In Florida, in order to foreclose on your property, the owner of the mortgage (plaintiff) must file a lawsuit. At an early stage in the foreclosure action, the plaintiff will ordinarily file an application (motion) for a ‘summary judgment’ stating that the facts are not in dispute and judgment must be granted as a matter of law. Employees of the plaintiff submit sworn affidavits (statement) that support the motion. Most of the time, the court accepts these affidavits and the homeowner loses his property.
To get a foreclosure judgment, the plaintiff must prove that it owns the loan. Very often, the Plaintiff is not the original lender, but purchased your mortgage, bundled it in a pool with a billion dollars worth (not an exaggeration) of other mortgages and resold it to investors. In many cases, the original note signed by the homeowner was lost or destroyed. Proving ownership of the loan can often be difficult.
It now appears that in many cases, the affidavits and documents submitted to the court to prove ownership of the note and mortgage are false and fraudulent. The plaintiffs have come to court with documents that were either back-dated (in an attempt to prove that the plaintiff actually owns the property), signed by ‘robo-signers’ (stamped signatures that allowed the filing of a high volume of foreclosures. often with little if any oversight) or just fraud.
So what happens to the property if the Plaintiff cannot produce documents that they ‘own’ the property?There are so many foreclosures currently being processed in Florida that the law firms hired by the Plaintiffs are called foreclosure mills. As a result of court decisions throughout the country and the Florida Attorney General’s investigation into the ‘foreclosure mills’ (high volume foreclosure filers, e.g., the Florida Default Law Group, the Law Offices of Marshall C. Watson, P.A., the Law Offices of David J. Stern, P.A., and Shapiro & Fishman, LLP), the fraud is now being exposed.
Florida’s attorney general stated, “On numerous occasions, false affidavits and fabricated documents have allegedly been presented to courts in foreclosure actions to obtain final judgments against homeowners.” In order to process cases on a wholesale basis, Plaintiffs had mid-level bank executives sign thousands of affidavits (so-called ‘robo-signors’) saying that they had personal knowledge of the facts of a case when they could not possibly have that knowledge. Executives at JP Morgan Chase have confessed to signing tens of thousands of foreclosure documents without reading them and temporarily suspended mortgage foreclosures in 23 states, including Florida.
A Circuit Court of Duval County, based on ‘clear and convincing evidence’, found that Plaintiff’s attorneys, Shapiro and Fishman LLP, committed fraud upon the Court and created false documents.
Recently, Fannie Mae, the federal mortgage giant, became aware of similar problems at another foreclosure mill in Broward County. A Miami judge found the firm’s founding partner in contempt of court for filing “sham” foreclosure documents and “wasting the court’s time. “The judge dismissed the foreclosure case and banned the lender from refiling it.
In November of 2010, Fannie Mae fired David J. Stern’s Plantation-based law firm, probably the largest of the foreclosure mills, on charges of falsifying documents used to complete foreclosures.
In our foreclosure cases, we often discover questionable or obviously fraudulent documents submitted to the court to support foreclosure; these become the basis of aggressive defense. Retaining an experienced Florida foreclosure defense attorney is often the most important step you can take to protect your property from unscrupulous lenders.