Foreclosure Headlines: Robo Signer/ Whistle Blower Dead, Occupy The Street; Homeowner Holiday Reprieve, Average Foreclosure Length Up, New Mass AG Sues Banks
Notary behind robo-signing scandal found dead
A whistle-blower who brought a massive case to light was found dead inside her Nevada home.
Officers found the body of Tracy Lawrence, 43, after she failed to show up for a 8:30 a.m. court appearance, Las Vegas station KSNV reported. She was supposed to be sentenced for her role in the fraud case, but she never arrived and her lawyer said he was concerned for her well-being, so the judge dispatched officers to her home.
Detectives have ruled out homicide, KNSV reported, but it’s not known if Lawrence died of natural causes or if she took her own life.
The week before, she pled guilty one criminal charge of notary fraud, after she admitted that she had notarized around 25,000 fraudulent documents as part of a foreclosure fraud scheme.
Prosecutors allege title officers Gary Trafford and Geraldine Sheppard of California are behind the scheme that involved Lawrence, both were indicted on more than 600 charges in a 439-page indictment filed on November 16. Both are still at-large.
Homeowners join OWS movement
Last week 60 Minutes shined a harsh light on the homeless problem in Florida, that one third of the homeless families in America are from the Sunshine State. And two-thirds of homeless families are living on the streets. For them ‘Occupy Wall Street’ has literally become ‘Occupy The Street’.
If there is any positive to be had from this difficult news, it’s that the social stigma attached to losing your home is now gone, Oppenheim Law reports. For some underwater homeowners, foreclosure has become a form of protest, not unlike the OWS movement. But some are walking away willingly and protesting from their living rooms, while others are forced into their cars.
Says foreclosure attorney Roy Oppenheim, “in some cases we save people from being homeless by defending their homes through the foreclosure process . . . the flip side is that there are many families who did not seek legal advice and were handed walking papers by the banksters, who illegally foreclosed on and forced them onto the “street.”
Happy Holidays from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac
Both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are giving embattled homeowners a small present, announcing they are suspending evictions during the holiday season. From Dec 19th through January 2nd, 2012, the federal lenders will not kick out anyone who is being foreclosed on.
Some major private lenders, such as Wells Fargo, Bank of America and Chase, are also following suit, according to CNN Money.
“The holidays are meant for families to spend time together, especially if they’ve gone through the stress of financial challenges and foreclosure,” Terry Edwards of Fannie Mae said in a statement. “No family should have to give up their home during this holiday season.”
Before you think the Grinch’s heart grew three sizes, realize their good will isn’t halting the foreclosure process entirely. Both companies admitted they may still continue legal and administrative proceedings during this time. And once the new year comes, they’ll be back in the foreclosure game big-time, as the inventory of foreclosed properties is up to an all-time high, according to Lender Processing Services, with 4.29 of all active mortgages in the foreclosure process.
Foreclosure timeline increases
However the length of time people are living in a foreclosed property has gone up. According to statistics just released by the Mortgage Monitor, the average length of time a loan (as of October) has been in foreclosure is 631 days, nearly 21 months. That’s over 100 days more than average reported just last January, in January of 2008 the average was only 251.
Alison Rogers of Time magazine attributes this to the fallout from the robo-signing scandal, with banks now trying not to repeat their past alleged mistakes. Now banks are choosing to slow down the process to make sure every ounce of paperwork is properly processed, Rogers said, which results in a much more drawn out foreclosure timeline.
Mass. AG goes after five banks in foreclosure lawsuit
Finally, there’s more bad news for the nation’s top lenders, as Massachusetts’ top prosecutor is suing 5 banks she accuses of illegally foreclosing on homes and using deceptive loan servicing practices.
Attorney General Martha Coakley filed suit against Bank of America, Wells Fargo, JP Morgan Chase, Citigroup and GMAC.
Her 59-page complaint claims they used fraudulent documents and foreclosed on homes without holding the actual mortgage. They also failed to stick to loan modification promises they made Massachusetts homeowners, all in violation of state law, the complaint states.
“Our suit alleges that the banks have charted a destructive path by cutting corners and rushing to foreclose on homeowners without following the rule of law” Coakley said in a statement to MSNBC, “Our action today seeks real accountability for the banks illegal behavior and real relief for homeowners.”