Bogus property records
What if you lost your house because the bank submitted bogus paperwork to the court?
It happens more often than you think. Sometimes, it’s just a mistake. Sometimes, it’s a cover-up of past mistakes. Sometimes, it’s out-and-out fraud by the foreclosing lender. Here’s a shocking example from the Tampa Bay area: evidence that documents prepared for foreclosure cases have been systematically faked: They actually have the word “BOGUS” in them.
Your assignment, if you choose to accept it
Usually, before a foreclosure begins, the plaintiff needs to find an “assignment” of the mortgage, which supposedly transfers the rights to the loan from the original lender to whomever actually forecloses. (In today’s foreclosure crisis, it is rarely the original lender who forecloses, but someone they’ve sold the loan to.)
These assignments get “recorded” as part of the public record. And if you look in Florida’s public records, you’ll find that a number of these so-called assignments literally transfer mortgages from lenders to “BOGUS ASSIGNEES.” Look at this bogus assignment [PDF] I found in the public records of Pasco County.
Linda Green, did you read this before you signed it?
This one claims to assign the mortgage and the loan from MERS (more about them later) to “Bogus Assignee for Intervening Assignments.” This document was prepared by Ron Mehrg of “DOCX” and signed by MERS officers Linda Green and Jessica Odhe.
It seems pretty obvious that MERS didn’t intend to ship this mortgage off to a “Bogus assignee” – one that literally doesn’t exist. This was, at the start, just a horrible mistake by DOCX, the document preparer. Then it got worse.
Most documents of this kind are computer-generated. Pull up the template, enter a few names, print. Sometimes templates like this have “placeholder” names that are replaced with the real ones when they are created. The more obviously fake these names are, the better, to prevent mistakes from happening – so they might use something like “bogus assignee” as a placeholder, thinking that no one in their right minds could possibly miss that when putting in the real names. But, someone did. So far, just an innocent mistake.
Then, Linda Green signed it. What could she possibly have been thinking? Did she read what she signed? Did she review the file to make sure that the mortgage was actually being sold to the right party?
Obviously not. With the volume of home loans, and the money sloshing around in the system, emphasis was on speed and efficiency – not doing it right. There were many people, like Linda Green, whose job it was to sign these papers, were paid to do so in volume. They would sit with a stack of paper, and sign, sign, sign, for hours at a time. Never once did they stop to check what they were signing – they didn’t get paid to do that.
And in the process, Linda Green and people like her were slowly wrecking the trustworthiness of our public property ownership records.
Papered over: the coverup
So how did they fix this problem? The disappointing answer, is that they didn’t. Once MERS discovered all these bogus assignments (and there are a lot of them, all over Florida and maybe even the whole country) they simply had DOCX go back and print out some new assignments, and had Linda Green sign them all over again. (That’s what happened to this Pasco County family’s home.)
But signing new assignments doesn’t fix the old one – it just papers it over. The trouble is, once Linda Green and MERS assigned the mortgage to anyone – even a “bogus” assignee – it was no longer theirs to assign to anyone. The result is uncertainty and confusion in the public records. Because it’s not clear who, if anyone, currently owns this mortgage, there’s a “cloud” over the title of the property – meaning it will be difficult for anyone to buy this home and be certain that they own it free and clear of all liens.
And that means, no one in their right mind would ever buy that home except for a deep, deep discount – driving down home prices for everyone in the neighborhood. And that’s true of every county, every state, where one of these BOGUS assignments has been entered.
The tip of the bogus iceberg
Any idiot – except perhaps Linda Green – can see that these “Bogus” assignments are exactly that. But the damage goes much deeper. All over the country, hundreds of Linda Greens, for thousands of lenders, have signed millions of such papers. Few, if any, of them have been checked for accuracy. That means that all mortgages are potentially the subject of bogus transfers, even if the word “bogus” doesn’t appear on the documents. Your mortgage, my mortgage, your neighbors’ and mine – all potentially blown up with the stroke of a careless pen.
In the long term, all of us will pay for the careless of the Linda Greens out there.