § 1641(c) (extending rescission to assignees). The three-day rescission period begins upon the consummation of the transaction or the delivery of the required rescission notices and disclosures, whichever occurs later. Id. § 1635(a). Required disclosures must be made to “each consumer whose ownership interest is or will be subject to the security interest” and must include two copies of a notice of the right to rescind. 12 C.F.R. § 226.23(a)-(b)(1). If the creditor fails to make the required disclosures or rescission notices, the borrower’s “right of rescission shall expire three years after the date of consummation of the transaction.” 15 U.S.C. § 1635(f); see 12 C.F.R. § 226.23(a)(3).

If a consumer acknowledges in writing that he or she received a required disclosure or notice, a rebuttable presumption of delivery is created:

Notwithstanding any rule of evidence, written acknowledgment of receipt of any disclosures required under this subchapter by a person to whom information, forms, and a statement is required to be given pursuant to this section does no more than create a rebuttable presumption of delivery thereof.

15 U.S.C. §1635(c).

A. Number of Disclosure Statements

Plaintiffs claim that Defendants violated TILA by failing to provide them with a sufficient number of copies of the right to rescind and the disclosure statement at the closing of the loan. (Am. Compl. ¶ 47.) Defendants assert that Plaintiffs’ claims (both TILA and derivative state-law claims) fail as a matter of law because Plaintiffs signed an express acknowledgement that they received all required disclosures at closing, and they cannot rebut the legally controlling presumption of proper delivery of those disclosures.

It is undisputed that at the closing, each Plaintiff signed an acknowledgement that each received two copies of the Notice of Right to Cancel. Plaintiffs argue, however, that no presumption of proper delivery is created here because Plaintiffs acknowledged the receipt of two copies total, not the required four (two for each of the Plaintiffs). In particular, both Larry Jesinoski and Cheryle Jesinoski assert that they “read the acknowledgment . . . to mean that both” Larry and Cheryle “acknowledge receiving two notices total, not four.” (Doc. No. 60 (“L. Jesinoski Decl.”) ¶ 3; Doc. No. 61 (“C. Jesinoski Decl.”) ¶ 3.) Thus, Plaintiffs argue that they read the word “each” to mean “together,” and therefore that they collectively acknowledged the receipt of only two copies.

The Court finds this argument unavailing. The language in the Notice is unambiguous and clearly states that “[t]he undersigned each acknowledge receipt of two copies of NOTICE of RIGHT TO CANCEL and one copy of the Federal Truth in Lending Disclosure Statement.” (Jenkins Decl. ¶¶ 5, 6, Exs. C & D (italics added).) Plaintiffs’ asserted interpretation is inconsistent with the language of the acknowledgment. The Court instead finds that this acknowledgement gives rise to a rebuttable presumption of proper delivery of two copies of the notice to each Plaintiff. See, e.g., Kieran v. Home Cap., Inc., Civ. No. 10-4418, 2015 WL 5123258, at *1, 3 (D. Minn. Sept. 1, 2015) (finding the creation of a rebuttable presumption of proper delivery where each borrower signed an acknowledgment stating that they each received a copy of the disclosure statement—”each of [t]he undersigned acknowledge receipt of a complete copy of this disclosure”).[5]

The only evidence provided by Plaintiffs to rebut the presumption of receipt is their testimony that they did not receive the correct number of documents. As noted inKieran, this Court has consistently held that statements merely contradicting a prior signature are insufficient to overcome the presumption. Kieran, 2015 WL 5123258, at *3-4 (citing Gomez v. Market Home Mortg., LLC, Civ. No. 12-153, 2012 WL 1517260, at *3 (D. Minn. April 30, 2012) (agreeing with “the majority of courts that mere testimony to the contrary is insufficient to rebut the statutory presumption of proper delivery”)); see also Lee, 692 F.3d at 451 (explaining that a notice signed by both borrowers stating “[t]he undersigned each acknowledge receipt of two copies of [notice]” creates “a presumption of delivery that cannot be overcome without specific evidence demonstrating that the borrower did not receive the appropriate number of copies”); Golden v. Town & Country Credit, Civ. No. 02-3627, 2004 WL 229078, at *2 (D. Minn. Feb. 3, 2004) (finding deposition testimony insufficient to overcome presumption); Gaona v. Town & Country Credit, Civ. No. 01-44, 2001 WL 1640100, at *3 (D. Minn. Nov. 20, 2001)) (“[A]n allegation that the notices are now not contained in the closing folder is insufficient to rebut the presumption.”), aff’d in part, rev’d in part, 324 F.3d 1050 (8th Cir. 2003).

Plaintiffs, however, contend that their testimony is sufficient to rebut the presumption and create a factual issue for trial. Plaintiffs rely primarily on the Eighth Circuit’s decision in Bank of North America v. Peterson, 746 F.3d 357, 361 (8th Cir. 2014),cert. granted, judgment vacated, 135 S. Ct. 1153 (2015), and opinion vacated in part, reinstated in part, 782 F.3d 1049 (8th Cir. 2015). In Peterson, the plaintiffs acknowledged that they signed the TILA disclosure and rescission notice at their loan closing, but later submitted affidavit testimony that they had not received their TILA disclosure statements at closing. Peterson, 764 F.3d at 361. The Eighth Circuit determined that this testimony was sufficient to overcome the presumption of proper delivery. Id. The facts of this case, however, are distinguishable from those inPeterson. In particular, the plaintiffs in Peterson testified that at the closing, the agent took the documents after they had signed them and did not give them any copies. Id.Here, it is undisputed that Plaintiffs left with copies of their closing documents. (L. Jesinoski Dep. at 94-95.) In addition, Plaintiffs did not testify unequivocally that they did not each receive two copies of the rescission notice. Instead, they have testified that they do not know what they received. (See, e.g., id. at 161.) Moreover, Cheryle Jesinoski testified that she did not look through the closing documents at the time of closing, and therefore cannot attest to whether the required notices were included. (C. Jesinoski Dep. at 85.)[6]

Based on the evidence in the record, the Court determines that the facts of this case are more line with cases that have found that self-serving assertions of non-delivery do not defeat the presumption. Indeed, the Court agrees with the reasoning in Kieran,which granted summary judgment in favor of defendants under similar facts, and which was decided after the Eighth Circuit issued its decision in Peterson.Accordingly, Plaintiffs have not overcome the rebuttable presumption of proper delivery of TILA notices, and Defendants’ motion for summary judgment is granted as to the Plaintiffs’ TILA claims.

B. Ability to Tender

Defendants also argue that Plaintiffs’ claims fails as a matter of law on a second independent basis—Plaintiffs’ admission that they do not have the present ability to tender the amount of the loan proceeds. Rescission under TILA is conditioned on repayment of the amounts advanced by the lender. See Yamamoto v. Bank of N.Y.,329 F.3d 1167, 1170 (9th Cir. 2003). This Court has concluded that it is appropriate to dismiss rescission claims under TILA at the pleading stage based on a plaintiff’s failure to allege an ability to tender loan proceeds. See, e.g., Franz v. BAC Home Loans Servicing, LP, Civ. No. 10-2025, 2011 WL 846835, at *3 (D. Minn. Mar. 8, 2011); Hintz v. JP Morgan Chase Bank, Civ. No. 10-119, 2010 WL 4220486, at *4 (D. Minn. Oct. 20, 2010). In addition, courts have granted summary judgment in favor of defendants where the evidence shows that a TILA plaintiff cannot demonstrate an ability to tender the amount borrowed. See, e.g., Am. Mortg. Network, Inc. v. Shelton,486 F.3d 815, 822 (4th Cir. 2007) (affirming grant of summary judgment for defendants on TILA rescission claim “given the appellants’ inability to tender payment of the loan amount”); Taylor v. Deutsche Bank Nat’l Trust Co., Civ. No. 10-149, 2010 WL 4103305, at *5 (E.D. Va. Oct. 18, 2010) (granting summary judgment on TILA rescission claim where plaintiff could not show ability to tender funds aside from selling the house “as a last resort”).

Plaintiffs argue that the Supreme Court in Jesinoski eliminated tender as a requirement for rescission under TILA. The Court disagrees. In Jesinoski, the Supreme Court reached the narrow issue of whether Plaintiffs had to file a lawsuit to enforce a rescission under 15 U.S.C. § 1635, or merely deliver a rescission notice, within three years of the loan transaction. Jesinoski, 135 S. Ct. at 792-93. The Supreme Court determined that a borrower need only provide written notice to a lender in order to exercise a right to rescind. Id. The Court discerns nothing in the Supreme Court’s opinion that would override TILA’s tender requirement. Specifically, under 15 U.S.C. § 1635(b), a borrower must at some point tender the loan proceeds to the lender.[7] Plaintiffs testified that they do not presently have the ability to tender back the loan proceeds. (L. Jesinoski Dep. at 54, 202; C. Jesinoski Dep. at 118-119.) Because Plaintiffs have failed to point to evidence creating a genuine issue of fact that they could tender the unpaid balance of the loan in the event the Court granted them rescission, their TILA rescission claim fails as a matter of law on this additional ground.[8]

Plaintiffs argue that if the Court conditions rescission on Plaintiffs’ tender, the amount of tender would be exceeded, and therefore eliminated, by Plaintiffs’ damages. In particular, Plaintiffs claim over $800,000 in damages (namely, attorney fees), and contend that this amount would negate any amount tendered. Plaintiffs, however, have not cited to any legal authority that would allow Plaintiffs to rely on the potential recovery of fees to satisfy their tender obligation. Moreover, Plaintiffs’ argument presumes that they will prevail on their TILA claims, a presumption that this Order forecloses.

C. Damages

Next, Defendants argue that Plaintiffs are not entitled to TILA statutory damages allegedly flowing from Defendants’ decision not to rescind because there was no TILA violation in the first instance. Plaintiffs argue that their damages claim is separate and distinct from their TILA rescission claim.

For the reasons discussed above, Plaintiffs’ TILA claim fails as a matter of law. Without a TILA violation, Plaintiffs cannot recover statutory damages based Defendants refusal to rescind the loan.

D. State-law Claims

Plaintiffs’ state-law claims under Minn. Stat. § 58.13 and Minnesota’s Private Attorney General statute, Minn. Stat. § 8.31, are derivative of Plaintiffs’ TILA rescission claim. Thus, because Plaintiffs’ TILA claim fails as a matter law, so do their state-law claims.

ORDER

Based upon the foregoing, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that:

1. Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. No. [51]) is GRANTED.

2. Plaintiffs’ Amended Complaint (Doc. No. [7]) is DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE.

LET JUDGMENT BE ENTERED ACCORDINGLY.

[1] According to Defendants, Countrywide was acquired by BANA in 2008, and became BAC Home Loans Servicing, LP (“BACHLS”), and in July 2011, BACHLS merged with BANA. (Doc. No. 15 at 1 n.1.) Thus, the only two defendants in this case are BANA and MERS.

[2] Larry Jesinoski testified that he had been involved in about a half a dozen mortgage loan closings, at least three of which were refinancing loans, and that he is familiar with the loan closing process. (L. Jesinoski Dep. at 150-51.)

[3] Plaintiffs claim that upon leaving the loan closing they were given a copy of the closing documents, and then brought the documents straight home and placed them in L. Jesinoski’s unlocked file drawer, where they remained until they brought the documents to Heinzman.

[4] At oral argument, counsel for Plaintiffs requested leave to depose Heinzman in the event that the Court views his testimony as determinative. The Court denies the request for two reasons. First, it appears that Plaintiffs had ample opportunity to notice Heinzman’s deposition during the discovery period, but did not do so. Second, Heinzman’s testimony will not affect the outcome of the pending motion, and therefore, the request is moot.

[5] See also, e.g., Lee v. Countrywide Home Loans, Inc., 692 F.3d 442, 451 (6th Cir. 2012) (rebuttable presumption arose where each party signed an acknowledgement of receipt of two copies);Hendricksen v. Countrywide Home Loans, Civ. No. 09-82, 2010 WL 2553589, at *4 (W.D. Va. June 24, 2010) (rebuttable presumption of delivery of two copies of TILA disclosure arose where plaintiffs each signed disclosure stating “[t]he undersigned further acknowledge receipt of a copy of this Disclosure for keeping prior to consummation”).

[6] This case is also distinguishable from Stutzka v. McCarville, 420 F.3d 757, 762 (8th Cir. 2005), a case in which a borrower’s assertion of non-delivery was sufficient to overcome the statutory presumption. In Stutzka, the plaintiffs signed acknowledgements that they received required disclosures but left the closing without any documents. Stutzka, 420 F.3d at 776.

[7] TILA follows a statutorily prescribed sequence of events for rescission that specifically discusses the lender performing before the borrower. See § 1635(b). However, TILA also states that “[t]he procedures prescribed by this subsection shall apply except when otherwise ordered by a court.” Id.Considering the facts of this case, it is entirely appropriate to require Plaintiffs to tender the loan proceeds to Defendants before requiring Defendants to surrender their security interest in the loan.

[8] The Court acknowledges that there is disagreement in the District over whether a borrower asserting a rescission claim must tender, or allege an ability to tender, before seeking rescission. See, e.g. Tacheny v. M&I Marshall & Ilsley Bank, Civ. No. 10-2067, 2011 WL 1657877, at *4 (D. Minn. Apr. 29, 2011) (respectfully disagreeing with courts that have held that, in order to state a claim for rescission under TILA, a borrower must allege a present ability to tender). However, there is no dispute that to effect rescission under § 1635(b), a borrower must tender the loan proceeds. Here, the record demonstrates that Plaintiffs are unable to tender. Therefore, their rescission claim fails on summary judgment.

Neil Garfield Recommends Mortgage Exam for Troubled Borrowers

In his LivingLies Blog entry of 2016-04-27, Foreclosure Pretender Defender and Kool-Aid Drinker Neil Garfield wrote this, correct for a change:

“… you need a thorough analysis of everything that happened with your alleged loan and a careful examination of the pleadings if you are already in court. We readily understand the reluctance to spend more money on what has been a frustrating experience, but the ONLY way you can select a strategy that will or might get traction is by having an experienced eye do a thorough review and report.”

Garfield FAILS to tell his readers that he and his crew don’t have a clue about doing mortgage examinations.  They only do securitization and forensic loan audits, not full-bore examinations.  And because Garfield has spouted bogus legal theories for years,  THOUSANDS of people have lost their homes to foreclosure by relying upon his advice.

So DON’T rely upon it.  Instead, rely upon the court opinions that I have cited in the Articles section of this site.  They prove nearly everything Garfield promotes is a band-aid, at best.

The ONLY reliable place to get a comprehensive mortgage examination that finds all the ways a borrower got injured in the loan is at Mortgage Attack.

Go to the Contact page in the MortgageAttack.com site menu and explain your situation.  Then submit the form.  The Mortgage Attack Maven will show you exactly how to get a comprehensive mortgage examination AND how to use it for best results.

If you feel time pressure, call 727 669 5511 RIGHT NOW.

Distressed borrowers prove they can afford a comprehensive mortgage examination

Scammers of every stripe seem to crawl the nation looking for gullible home loan borrowers facing foreclosure, in order to sell them a worthless mortgage rescue service for gargantuan fees.

And when those borrowers finally learn about Mortgage Attack, they have the gall to whine that they don’t have the money to pay for the comprehensive mortgage examination they should have bought at the beginning of their trouble.

Why should borrowers invest in a mortgage exam?

Borrowers need the mortgage exam to prove injury and launch a Mortgage Attack against those who hurt them.   Injurious parties can include the lender, servicer, appraiser, mortgage broker, realtor, closer, title company, lawyer, and any others connected to your loan transaction.  Borrowers need the mortgage exam service because they lack the knowledge, experience, and skill to do it themselves.

And they need the exam because Mortgage Attack constitutes the ONLY demonstrably RELIABLE METHOD borrowers can use to collect monetary damages, set-offs from their debt, a loan balance reduction at favorable terms, or even the house free and clear.

You had the money to pay the scammers selling securitization audits, loan audits, and other useless services like the scams in the below press releases.  So DON’T tell me you don’t have the money for a proper mortgage exam that provides you with the proof that will convince a court to order a damages award to you for injuries you suffered.

Otherwise, without the mortgage exam integral to  the Mortgage Attack method, YOU WILL LOSE THE HOUSE, as you should, for breaching your note and failing to challenge the validity of the loan.

Here’s the proof that YOU have the money for the comprehensive mortgage examination that the Mortgage Attack Maven recommends.  AND, here’s the proof that people like you have the money to pay upward of $10,000 or more to SCAMMERS.

Remember that a DOZEN such scammers get away with their crimes for every scammer the government catches and prosecutes.  And people like you emptied their wallets for them.

So, DON’T TELL me that you can’t afford a mortgage exam.  Go GET the money and order your mortgage examination today.

PROOF 1:  scammer imprisoned for bilking 400 mortgage victims out of $15,000 each.

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Central District of California

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, October 5, 2015

Whittier Woman Sentenced to Nearly 6 Years in Prison for Having Duped 400 Victim Homeowners – Many Spanish Speakers – of Nearly $4 Million with False Promises of Eliminating Their Mortgages

LOS ANGELES—A Whittier woman was sentenced today to nearly 6 years in prison for her lead role in a scheme that falsely promised to eliminate mortgage debts for approximately 400 distressed homeowners who each paid a $15,000 fee, totaling nearly $4 million in victim payments. Instead of working on behalf of the homeowners, the woman simply sent worthless “Sovereign Citizen” paperwork to lenders—paperwork that did nothing to affect the mortgage of a single homeowner.

Maria Marcela Gonzalez, 45, was sentenced by Judge Stephen V. Wilson in United States District Court in Los Angeles, for two counts of making a false bankruptcy declaration.  In rejecting her request for a probationary sentence and imposing the 70-month sentence, Judge Wilson said that the defendant’s actions were “callous and in gross disregard of the law.”

Gonzalez, who pled guilty in July of this year, started the Crown Point Education Inc. scheme in early 2010 and operated from offices in Montebello.  She admitted in her plea agreement that she spoke at seminars to recruit distressed homeowners and salespersons in the Crown Point program and ran the day-to-day operations of the scheme. Many of the victims were primarily or exclusively Spanish speakers.

In her plea agreement, Gonzalez admitted that she and others promised distressed homeowners at these seminars that, in exchange for fees that were generally $15,000 per property, Crown Point would eliminate the homeowners’ mortgages within six to eight months through a secret process that involved sending packets of documents to lenders. Even though she told victims that she could eliminate their mortgage woes, Gonzalez admitted in her plea agreement that the process had never been successful. Gonzalez failed to tell distressed homeowners that earlier Crown Point clients had lost their houses to foreclosure and been evicted from their houses.

In the plea agreement, Gonzalez admitted that she worked with co-schemer Jude Lopez, who was also convicted and sentenced to a probationary term, and Ernesto Diaz, who was charged but failed to appear and is currently a fugitive.  Lopez admitted in his plea agreement that he filed bankruptcy documents in the names of Crown Point clients to delay foreclosure and eviction. Diaz admitted in his plea agreement that Crown Point filed many bankruptcy documents without the knowledge of the company’s clients and that signatures of debtors and notaries were forged on many documents filed with the bankruptcy court.

The claims made to distressed homeowners were based on discredited Sovereign Citizen claims that mortgages are invalid because the banks did not actually lend the money used to fund mortgages, and the notes were securitized.

The case against Gonzalez, Diaz, and Lopez was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

PROOF 2:  Scammer indicted for bilking 13 mortgage victims out of up to $8000 each for mortgage amelioration service.

PRESS RELEASE

Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation
Cincinnati Field Office
Special Agent in Charge Kathy A. Enstrom

Date: Wednesday, September 30, 2015
Contact: Craig Casserly
IRS – Criminal Investigation
401 N. Front Street
Columbus, Ohio 43215
(614) 744-3130
Craig.casserly@ci.irs.gov
CI Release #: CINFO-2015-35

COLUMBUS BUSINESSMAN INDICTED IN “MORTGAGE AMELIORATION” INVESTMENT FRAUD SCHEME

COLUMBUS, OHIO — A federal grand jury here has indicted Gary Jones, 52, of Columbus, Ohio, charging him with thirteen counts of mail fraud, eight counts of money laundering, and four counts of willfully failing to file a federal income tax return with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

Carter M. Stewart, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, and Kathy A. Enstrom, Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation, Cincinnati Field Office, announced the indictment returned today.

According to the indictment, between January 2010 and March 2012, Jones was the managing member of 3ARCK Capital Group, LLC, also d/b/a Three Arck Capital Group, LLC (hereinafter “3Arck”). Jones is alleged to have been the sole authorized signatory on several bank accounts for the benefit of 3Arck, which had a banking relationship with Fifth Third Bank, PNC Bank, and J.P. Morgan Chase Bank. In addition, Jones allegedly partnered with an individual in an investment company known as North American Realty Services Corporation, LLC (hereinafter “NARSCOR”).

It has been alleged that between May 2009 and September 2012, Jones, by himself, through his position at 3Arck, and through his partnership with NARSCOR, raised funds under false pretenses through a process called “mortgage amelioration.” Through “mortgage amelioration,” Jones represented that he could eliminate or modify mortgages held by banks, based on theories that the mortgages were invalid or illegal because the banks had no right to foreclose on the loans. Jones represented that, after a long process, the banks would acknowledge that the mortgages and/or foreclosures were not legitimate.

Jones allegedly represented that he could present claims to the banks and the courts on behalf of property owners, and that he could either force the banks to return properties that had already been repossessed through foreclosures, or that he could get restitution for property owners upon whom the foreclosures had occurred. Jones allegedly represented that the property owners could then either have their mortgages completely eliminated, or at the very least, modified with lower payments and a better term. In addition, Jones allegedly represented that those who had already lost their homes would be rewarded with monetary compensation or the return of bank-owned properties.

It has further been alleged that the property owners or investors could place a property into the “mortgage amelioration” program by paying an application fee of between $3,995 and $7,995. The fee was to be held in an escrow account and was represented to be 100% refundable, whether the process was successful or unsuccessful.

Allegedly, Jones represented that the only expenditures out of the escrow account were to be for incidentals necessary for filings with the courts and for the creation of a trust. Even if expenditures were made from funds in the escrow account, the fee was to be returned in full to the investor at the end of the process. Once the trust was created, Jones represented that he would “ameliorate” the mortgages on the properties through communications with the banks and the courts. After the mortgage had been “ameliorated,” the property owner, allegedly, could either buy the property back from the trust or walk away from the property.

It has been alleged that the property owners or investors either mailed or e-mailed their application and other documentation. The application fees were paid by mailing checks or by wire transfer to Jones, 3Arck, Jones’s partner at NARSCOR, or to NARSCOR. Jones represented to victims that he had completed numerous “mortgage amelioration” deals and had a 100% success rate; however, it has been alleged that no mortgages were ever successfully eliminated or reduced through the program. Also, despite representations that the refundable application fees would be kept in escrow accounts, it has been alleged that the money was deposited into bank accounts controlled by Jones and no application fees were ever refunded; rather, Jones used the homeowners’ and investors’ funds for personal use.

It has been alleged that Jones failed to file a federal income tax return with the IRS for the 2009-2012 income tax years, despite earning gross income in the amount of $280,340 in 2009; $1,090,304.54 in 2010; $880,791.12 in 2011; and $146,554.50 in 2012.

Mail fraud carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. Money laundering carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. Failing to file an income tax return with the IRS carries a maximum penalty of 1 year in prison and a fine of up to $100,000.

“Mr. Jones’s actions not only caused negative ramifications to those financially connected to him, but also the honest taxpayer when he committed significant tax fraud violations as detailed in the indictment,” said Kathy A. Enstrom, Special Agent in Charges, IRS Criminal Investigation, Cincinnati Field Office. “Honest and law abiding citizens are fed up with the likes of those who use deceit and fraud to line their pockets with other people’s money as well as skirt their tax obligations.”

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Jessica H. Kim and was investigated by special agents of IRS-Criminal Investigation.

An indictment merely contains allegations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless proven guilty in a court of law.

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PROOF 3:  USDC fines and sentences perps for $7 million Loan Mod Scam

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Central District of California

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, December 7, 2015

Operator of Inland Empire Loan Modification Scam that Targeted Distressed Homeowners Sentenced to 18 Years in Federal Prison

RIVERSIDE, California – The founder and co-owner of a Rancho Cucamonga business was sentenced today to 18 years in federal prison for orchestrating a scheme that offered bogus loan modification programs to thousands of financially distressed homeowners who lost more than $7 million when they paid for services that were never provided.

Andrea Ramirez, 47, of Rancho Cucamonga, was sentenced today by United States District Judge Virginia A. Phillips, who also ordered the defendant to pay $6,764,743 in restitution.

Ramirez was the organizer of a telemarketing operation known under a series of names – including 21st Century Legal Services, Inc. – that bilked more than 4,000 homeowners across the nation, many of whom lost their homes to foreclosure. Ramirez was sentenced today after pleading guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud.

“This fraudulent company purposely targeted homeowners who were extremely vulnerable because they were facing foreclosure,” said United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker. “Ramirez and her co-defendants made false promises to desperate homeowners, often took the last of their money and then abandoned them. Her contempt for her victims will put her in federal prison for nearly two decades.”

Previously in this case, the other co-owner of 21st Century – Christopher Paul George, 45, of Rancho Cucamonga, was sentenced by Judge Phillips to 20 years in federal prison.

A total of 11 defendants linked to 21st Century have been convicted of federal fraud charges as a result of an investigation conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation; IRS – Criminal Investigation; the United States Postal Inspection Service; the Office of the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (SIGTARP); and the Federal Housing Finance Agency, Office of Inspector General.

“As the ringleader in a scheme to dupe thousands of distressed homeowners out of their last dollar at the height of the financial crisis, Andrea Ramirez earned the next 18 years in federal prison, which she should use to reflect on her victims,” said Christy Goldsmith Romero, Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (SIGTARP).

During a 15-month period that began in the middle of 2008, Ramirez operated 21st Century, which defrauded financially distressed homeowners by making false promises and guarantees regarding 21stCentury’s ability to negotiate loan modifications for homeowners. Employees of 21st Century made numerous misrepresentations to victims during the course of the scheme, including falsely telling victims that 21st Century was operating a loan modification program sponsored by the United States government. Victims were generally instructed to stop communicating with their mortgage lenders and to cease making their mortgage payments.

21st Century employees contacted distressed homeowners through cold calls, newspaper ads and mailings. The company also controlled websites that advertised loan modification services. Once they contacted the distressed homeowners, 21st Century employees often falsely told clients that the company was operating through a federal government program, that they would be able to obtain new mortgages with specific interest rates and reduced payments, and that attorneys would negotiate loan modifications with their lenders. 21st Century employees regularly instructed financially distressed homeowners to cease making mortgage payments to their lenders and to cut off all contact with their lenders because they were being represented by 21st Century. On some occasions, 21stCentury employees told homeowners that 21st Century was using the fees paid by the homeowner to make mortgage payments, when Ramirez, George and their co-defendants simply were pocketing the homeowners’ money.

After federal authorities executed a search warrant at 21st Century, Ramirez relocated 21st Century’s offices, renamed the company and made it appear it was operating out of Las Vegas, Nevada.

“Fraudulent mortgage fraud schemes affect consumers at the most basic level, jeopardizing their ability to retain ownership of their homes,” said Robert Wemyss, Inspector in Charge of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service – Los Angeles Division. “The U.S. Postal Inspection Service will continue to investigate these crimes to protect consumers and our nation’s mail system from being used for illegal or dangerous purposes.”

Special Agent in Charge Erick Martinez of IRS-Criminal Investigation of the Los Angeles Field Office stated: “Ms. Ramirez took advantage of unsuspecting homeowners hoping to keep a roof over their heads.  Hopefully she will now understand that her irresponsible actions have real consequences.”

In addition to Ramirez and George, nine other defendants have been convicted for their roles in the 21st Century scam. They are:

•           Crystal Taiwana Buck, 40, of Long Beach, who persuaded numerous victims to pay fees to 21stCentury, was sentenced to five years in prison;

•           Albert DiRoberto, 62, of Fullerton, who handled both sales and marketing – which included making a commercial for 21st Century – was sentenced to five years in prison;

•           Yadira Garcia Padilla, 38, of Rancho Cucamonga – who, among other things, posted bogus positive reviews about 21st Century on the Internet – was sentenced to four years in prison;

•           Michael Bruce Bates, of Moreno Valley, was sentenced to one year and one day in prison;

•           Michael Lewis Parker, of Pomona, was sentenced to six years in prison;

•           Catalina Deleon, of Glendora, is scheduled to be sentenced on December 14;

•           Hamid Reza Shalviri, of Montebello, is scheduled to be sentenced on Thursday, December 10;

•           Mindy Sue Holt, of San Bernardino, was sentenced to 18 months in prison; and

•           Iris Melissa Pelayo, of Upland, was sentenced to four years in prison.

15-144
USAO – California, Central
Updated December 7, 2015
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PROOF 4:  Scammers Bilk 54 Mortgage Rescue victims out of $220,000

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Northern District of Illinois

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Three Defendants Indicted For Allegedly Swindling 54 Victims Of $220,000 In Fees In Mortgage “Rescue” Fraud Scheme

CHICAGO ― Three defendants who operated Washington National Trust, which was not licensed in Illinois as either a trust or a mortgage company, are facing federal fraud charges for allegedly swindling approximately $220,000 from at least 54 homeowners after falsely promising to save their homes from foreclosure and lower their monthly mortgage payments. The alleged mortgage “rescue” fraud scheme primarily preyed upon Hispanic victims in and around Aurora since late 2011.

One defendant, CARLOS RAYAS, 39, of Aurora, whose loan originator license was revoked by state regulators, was arrested today. He pleaded not guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge Sheila Finnegan and was released on his own recognizance. A status hearing was set for Jan. 10 in U.S. District Court.

Arrest warrants were issued for MELVIN T. BELL, 37, also known as “Alex Crown,” “Minister Bey,” “Sovereign King Bey,” “King Bey,” and “S.K. Bey,” and MONICA HERNANDEZ, 43, Rayas’ cousin and a former licensed real estate broker. Both Bell and Hernandez were last known to reside in Oswego.

Bell and Hernandez were each charged with four counts of mail fraud, and Rayas was charged with two counts of mail fraud, in an indictment that was returned last week by a federal grand jury and unsealed today. The indictment also seeks forfeiture of approximately $220,000.

According to the indictment, the defendants marketed the official-sounding Washington National Trust as a business providing a financial assistance program for homeowners that was operated and controlled by wealthy Native Americans and was exempt from state and federal laws. In exchange for fees ranging between $5,000 and $10,000 per property, the defendants claimed that Washington National Trust would lower the homeowners’ existing mortgage payments by half and defeat any foreclosure. All three defendants knew, however, that Washington National Trust was not licensed to conduct loan originations and modifications in Illinois and could not lower mortgage payments or defeat foreclosure.

Bell, Hernandez, and Rayas allegedly falsely promised that Washington National Trust would pay off and acquire homeowners’ mortgages, and once that happened, the homeowners would owe only half the original mortgage to Washington National Trust, due over five years and free of any interest and property taxes. To effect this so-called “mortgage rescue,” the defendants had homeowners sign documents and deeds purportedly appointing Washington National Trust as trustee and transferring title of their homes to the business, the indictment alleges. As part of the scheme, the defendants recorded fraudulent documents and deeds in Kane, Kendall and other counties to delay foreclosure and to make it appear that their business was the homeowners’ trustee, the charges add.

The indictment also alleges that the defendants falsely promised that the fees paid by homeowners would go toward reducing their principal balance after Washington National Trust acquired the loan from the lender. Instead, Bell and Hernandez used the fees to pay for marketing and operating the business, including making payments to Rayas and others who referred homeowners to them, as well as for various personal expenses, including meals, travel, and merchandise.

All three defendants allegedly concealed from homeowners that the Kane County Circuit Court had issued orders in September and October 2012 barring Washington National Trust from further filing and recording deeds. They also allegedly concealed that the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation had issued orders in December 2012 and February 2013, first, to Washington National Trust to stop using the word “trust” and, later, to all three defendants to stop engaging in unlawful residential mortgage activity.

The charges were announced by Zachary T. Fardon, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, and Tony Gómez, Inspector-in-Charge of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service in Chicago. The Illinois State Police also participated in the investigation.

The government is being represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jessica Romero.

Each count of mail fraud carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, or an alternative fine totaling twice the gross gain or twice the loss, whichever is greater, and restitution is mandatory. If convicted, the Court must impose a reasonable sentence under federal sentencing statutes and the advisory United States Sentencing Guidelines.

An indictment contains only charges and is not evidence of guilt. The defendants are presumed innocent and are entitled to a fair trial at which the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Indictment

USAO – Illinois, Northern
Updated July 27, 2015
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PROOF 5:  Mortgage Rescue scammers give up $400,000 in compensation for cheating borrowers

A.G. Schneiderman Reaches $400,000 Settlement With Alleged Participants In Mortgage Rescue Scam That Stole Deeds From Long Island Homeowners

Sale-Leaseback Fraud, Perpetrated At Height of Housing Crash on Long Island, Cheated 14 Families Out Of Their Homes’ Deeds and Equity

Settlements Will Return $400,000 To Families Cheated By Scam; Office of the Attorney General Also Working To Return Stolen Deeds To Homeowners

Schneiderman: This Shameful Scam Re-Victimized Families Already Suffering From The Collapse Of The Housing Market

NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced that he had reached settlement agreements with a disbarred attorney, an attorney, and a mortgage broker, who along with others allegedly operated a mortgage foreclosure rescue scam on Long Island that robbed 14 Long Island homeowners out of their homes’ deeds and equity. The mortgage foreclosure rescue scam involved multiple alleged partners: Empire Property Solutions and its principals, John Rutigliano and Kenneth Kiefer, located in Medford and Bethpage, NY; Zornberg & Hirsch law firm and its married principals, disbarred attorney Barry Zornberg and Nanci Hirsch, located in Hauppauge, NY; H&Z Abstract, a title company owned by Hirsch, located in Hauppauge, NY; Cory Covert, an attorney licensed to practice in New York, located in Hauppauge, NY; and mortgage broker Leonie Neufville (d/b/a Neufville Mortgage, located in Baldwin, NY).

Under the settlements, Barry Zornberg agreed to pay $340,000; Cory Covert agreed to pay $67,500.00; and Leonie Neufville agreed to pay $10,000.00 and accept a five-year ban on acting as a broker. The Attorney General has received a default judgment against Rutigliano and Kiefer, which will be converted into a money judgment. All of these funds will be used to compensate victims of the “sale-leaseback” fraud, which was perpetrated at the height of the housing crash on Long Island.

“This shameful scam re-victimized families already suffering from the collapse of the housing market,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “My office has the resources to connect families in danger of foreclosure with qualified housing counselors and lawyers. We’ve already helped more than 50,000 families across the state, but our work will not end until we’ve guaranteed that every family in need can get the help they deserve.”

Under this mortgage rescue scam, Empire Property Solutions advertised in local papers, offering services to help families save their homes from foreclosure by refinancing their mortgages and repairing their credit scores. The company’s principals, Rutigliano and Kiefer, encouraged homeowners to turn over the titles to them through “sale-leaseback” agreements. Homeowners were told they could stay in the properties, pay rent, build up their credit, and then, after a year, that title in the home would revert back to them. But the Attorney General’s investigation found that Rutigliano and Kiefer failed to make good on their promises to use the homeowners’ payments to pay down their mortgages. In the end, the homeowners faced foreclosure and eviction.

The attorneys represented buyers, sellers, and banks at various closings of these sale-leaseback transactions, which took place at the office of Zornberg & Hirsch. But the attorneys allegedly failed to represent the interests of the homeowners, and were instead integral to inducing them to enter into the fraudulent transactions with Empire Property Solutions. As alleged, the scam also relied on the participation of a mortgage broker, Leonie Neufville, who prepared loan applications that were integral to the effort to fraudulently obtain new mortgages.

After filing a civil complaint, Attorney General Schneiderman reached multiple settlements that will return money to the victims of this fraudulent mortgage rescue scheme.

The settlement with Zornberg, Nanci Hirsch, H&Z Abstact, and Zornberg & Hirsch law firm requires Zornberg to pay a total of $340,000. The settlement with the other attorney, Cory Covert, requires him to pay $67,500. The settlement with the mortgage broker, Leonie Neufville, bars her from practicing in the real estate industry for five years and requires her to pay $10,000.

Attorney General Schneiderman has also received a default judgment against Rutigliano and Kiefer, the principals of Empire Principal Solutions. Since Rutigliano has passed away, his estate is in probate, and the Attorney General is working to convert the default judgment against Rutigliano and Kiefer into a money judgment.

The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) is working with several of the victims to return their deeds to their rightful ownership. OAG is also actively helping another family purchase a new home with the restitution they will receive from the settlements.

One of the homeowners who will get her deed back is Rosalie Thomas, a licensed nurse practitioner from Elmont, NY. After receiving a foreclosure notice in 2006, Thomas called Empire Property Solutions for help. Empire Property Solutions claimed Thomas could avoid foreclosure by signing onto their payment plan, but she still received a foreclosure notice a year later after spending tens of thousands of dollars.

“This whole ordeal has been very scary and stressful,” said Rosalie Thomas. “My youngest son was born in the house that Empire Property Solutions tried to take away from me. It’s the only home he’s ever known. I’m looking forward to finally getting the deed back and finally putting this behind me.”

Ronald Lambre and Marie DiManche, Haitian immigrants who live in Medford, NY, are working with OAG to purchase a new home with money from the settlements. After seeing an ad in the newspaper, Ms. Dimanche, a certified nursing assistant, called Empire Property Solutions and set up a payment plan that was initially half of what she and her husband were paying on their mortgage. After a year, Empire Property Solutions tripled the monthly payments and threatened to evict Lambre and DiManche if they did not pay. Their family, which includes six children, left the home and has since moved three times. OAG came across their case after opening an investigation.

“There is no way to describe how you feel when your home is stolen,” said Marie DiManche. “I’m from Haiti, and it was my dream to own a house. How do you tell your kids you can’t get back what you lost? Thanks to these settlements, my family will finally have a chance to start over again.”

The federal government also brought a criminal investigation against the partners of this sale-leaseback fraud. The United States Attorney’s Office (USAO) indicted Rutigliano and Kiefer on charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. USAO also indicted Zornberg for lying to federal investigators about his role in the scam.

The indictment has been dismissed against Rutigliano due to his death. Kiefer pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing. Zornberg pleaded guilty to perjury as part of a plea deal and has agreed to pay approximately $1.3 million in compensation to the victims of the fraud. Zornberg is awaiting final sentencing in federal criminal court.

This case is being handled by Assistant Attorney General Richard Yorke, Senior Investigator Paul Matthews, and Assistant Attorney General in Charge of the Nassau Regional Office, Valerie Singleton, under the supervision of Executive Deputy Attorney General for Regional Offices, Marty Mack.  The case was previously handled by former Assistant Attorney General Victoria Safran.

In December 2014, Attorney General Schneiderman launched AGScamHelp.com, a web-based app that helps homeowners determine whether a mortgage assistance company has been vetted by a government agency.

OAG launched AGScamHelp.com in direct response to an observed increase in mortgage rescue scams in New York and across the country. According to a December 2014 report by the Center for NYC Neighborhoods and the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, more than 42,000 homeowners have been conned out of $100 million nationwide.

New Yorkers have been hit particularly hard. From March 2010 to September 2014, New York homeowners submitted more than 2,700 foreclosure rescue scam complaints to the Lawyer Committee for Civil Rights, documenting at least $8.25 million in losses. Since AGScamHelp.com launched in December, more than 26,000 New Yorkers have visited the website.

AGScamHelp.com has several informational features:

  • Search Government-Vetted Companies: AGScamHelp.com allows consumers to search the name of an individual or company to determine if that entity is a “government-vetted” agency (that is, either a member of the Attorney General’s HOPP network or a HUD-certified counseling agency). If the company searched is not a government-vetted agency, the consumer will be told to proceed with caution and advised with several tips on how to identify signs of a foreclosure rescue scam.
  • Locate Nearby Counseling Partners: The web-based app also features an interactive map that allows consumers to find the nearest Homeowner Protection Program (HOPP) grantee. The Attorney General has dedicated $100 million to fund HOPP, a network of more than 85 housing counseling and legal services agencies across the state that are dedicated to providing free assistance to New Yorkers.
  • Report Scams: Consumers who have already been contacted by, or are in the process of working with a company suspected of operating a foreclosure rescue scam, will also have the option to file a complaint with the Attorney General’s Office. They will be directed to a separate page where they can complete a complaint form online. All complaints will be directed to the Attorney General’s Bureau of Consumer Frauds and Protection, and will be mediated by the Attorney General’s Office.
  • Get Tips: AGScamHelp.com offers details on how to recognize signs of a foreclosure rescue scam, including samples of scam letters and other materials utilized by fraudsters to target homeowners, and provides information about recent foreclosure scams that have been the subject of enforcement actions brought by the Attorney General’s Office and other law enforcement agencies.

Homeowners at risk of foreclosure should reach out to OAG, which can connect them with a free, qualified housing counseling agency within the Attorney General’s Homeowner Protection Program (HOPP).

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