McClatchy – How 2 Civilian Sleuths Brought Foreclosure Problems to Light

Lisa Epstein and Michael Redman looking through mortgage documents at the Palm Beach County Courthouse in West Palm Beach, Fla. They’re two of the nation’s most influential citizen agitators helping to uncover foreclosure fraud and abuse. | Steve Mitchell/MCT
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By Tony Pugh | McClatchy Newspapers

PALM BEACH, Fla. — More than a year before lenders, law firms and document companies began owning up to widespread paperwork problems with their foreclosure filings, Lisa Epstein and Michael Redman already knew that something was wrong — very wrong.

Redman, a former online automobile consultant, got his first taste of the problem in early 2008, when he tried to help a relative who was facing foreclosure.

As he tried to determine which of three or four supposed lenders held the note, Redman, 35, realized that not only did he not know the answer, neither did any of the companies that were asking for payment.

Epstein, a nurse who cares for cancer patients, also is going through foreclosure. She got her baptism in the world of shoddy foreclosure paperwork in the summer of 2009, however, when she tried to help a brain tumor patient keep her home.

Epstein helped draft a letter challenging the foreclosure because, as in Redman’s case, it was unclear from court papers who owned the home’s mortgage.

After arriving at the summary judgment hearing in her nurse’s uniform, an emotional Epstein, 45, watched as the ill woman read their letter aloud in court. When the opposing attorneys never showed, the judge refused to finalize the foreclosure. The woman remains in her home as the legal wrangling continues.

For Epstein, who often helped her patients navigate disputes with their health insurance companies, the role of advocate wasn’t new — but the thrill of a courtroom victory was.

“It was like something struck inside me, like this is what I’m compelled to do. I can be a nurse for people caught in this foreclosure crisis,” Epstein said. “I remember thinking, ‘I’m not an attorney, and there are definite obstacles, but maybe there’s a role for me.’ And I ran back to the hospital like I had wings. I felt like this is my purpose.”

Within a year, she and Redman — who didn’t know each other at the time — would leave their respective jobs to pursue their passion for helping others and exposing injustice in the foreclosure industry.

After meeting late last year at a foreclosure fraud seminar, they teamed up to become two of the nation’s most influential civilian beat cops for the beleaguered foreclosure industry.

Equal parts agitators, activists and advocates, Redman and Epstein have made their presence felt in Florida and nationally through their respective websites, 4closureFraud.org and foreclosurehamlet.org.

Under a sun-drenched sky last week, Redman proudly perused his Web log to see recent visits from the Internal Revenue Service, the Homeland Security Department, the Justice Department, Fannie Mae, the Housing and Urban Development Department and the CIA, among others. Someone from the executive office of the president took a recent look, too, he said.

Major banks also are peeping at Redman’s frequent postings and snarky analysis of embarrassing documents that appear to show foreclosure industry fraud.

Last week, he posted a deposition from a clerk at one of four Florida law firms that the state attorney general is investigating on suspicions that they’re using fabricated documents to evict thousands of homeowners. She told investigators that the firm’s employees regularly signed affidavits without reading them and put incorrect dates on documents.

“This kind of stuff goes on all the time, and it’s everywhere,” Redman said.

Problem foreclosure documents are the latest chapter in the housing crisis that triggered the Great Recession.

After a record 347,420 foreclosure filings and 102,134 bank repossessions in September, the U.S. is on pace to top 1.2 million foreclosures this year, up from about 1 million last year, according to new data from RealtyTrac, which collects and analyzes real estate records from across the country.

In foreclosure cases nationwide, bank officials have signed sworn affidavits, supposedly verifying their knowledge of the matters in question. However, after several bank officials told investigators they’d signed thousands of affidavits without reading them, the nation’s foreclosure process has ground nearly to a halt as officials investigate the practice known as “robo-signing.”

Major lenders JPMorgan Chase and Ally, formerly GMAC, have stopped evictions to check for bad paperwork in Florida and 22 other states that require court orders to seize property. Bank of America last week halted foreclosures while it reviews paperwork in all 50 states.

On Wednesday, Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller said he’d lead the new Mortgage Foreclosure Multistate Group’s investigation of the problem and propose possible remedies. The bipartisan group includes state attorneys and state banking and mortgage regulators from all 50 states.

In Florida, where one of every 56 homes was in foreclosure proceedings in the third quarter of this year, Redman and Epstein have shone a light on efforts to ram cases through courts without much fact-checking.

Foreclosure defense attorney Chris Immel of Palm Beach County said the ongoing scandal was changing that practice nationally and in Florida.

“A lot of that has to do with the activism of people like Mike and Lisa. They get a lot of attention, and a lot of people look to them because they’re very active with their blogs and their activism,” Immel said.

Whether they’re being courted by prominent print news outlets or interviewed on cable television news shows, doing conference calls with state officials or protesting on courthouse steps, Redman and Epstein are consumed by their new roles.

They’ve filed briefs with the Florida Supreme Court and sent questionable documents to state investigators, the FBI, the Justice Department and numerous banking regulators.

Earlier this year, they led two busloads of people to the state capital in Tallassee to protest a proposed change in Florida law that would have allowed foreclosures without court orders. The measure was defeated.

When it appeared several weeks ago that President Barack Obama might sign legislation that could weaken fraud protections in foreclosure cases, Redman and Epstein posted an action alert, urging people to call the White House and voice their opposition.

“At one point, so many people were calling (the comment line) that you couldn’t even get through. I absolutely think our silent army is not being silent anymore,” said Karen Pooley of Seattle, a 48-year-old building material saleswoman who credits Epstein’s website with teaching her how to find evidence of fabricated paperwork. She ended up finding suspicious documents that helped a friend get his foreclosure sale canceled.

“Not postponed, but canceled,” said Pooley, who’s also fighting her own foreclosure and organizing local volunteers to look for more bad documents. “Lisa was very helpful in teaching me how to search and get this army started.”

Andrew Delaney, who’s fighting the foreclosure of his home in Ashburnham, Mass., drove all the way to Florida in the spring to meet with Redman. He said Redman’s advice on checking court documents for flawed paperwork has allowed him to avoid foreclosure for more than two years as banks try to prove who holds his note.

“The information they provided gave me the inspiration to do more research on my own and to help other people. I just took the position where I have to help others. I just have to.”

Read more: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2010/10/13/101997/civilian-cops-take-on-beleaguered.html

And be sure to comment.

Thank you Tony!

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4closureFraud.org

Comments
14 Responses to “McClatchy – How 2 Civilian Sleuths Brought Foreclosure Problems to Light”
  1. Ronmamita says:

    Thank you for being here!
    Never give up.

    LOVE & Peace
    (GLOBALLY)

  2. You have to remember the banks are only interested in making money, not working with people. They would have saved themselves more money if they had kept people in their homes and lowered their payments.

  3. Pj says:

    Be well, be still , as you may have motioned often on the people you have guided.

  4. Rebecca says:

    THEY ARE NOT JUST IN FL, They are IN CA, WA, AZ, SC, NC TN WE have those folks everywhere!! Just look at Auroravictims.com or my website or facebook, Many of us too found these docs way before the media and send hundreds upon hundreds of letters across the nation,, news station, government agencies, one another! WHOOT WHOOT to you folks! But keep in mind kids THERE ARE MANY OF US OUT THERE!!! YOU JUST HAVE TO SEARCH AND FIGHT AND WRITE!!!! PERIOD… MAKE YOUR VOICES HEARD FOR YOURSELVES AND THOSE WHO NEED your VOICE FOR THEMSELVES!! HURRAYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY!!!!!

  5. alex morfesis says:

    although it is great that this website is up and running and some folks have been given hope by the idea that average folks can piece together enough information to make things interesting for the other side…it is a bit of a stretch to suggest the facts as presented on this website were not known years ago…april charney, max garder, neil garfield…brad essman, mike wasylik, matt wiedner…richard kohn out in chicago( not an all inclusive list) these are some of the folks who have been in the trenches making sure the entire country has a clue as to the short cuts taken by the servicers…NCLC out of the boston area has been in the forefront for years on this issue…so although this has been an effective vehicle, to suggest that 50 atty generals stood up at attention because of these items is a bit of a stretch….it is helpful that there was someone who consolidated this information, but MSfraud has been on these issues for years…good job…but you folks are a bit late to the dance to be suggesting your actions were the catalyst…but keep it up…good luck and be well…

  6. Jose says:

    Dear Mr. Redman,

    I am very proud of you and Lisa. I have been weeping of great emotion and appreciation for your efforts. Some of us fight using different methods. And you are great at what you do.

    Keep it up and as soon as we have clear irrefutable evidence of their accounting fraud that will demonstrate that all these loans are non compliant with TILA, RESPA and whole bunch of other laws.

    May god bless you and keep you healthy, safe and prosperous.

    JLSEMIDEY

  7. Officer of the Law says:

    Great work!!!! These two great Americans and several hundred brave defense attorneys have helped expose the bankers’ criminal activity which has crashed our economy. They have helped save the homes of many victims of the bankers. Their great work has forced those in government and the mainstream media to take notice.

    Help them keep the pressure on. Forward this to all of your contacts to help spread the word about how the big banks have violated the law to steal the homes and life savings of millions of American families.

    These bankers committed fraud in loan origination which is why so many people got home loans and then found that their payment was much higher than promised. That is also a violation of the Truth in Lending Act. These big bankers knew that this would result in foreclosures, but they hoped to make money off of that and they did.

    These big bank owned mortgage servicing companies charged unauthorized fees which is also fraud and a violation of the Truth in Lending Act. These big bankers knew that this would result in foreclosures, but they hoped to make money off of that and they did.

    These big bankers used MERS to avoid hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes, more crimes and more ill gotten gains.

    Why did Congress bail out these criminal bankers when their crimes put their banks at risk?

    Why do some judges follow the law and require the banks to prove that they own the loan and did not commit fraud in originating and servicing it while other judges just ignore the law to rule in favor of the banks?

    What would happen to you if committed fraud and evaded taxes? Would you get rewarded with the proceeds of your crimes and taxpayer funds or would you be prosecuted?

    Why are the prosecutors failing to prosecute these bankers for their crimes? Are the prosecutors protecting bankers from prosecution for their crimes? Yes, they are!!!

    Who controls Congress and your local prosecutors?

    There is plenty of evidence to convict all of these bankers, their attorneys and their minions in government. They could seize all of their assets to cover the innocent depositors and repay the victims.

    It is time for action before the bankers get away with stealing the homes and life savings of millions more American families and stealing more taxpayer money.

    Demand prosecution and vote every incumbent in Congress and state government out of office except for the very few who have been calling for holding the bankers accountable.

    Vote all of the prosecutors out who have failed to take action to hold the bankers accountable for their crimes and have failed to protect innocent Americans from the criminal acts of these crooked bankers.

    Take your deposits out of all of the crooked banks and put them in small local banks or credit unions.

    Do what you can to demand justice because we will all continue to suffer if criminal bankers are allowed to continue to rob and steal and those in government with the power to stop this criminal activity continue to ignore it.

  8. Ella says:

    These two are the “Real American” Heroes. Keep up the good work! Love both websites!

  9. lucy says:

    You guys are an ANGEL sent from up above to protect and guard our rights.
    Thank you, and bless you!!!

  10. LaSandra T. says:

    THANKING YOU BOTH FROM THE BOTTOM OF MY HEART!!!
    So Many people are great full to have you’ll stand up for homeowners.
    We have suffered because no one wanted to say the F…. word, FRAUD FRAUD FRAUD…..!!!!
    This has been a long FIGHT, but it’s not over, YES, WE CAN FIGHT, FIGHT, FIGHT we cannot stop now. KEEP UP THE FIGHT and God Bless YOU BOTH!!!!

  11. OUTSTANDING JOB, BOTH OF YOU!! THANK YOU FOR EVERYTHING YOU DO!

    National WAMU Homeowners Support Group
    www,wamuloanfraud.com

  12. Equity Free says:

    Two true American heroes, when I found them and saw what they were doing , it was such a relief and then joy knowing that were not alone in this . There are others fighting this industry that has ruined lives without regard to its fellow man . When your told by everyone, even family that its your responsibility . Move on and you will get over it . And you know you played by all the rules but everywhere you turn there is no one helping , it wears you down, no it beats you down and takes its toll . Then a calm voice says welcome your not alone . AHHHHHHHH
    Thank You, Thank You, Thank You

  13. tyler says:

    You guys are way better than the tea party. Thank you so much for the self less work.

    Across my street has sat a house for sale for a year and a half. It went into foreclosure sometime ago. Within a week of foreclosure gate making the headlines the bank on my neighbors property sold the house. I went over to the lady who lives there and told her about foreclosure gate, to make a long story short she not gonna have to move. The banks are petrified of this as well they should be. Keep up the great work!

  14. Andrew says:

    What we have here is Two True American Heroes out to save OUR Homes and OUR Country. Nuff said.

    If it wasn’t for the both of You where would we be? Well we all know the answer to that…Homeless more than likely. Oh And Illegally.

    Thank You for All you have done. You have shed light upon a most terrifying issue.

    We are ALL behind you. you have so much support behind you both.

    GOD BLESS both of you and all that see this.\

    Thank You from my friends,
    Ace



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