FROM THE REPORT
“Lawson revealed, although not in his mind when he made the decision to terminate Clarkson and Edwards, he learned some of the investigators in the south Florida Economic Crimes office approached Julian and told him they did not trust Clarkson, they believed she was just listening to Lisa Epstein and following her instructions and they thought Epstein might be lying to Clarkson.”
“He (Lawson) opined, “is there any, any consciousness whatsoever that this is simply gonna be taken and used to extort a better result out of her own foreclosure case?“
“Douglas said it also appeared Epstein was directing Clarkson’s and Edwards’ foreclosure mill cases.”
“Douglas said during a meeting they showed Epstein’s blog to Julian and the information the investigators were given, indicating what they were being directed to do came “verbatim from information that’s coming from a blog.”
“Fort Lauderdale investigators approached Julian about Clarkson indicating they believed she was just listening to Epstein and following her instructions regarding the foreclosure cases.”
“This belief was partially based upon the fact no investigators were assigned to work on the foreclosure mill cases.”
Notice how many times they said believed, might, appeared? Nothing definitive in those statements.
Plus, their beliefs were “based upon the fact that no investigators were assigned to work on the foreclosure mill cases?”
Now that’s logical…
Notice how they also used the term foreclosure mill in the report? 110 times! I guess we can agree with them on one thing in the report. That these firms actually are “foreclosure mills!”
As for the above statements from the report, I find it hard to believe that Lisa Epstein had the power to control two Assistant Attorneys General to do her bidding as indicated in the report. Anyone who knows Lisa personally would know that would not be the case. It is absolutely ludicrous to even suggest such an allegation. Maybe if they would have interviewed Lisa for the report, since she is mentioned 71 times, they would not be in the mess they are in now, which is worse than before the report was issued…
As for Lawson’s opinion that “this is simply gonna be taken and used to extort a better result out of her own foreclosure case?“ isn’t that the pot calling the kettle black when Bondi’s own office is colluding with LPS’s attorney to extort a better result out of the Michigan AG’s criminal investigation into Lender Processing Services?
So, I ask, Lisa Epstein, The Puppet Master, or Lisa Epstein, The American Hero?
Read the facts below to decide…
Departure from Reality
First and foremost, this report from Atwater’s IG is an effort to legitimize and distract from fraud that first targeted minorities, has illegally stolen the homes of active duty service-members and civilians alike, defiled our nation’s property records, perpetrated fraud upon state, federal, and bankruptcy courts across America, continues to allow millions of American families to lose so much; their homes, jobs, pensions, savings, community stability, property-tax-dependent public services, and faith in our judicial system, and has increased child homelessness 37% since 2007.
The main accusations leveled against Clarkson and Edwards in this report are the following; sloppy work, inappropriate relationships with third parties, lack of independent investigation, and potentially improper legal conclusions. It is the height of irony that Atwater’s Inspector General has produced a report guilty of the same deficiencies; sloppy work, inappropriate relationships with third parties, lack of independent investigation, and potentially improper legal conclusions.
The eighty-five page report is the final product of an investigation tasked with determining if an investigation into the abrupt ousting of Clarkson and Edwards was necessary.
It determined it was not…
This report will serve to chill future whistle-blowers in the state of Florida. Additionally, any law enforcers who target powerful, politically connected organizations are at risk of ousting and public maligning.
I do not recall conveying any instructions regarding the handling of the investigations or the cases. I had no desire to handle or mange or direct the investigations. I remain very grateful to Clarkson and Edwards for being the first (of now several) law enforcers willing to take on foreclosure fraud, mill fraud, and property record fraud. I did email hundreds of documents. These documents were scanned directly out of court files or downloaded from many Florida counties’ official land records- all of which were clearly identified with case number or book/page number and easily verifiable.
I did encouraging people to file complaints (but this was directed nationally, not just in Florida). I did try to initiate a campaign to have Clarkson & Edwards appointed to participate in the 50-state AG panel as it was forming in the fall of 2010 where Florida holds an executive committee seat. They were specifically excluded.
I, along with three others; a Florida attorney, a pro-bono lobbyist and Michael Redman, actually met with Trish Conners and Richard Lawson on the morning of March 9, 2011 in Tallahassee for a full hour. Trish Conners closed the meeting by personally thanking me for the hundreds of hours and the effort I put into providing documents & stated that she wished more citizens would do the same. Richard Lawson seemed to only have a surface knowledge of foreclosure/servicer fraud but he did spend quite a bit of time schooling us on our misinterpretation of the word “fraud”. He also talked about his three young children, two of whom were twins, all were still in diapers. He had only been in his position for 38 days, 30 of which were actual business days.
On Wed, Feb 23, 2011 at 1:54 PM, Leslie Jacobs <Leslie.Jacobs@myfloridalegal.com> wrote:
Dear Ms. Epstein,
Ms. Conners would be available to meet with you on March 9 at 10am for about 30 minutes.
Office of the Attorney General
Below are a few bullet points of many IG Report Deficiencies.
- The report states: On August 2, 2011, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater received a written request from Attorney General Pam Bondi asking his “inspector general to conduct an independent review of the employment termination of June Clarkson and Theresa Edwards.”
- Response: Lisa Epstein spontaneously requested the state’s Chief Inspector General investigate the firings 17 days BEFORE Bondi’s request was received by Atwater. Whistle-blowers are often attacked. At the time Lisa Epstein requested an IG investigation, Lisa Epstein certainly did not suspect that she, a deeply concerned citizen and volunteer foreclosure fraud researcher would be targeted and classically maligned. Lisa Epstein believes her request was the first request of this nature filed. Lisa Epstein’s email request is dated July 16, 2011. Lisa Epstein received a confirmation dated July 21, 2011 from Kim B. Mills at Florida’s Office of the Chief Inspector General that her complaint was “reviewed and forwarded”.
Dear Ms. Epstein:
The Office of the Chief Inspector General received your email complaint on July 16, 2011, in which you expressed concerns about actions of staff in the Attorney General’s Office.
After having had the opportunity to review your concerns, we are referring your complaint to the Inspector General for the Department of Legal Affairs (Office of the Attorney General) for review and action deemed appropriate
Thank you for bringing this matter to our attention. In the event that you have any further questions, please contact the Inspector General’s office for the Department of Legal Affairs at (850) 414-3300.
Kim B. Mills
Office of the Chief Inspector General
- Response: Lisa Epstein’s request to the Florida’s Office of the Chief Inspector General was based on alarm over the firings of Clarkson and Edwards who were investigating foreclosure fraud-related complaints while other senior employees at the FL AG’s officer were parachuting into employment at some of the very targets under investigation by Clarkson and Edwards for foreclosure-related fraud (Joe Jacquot to LPS and Mary Leontakianakos to Marshall Watson and FDLG moonlighter, Erin Cullaro to Shapiro Fishman) There is also the issue of Chief Judge Victor Tobin leaving the foreclosure bench to join Marshal Watson, but that is for another day.
- Response: After receiving the confirmation email from Kim B. Mills on July 21, 2011, Lisa Epstein was not, at any point, contacted regarding the investigation, nor was she given the opportunity to clarify any of the accusations in the report.
- The report states: A review of the Florida Office of the Attorney General public records request database was conducted and there were no requests logged for Epstein or Szymoniak from January 1, 2010, through Clarkson’s and Edwards’ date of separation from the Florida Office of the Attorney General. (page 69)
- Response: Lisa Epstein submitted numerous public records requests, general in nature and broad in scope, by various means; written, emailed, through the agency’s web-portal, and verbal/telephonically. While Lisa Epstein does not have confirmation for every public records request she submitted for the time frame mentioned in the report, She found confirmations from staff at the FL AG’s office for several requests.
From: Shelia Hall <Shelia.Hall@myfloridalegal.com>
Date: Tue, Oct 5, 2010 at 11:44 AM
Subject: Public Records Request – Florida Default Law Group & Michael Echevarria, Law Offices of David J Stern, Law Offices of Marshall C Watson, Law Offices of Shapiro Fishman
This office has received your email below requesting copies of public records. Your request has been forwarded to our South Florida Economic Crimes Bureau. That office will contact you when more information is available. Thank you for contacting the Attorney General Office.
Shelia R. Hall
Public Records Coordinator
Office of the Attorney General
Our office is in receipt of your public records request that reflect the following information: The names, addresses, telephone numbers and email addresses of any person who has filed a complaint against Florida Default Law Group, P.L, Law Offices of David J. Stem, Law Offices of Marshall C. Watson, P.A., and Lender Processing Services, including, but not limited to, any complaints, affidavits, correspondence, statements, and settlement documents, as well as the nature of each complaint.
Pursuant to your telephone requests for any new subpoenas please see attached.
(See attached file: 11.4.15 BenEzra.pdf)(See attached file: 11.4.15 LPS Watson.pdf)
June M. Clarkson
Assistant Attorney General
Economic Crimes Division
This office has received your email below requesting public records. Your request has been forwarded to our Ft. Lauderdale Bureau of the Economic Crimes Division. That office will contact you when more information is available. Thank you for contacting the Attorney General’s Office.
Shelia R. Hall
Public Records Coordinator
Office of the Attorney General
- The report states: Woolever said in looking through the Shapiro file she realized the only information Clarkson and Edwards obtained was from Lisa Epstein. (page 39)
- The report states: Woolever described one box as containing approximately 92 consumer files which, with the exception of the random affidavit, contained only printouts of complaints received by Citizens’ Services. Woolever depicted the other box as the “attorney box” and it contained the subpoena, the motion to quash and some transcripts. (page 48)
- Response: One of the public request confirmations specified that Shapiro & Fishman complaints (up to Nov 2010) included 1,082 pages of documents, yet the report states that “the only (Shapiro & Fishman) information Clarkson and Edwards obtained was from Lisa Epstein.” While Lisa Epstein did not count the hundreds of documents she provided, she can not imagine that she personally sent all 1,082 pages regarding the Shapiro & Fishman investigation especially since Woolever stated “one box as containing approximately 92 consumer files which, with the exception of the random affidavit.” Since Lisa Epstein did not submit 92 consumer complaints through Citizens’ Services, nor did Lisa Epstein submit an affidavit, it appears Woolever’s testimony on this matter is at best misleading.
From a Nov 29, 2010 confirmation of one of Lisa Epstein’s public records requests:
We have preliminarily determined that approximately 300 pages of email reference all four law firms, l,422 pages of documents for Florida Default Law Group, P.L.29,032 pages for the Law offices of David J. Stern, 5,064 pages for the Law Offices of Marshall C. Watson, P.A., and 1,082 Shapiro & Fishman Law Firm
- The report states: “Lockwood stated during the February 8th meeting their failure to be responsive to public records request was discussed with Clarkson and Edwards; they needed to get the requests filled. During his interview Lockwood indicated there were still public records request outstanding from December 2010, “which is extremely wrong.” (page 31)
- Response: Lisa Epstein submitted public records requests in November and December of 2011 that remain outstanding. One of which is in regards to Richard Lawson (see below, others available upon request). We are curious if the administration considers this violation of the public records statue “extremely wrong?”
The Attorney General’s office has received your request for public records and is circulating it among our various divisions to locate the information you are requesting. We will be in touch as soon as we determine what records we have that are responsive to your request. Please note that there may be a fee for copying and review involved in the production of these records. Feel free to contact our office if you have any questions.
PLEASE DO NOT REPLY TO THIS E-MAIL. THIS ADDRESS IS FOR PROCESSING ONLY. To contact this office please visit the Attorney General’s website at www.myfloridalegal.com and complete the on-line contact form. Again, thank you for contacting the Office of the Florida Attorney General.
INTERNET MESSAGE RECEIVED BY THE ATTORNEY GENERAL’S OFFICE ON 11/27/2011 Lisa Epstein
607 Gazetta Way
West Palm Beach, FL 33413
RE: Forelosure Mill, Law Firm of Marshall C. Watson (possible violations of AVC settlement agreement)
1) any and all correspondence, letters and emails (including attachments) exchanged between Florida Attorney General employees Richard Lawson and
Robert Julian regarding the foreclosure mill, The Law Office of Marshall C Watson. The time frame for this request covers the period from September 13, 2011 through November 23, 2011.
2) any and all correspondence, letters and emails (including attachments) exchanged between Florida Attorney General employee Richard Lawson and any employee/principal of or law firm representing the foreclosure mill, The Law Office of Marshall C Watson. The time frame for this request covers the period from September 13, 2011 through November 23, 2011.
3) any and all correspondence, letters and emails (including attachments) exchanged between Florida Attorney General employee Robert Julian and any employee/principal of or law firm representing the foreclosure mill, The Law Office of Marshall C Watson. The time frame for this request covers the
period from September 13, 2011 through November 23, 2011.
- The report states: In a letter addressed to Clarkson and Edwards, dated November 29, 2010, Meyer provided all the evidence Clarkson would need to show the signatures were not forgeries as is defined as a legal term and crime when she sent 1) corporate resolutions and powers of attorney granting signing authority to DOCX employees, and 2) delegated signing authority forms executed by DOCX authorized signers delegating their authority to other DOCX employees. (page 12)
- The report states: [Y]ou characterize the differing signatures on documents multiple times as “forgeries” and “false witnessing” without any reference to the actual facts. Linda Green and other DOCX employees had delegated their signing authority by express written consent to other employees. We gave you the delegation forms which were maintained at the DOCX facility. You know that the differing signatures were the product of an express delegation, yet you conspicuously failed to mention it. While LPS did not approve of this practice and when it was discovered, stopped it and fired the manager who initiated it, your labeling of these activities as crimes is not only inflammatory, it frankly is not within your purview in this civil investigation. (page 12)
- The report states: A clerical process within LPS when printing documents which had been fed no information provided for the document to be automatically populated with “bogus assignee.” It is one thing having an error and sloppy paperwork get filed with the court, but Clarkson’s and Edwards’ presentation showed filed documents with “bogus assignee” insinuating there was some sort of conspiracy which was inaccurate. (page 14)
- The report states: Meyer stated Clarkson and Edwards mischaracterized the process by which documents were authorized to be executed by inferring Linda Green fraudulently held herself out as an officer of corporations without authority to do so by listing Green’s corporate titles under the title “A Few of Linda Green’s Many Job Titles” or “Who is the Real Linda Green?” Meyer went on to indicate Green was appointed as an officer of various lenders through corporate resolutions of those lending institutions and she provided the corporate resolutions, professional services agreements and statements of work which authorized Green to execute documents. (page 72)
- The report states: Meyer wrote to Clarkson and Edwards “you characterize the differing signatures on documents multiple times as ‘forgeries’ and ‘false witnessing’ without any reference to the actual facts.” Meyer explained Green and other employees delegated their signing authority by “express written consent to other employees.” She added, “[W]e gave you the delegation forms”; thus Clarkson and Edwards knew “the differing signatures were the product of an expressed delegation, yet you [Clarkson and Edwards] conspicuously failed to mention it.” (page 73)
- The report states: Meyer stated another example of the errors in Clarkson’s and Edwards’ presentation was the characterization of documents with placeholders such as “bad bene” or “bogus assignee” as fraudulent and implying Lender Processing Services and/or any of its subsidiaries were deliberately recording false documents. Meyer explained the placeholders were used so employees could print documents even though information was missing and then set aside the documents until the missing information was located. She added a few of the documents were accidentally recorded. (page 73)
- Response: The report details interviews with Florida Attorney General staffers who all rely heavily on communiques and theories presented by bank attorneys or attorneys for targets (LPS Attorney Joan Meyer is referenced 33 times) under investigation including attorneys for Cash-4-Gold and LPS. The industry theories, repeated throughout the report, favor the industry’s attempt to ward off scrutiny and legitimize the same forgery, perjury, real estate document fraud and fraud upon our courts that is now the subject of a myriad of investigations and/or lawsuits by other law enforcers, including the OCC, FDIC, the Fed, the former OTC, the DOJ, NY Banking Regulator, Benjamin Lawsky, and the AGs in MA, NV, DE, IL, CA, and more. Just because a company has an internal policy to delegate signatures, does it make it legal? If so, why stop the practice, fire the manager and shut down the facility?
- Response: It is clear that the legal analysis of the industry designed to ward off criminal indictments is integrated completely into the report. The report strongly defends surrogate signing, signor & notary forgery on legal documents, and multi-corporate identity document fraud tactics that resulted in Shapiro Fishman/LPS/DocX (and one other fraudclosure mill) themselves filing documents in Florida’s land records stating Linda Green et al. had no authority to sign as an officer of MERS (attached one example signed by two well known robosigners, making this document suspect as well).
- Response: The report and several interviewees spout industry propaganda decriminalizing and renaming fraud as “surrogate signing”, and “signing under and multi-corporate-identity corporate resolutions”, which are retooled document fraud tactics that are laid out in great detail in a lawsuit against LPS by LPS’s own client, AHMSI. See American Home Mortgage Servicing vs Lender Processing Services (LPS)
- Response: Stern has been sued by his own former company, DJSP (which had direct access to the Stern mill practices and documents), for the exact conduct that the report seeks to legitimatize; document fraud, forgery, fabrication, multi-corporate identity, mortgage assignment fraud, etc. See DJSP ENTERPRISES vs DAVID J. STERN
- The report states: Conners explained what was “deeply disturbing” to her about the PowerPoint presentation was Clarkson’s and Edwards’ discussion of an ongoing investigation and publicly bearing their conclusions. Conners indicated it is inappropriate in an ongoing investigation to draw conclusions and bear them publicly. Conners added the Florida Office of the Attorney General has to be unbiased and appropriate in how their investigations are conducted and putting on ones’ own interpretation in the middle of the investigation is not a fair process, not something which should be done. Conners stated she contacted Mark Hamilton and asked him to find out about the PowerPoint presentation and she eventually learned it was something Clarkson and Edwards put together “based upon information that they had gotten from third parties … they call[ed] things forgeries when they didn’t know if they even met the criminal elements of forgery. They called things fraud and they didn’t really know whether it was fraud .” (page 38)
- The report states: Conners said at the time Clarkson and Edwards prepared their PowerPoint presentation supervisory approval to give a presentation had to be obtained (not on the content of the presentation), “but there’s never been a need before in the … 25 years that I’ve been doing this to explain to a lawyer … what you can talk about and what you can’t talk about. It’s always sort of been .. . understood that when you get approval for doing something that you talk … generically … you don’t necessarily draw conclusions or share all the evidence.” (page 39)
- The report states: During his interview (see PowerPoint Presentation, page 53) Robert Julian indicated he understood Conners used slides from the PowerPoint presentation when she spoke to Congress or the Legislature. (page 39)
- Response: Trish Conners was confronted with her own use of slides from The Powerpoint presented to the Florida land record clerks. This report, ordered by, created, and presented under former AG McCollum’s administration, was one of the rationale given for the firings of Clarkson and Edwards. Conners manages to both develop amnesia and throw her colleague, Scott Palmer, under the bus regarding her own use of the powerpoint slides. Regardless, a presentation with her name on it contains four unedited slides from The Powerpoint and also reiterates the same legal theories with which now the IG’s report now finds fault.. The presentation was made to the Florida Senate Banking Committee on Jan 11, 2011. Meeting packet see slides 17 – 24 here and audio replay of the FL SENATE JAN 11, 2011 Banking Committee meeting where Conners presented the exact same material as did Clarkson and Edwards here.
- The report states: Douglas said after Clarkson and Edwards were let go Epstein starting emailing information directly to Briesemeister. Douglas said when Epstein was told to send the information to Tallahassee, following the normal process, they did not receive anything else from her. (page 44)
- Response: Lisa Epstein does admit that she was shocked, disgusted, appalled, and deeply alarmed at their dual disappearance. Lisa Epstein sent several emails to other investigators/attorneys who were assigned mill cases. Lisa Epstein stopped sending these documents after she was repeatedly ignored when emailing “Who is monitoring and enforcing the Marshall Watson settlement so we can send documents regarding possible violations of their settlement agreement?” Recently, a Florida legislator, Rep. Darren Soto, has demanded this same information here.
- The report states: Incorrect Legal Theory: Woolever stated Epstein continued to send emails (to Clarkson and Edwards) with what she (Epstein) was claiming was a foreclosure action being brought by someone without standing because they received the assignment of mortgage after the Lis Pendens was filed. Woolever said the premise was incorrect, yet the information from Epstein was relied upon by Clarkson and Edwards. Woolever said, “you can have standing to foreclose if an assignment of mortgage is filed after the Lis Pendens. Nobody checked. That’s a very, very big issue.” (page 50)
- Response: Lisa Epstein is not an attorney, nor has she ever presented herself as one. We wonder if the legal theory that the report thoroughly discredits is now given credence by Florida’s 4th DCA in the McLean v JP Morgan, which was released BEFORE the report was issued.
- The report states: Muniz disclosed he thought the straw that broke the camel’s back with Lawson was when Clarkson and Edwards released a draft subpoena shared by the Illinois Office of the Attorney General with the Florida Office of the Attorney General. Muniz indicated the draft subpoena was released to a blogger; the subpoena came up on the blog causing the Illinois Office of the Attorney General to call Conners and complain. Muniz clarified stating he did not think the draft subpoena release was the reason why Lawson decided to terminate Clarkson’s and Edwards’ employment, he had “pretty much decided in his mind” to let them go and the draft subpoena release was the precipitating event which influenced the timing of Lawson’s recommendation. (page 35)
- Response: The IG report contains a false accusation by Carlos Muniz that Lisa Epstein published an Illinois draft LPS subpoena on her blog. At no time did Lisa Epstein publish any Illinois draft LPS subpeona. In addition, Lisa Epstein did not circulate any IL draft LPS subpeona to any media. Since no IL draft LPS subpoena was ever published on her site, or (to the best of her knowledge) published anywhere for that matter, it is highly unlikely that the Office of the Illinois Attorney General “call[ed] and complain[ed]” that “the subpoena came up on the blog.”
Other Important Facts
It’s right there in black and white Folks (document linked). In a concise motion submitted by Bondi herself to Florida’s Fourth District Court of Appeals, Bondi became the nation’s first law enforcement officer to concede that not only are fraudclosure assignments of mortgage fraudulent and invalid, but so are the promissory notes’ assignments.
The Office of the Attorney General is investigating a widespread social and economic problem, the creation of invalid assignments of home mortgages that are subsequently used to deprive Florida homeowners of their homes.
The financial crisis of the last few years has hit Florida homeowners hard. About 1.9 million of Florida residential mortgages are “underwater,” meaning that about 45 percent of the state’s homes are valued at less than the amount of the mortgage.
Foreclosure filings in the state have dropped slightly within the last few months, but still remain high, with 67,886 filings reported in the third quarter of 2011, the fifth highest foreclosure rate in the nation.
Many foreclosure proceedings have been marred by the use of invalid assignments of notes and mortgages, often by “robo signing.”
Given the large number of foreclosures in Florida and the prevalence of robo-signing and other unlawful practices, there can be no question that Florida consumers are at considerable risk.
That is a completely different stance then in the report!
Lender Processing Services Attorney to Florida Attorney General – Please Encourage Michigan AG to Convert Criminal Suit to Civil
Emails speak for themselves…
Or as Abigail Field puts it…
Though stunning in and of itself–it’s a new height of special influence when a company targeted for criminal investigation by one AG can call up the Florida AG and ask it to run interference–it’s far worse when you remember that at the time Baker & McKenzie made that request, LPS was under investigation by the FLORIDA AG’S OFFICE! The emails are part of a longer string available on Scrib’d here. If you look at the one on page 5, it’s clear Baker & McKenzie represent LPS. Then look at page 24, and then page 9.
Can anyone say regulatory capture?
Gardner Brewer Martinez-Monfort Attorney Richard Lawson Selected As Florida Economic Crimes Director
TAMPA, FL (February 1, 2011) – Gardner Brewer Martinez-Monfort attorney Richard Lawson has been selected by new Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi to serve as the Economic Crimes Director.
At Gardner Brewer, Lawson focused his practice on white collar criminal defense, commercial litigation and general criminal defense.
A partial list of the firms representative clients below…
“Muñiz is currently a shareholder in the Tallahassee office of the law firm GrayRobinson PA. He has extensive legal and policy experience in Florida government, beginning with his service in the administration of Gov. Jeb Bush, where he was deputy general counsel to now-Chief Justice Charles Canady. Muñiz has also served as general counsel to the chief financial officer and deputy chief of staff and counsel to the speaker of the Florida House of Representatives. Muñiz is a graduate of the University of Virginia and of Yale Law School, where he was an editor of the Yale Law Journal. Upon graduation from law school, Muñiz clerked for Judge Thomas A. Flannery of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia and for Judge José A. Cabranes of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Muñiz and his wife, Katie, live in Tallahassee with their three children.”
Some background on GrayRobinson…
Posted by Zach Lowe
October 8, 2010
It has been the biggest–and perhaps murkiest–legal story of the last two weeks: At least three major lenders have halted foreclosures, citing the need to review whether their mortgage documentation is in order and in compliance with court rules in the 23 states that require court approval before a foreclosure can take place. The decisions by the three lenders–JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, and Ally Financial Inc.–have spotlighted tiny law firms that act as so-called foreclosure mills and the practice among lenders of hiring “robo-signers,” people who sign tens of thousands of documents per month, according to The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post.
But a review of state and federal cases filed in the last few weeks shows lenders are turning away from the “foreclosure mills” and to large law firms when homeowners fight foreclosure and challenge banks to prove their documents are legit. In Florida alone, the following law firms have popped in contentious foreclosure cases in which judges have ruled homeowners might be onto something: Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, Greenberg Traurig, Akerman Senterfitt, and Gray Robinson.
The case of Parnell Peace serves as a good example. A subsidiary of Bank of America moved to foreclose on Peace’s home in Florida, citing delinquent payments on Peace’s mortgage. To support their case, the bank submitted an affidavit from Dana Heisel, a vice-president of EMC Mortgage Corporation, a mortgage servicer controlled by Bear Stearns. In the affidavit, Heisel wrote that he had “personal knowledge” that BofA and its subsidiary, LaSalle Bank National Association, owned Peace’s mortgage note. Simple enough.
But Peace and his lawyers at Ice Legal didn’t buy it, according to court records and Christopher Immel of Ice Legal. They challenged Heisel and BofA/LaSalle to prove they actually owned the note and to provide the documentation tracing the note from its origins to LaSalle. As a mortgage changes hands during the labyrinthine securitization process, there is supposed to be a paper trail indicating each time the mortgage moves from one owner to another, Immel says. In Peace’s case, that process should have stopped in 2006, when LaSalle took control of a trust that included Peace’s mortgage. But Immel says the bank turned over documents dated as late as 2008, Immel says.
It was around this time that the lender did two things. First: It hired a team from Gray Robinson to start working on the case. Second: They moved to withdraw Heisel’s original affidavit in which he attested to personal knowledge about Peace’s note. That of course made Peace’s legal team interested in knowing why, exactly, the lawyers withdrew Heisel’s original affidavit. The Ice Legal team moved for more discovery, including the deposition of Heisel.
The Gray Robinson team then filed for a protective order to prevent Ice Legal from deposing Heisel, or at least to make them travel to Heisel’s residence in Ohio to depose him, court records show.
So, in a nutshell, Bondi comes in with a new administration, replaces June and Theresa’s Director of Economic Crimes, Mark Hamilton with Richard Lawson, a white collar criminal defense attorney, replaces their chief of staff Joe Jacquot, since he was promoted to Vice President of Government Affairs at Lender Processing Services, with Carlos Muniz from Gray Robinson, a very powerful foreclosure firm, and within months, June and Theresa are terminated. To top it off, we now have an industry friendly report from Florida that favors the industry’s attempt to ward of scrutiny and legitimize the same forgery, perjury, real estate document fraud and fraud upon our courts that is now the subject of a myriad of investigations and/or lawsuits by other law enforcers, including the OCC, FDIC, the Fed, the former OTC, the DOJ, NY Banking Regulator, Benjamin Lawsky, and the AGs in MA, NV, DE, IL, CA, and more.
“Why were so many attorneys defending targets of investigations talking to the head of the economic crimes division? Why was he listening to their concerns over his own investigators in his office? Why was Lawson faulting Clarkson and Edwards for a failure to do “independent investigations to confirm third party complaints” when he was accepting … Read more
Naked Capitalism | Hatchet Job by Florida Inspector General to Justify Firing of Two Lawyers for Foreclosure Fraud Investigations
Hatchet Job by Florida Inspector General to Justify Firing of Two Lawyers for Foreclosure Fraud Investigations The usual stereotype of corruption on the US state level is that, depending on the day, Louisiana or Mississippi tops the list. But the cesspool created by the widening foreclosure crisis in Florida puts anything in kudzu-land to shame. … Read more
Bondi’s Firing of Foreclosure Fraud Attorneys for ‘Political’ Reasons Still Being Called Into Question
An attorney for Lender Processing, Martin Fiorentino, who lobbied on behalf of the company, is actively involved in both state and national politics. Fiorentino is a well-known political fundraising bundler, and has raised at least $102,9000 for presidential hopeful Mitt Romney. The Fiorentino Group has been paid at least $180,000 by Lender Processing Services since … Read more
Meet FL AG Pam Bondi, Foreclosure Fraudsters’ BFF By Abigail Caplovitz Field Cross-posted from Reality Check – Confronting the Naked Emperors Mission – To inspire people to take effective political action, because America should have a government of the people, for the people and by the people UPDATED: Emails between FL AG and LPS’s lawyers … Read more
OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL Catherine Cortez Masto, Attorney General 555 E. Washington Avenue, Suite 3900 Las Vegas, Nevada 89101 Telephone – (702) 486-3420 Fax – (702) 486-3283 Web – http://ag.state.nv.us FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Jennifer López DATE: December 16, 2011 702-486-3782 NEVADA ATTORNEY GENERAL SUES LENDER PROCESSING SERVICES FOR CONSUMER FRAUD Carson City, … Read more
Looks like AHSMI just opened Pandora’s box. From Naked Capitalism… The lawsuit rather matter of factly makes a stunning admission (note that PSA here means Professional Services Agreement, and it was the contract between AHSI and LPS, click to enlarge): Did you get it? They said that these procedures were standard between the two companies, … Read more
Mortgage Fraud DJSP Enterprises Law Offices of David J. Stern Action Date: January 4, 2012 Location: FT. Lauderdale, FL DJSP Enterprises, the publicly-traded company that was supposed to make millions for investors from the foreclosure services it provided to The Law Offices of David Stern (“the Stern Firm”), sued David J. Stern and the Law … Read more
So, again I ask, Lisa Epstein, The Puppet Master, or Lisa Epstein, The American Hero?