Florida foreclosure case could slam banks


The Florida case provides a startling example of abuses that allegedly take place in the foreclosure process – and the strategies lenders use to overcome them.

Roman Pino, a shy, 35-year-old drywall hanger, bought his home in 2006 during the housing boom. He put 20 percent down on half of a two-bedroom duplex near Palm Beach, Fla., and financed the rest with a $162,400 loan from Countrywide Financial, now owned by Bank of America.

In 2008, when Florida’s economy weakened, Pino couldn’t find construction jobs and fell behind on his mortgage payments. In October, Bank of New York Mellon, the trustee for the security that owns Pino’s loan, filed a suit to foreclose.

Bank of America was Pino’s mortgage servicer. It didn’t respond to a request for comment.

To help him hang on to his home, Pino sought the help of Thomas Ice, a homeowner-defense attorney. Ice quickly discovered that the documents in the bank’s foreclosure lawsuit were fudged.

Pino’s mortgage assignment — the document that legally binds a loan to a lender – had been executed by Cheryl Samons, an alleged robo-signer who signed as many as 1,000 foreclosure affidavits a day, according to court depositions.

According to court documents, Samons worked for one of the banking industry’s biggest foreclosure mills, the law firm of David Stern. The firm consistently created false documents, according to a report by investigators in the Florida Attorney General’s office.

Ice dug up depositions where a Stern employee testified that Samons’s hand got so cramped that she told three underlings to forge her signature. Two Stern workers also testified that they forged signatures, backdated documents, swapped Social Security numbers, inflated billings and passed around notary stamps as casually as if they were salt, according to court papers.

Samons, who could not be located for comment, denied the robo signing allegations in an April 2011 deposition. She also testified that Stern lied to her and ignored her concerns.

Stern’s firm is now shuttered and under investigation by the Florida Attorney General. Stern’s lawyer, Jeffrey Tew, said, “No one ever testified that David ever knew of any misconduct by any of his employees.”

To Ice, it was immediately obvious that the Stern firm had backdated Pino’s mortgage assignment because the notarization stamp was not valid at the time denoted on the document.

The only way the notarization stamp used on Pino’s assignment could have been valid, Ice alleged, was if the notary had been “capable of time travel.”

He filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that since the bank’s documents were illegal, so was the foreclosure.

Full report here…