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“There is a great deal of fraud.” – Bill McCollum on Florida’s Foreclosure Mills

Crime Scene in our Courts

by Mike on September 7, 2010

Foreclosure Myths and Facts

If you read the newspapers, you’ll know two things about foreclosures in Florida:

  • There’s a huge “backlog” – that’s what the banks call it when they can’t ram their fraudulent cases through the court system to take people’s homes fast enough; and,
  • There’s a huge amount of fraud slipping through the cracks because not enough judges take the time to do their jobs.

The New York Times takes a critical look today at how Florida’s foreclosure system works in “Florida’s High-Speed Answer to a Foreclosure Mess.” Some of the highlights follow.

A high-speed foreclosure railroad

Florida courts now have most foreclosure cases handled by a reinforcement of retired judges whose purpose is to “clear out the backlog.” That means hearing cases very quickly – in five minutes or less, for most cases. Our court system gives more time to shoplifters than it does to homeowners. Despite the obvious problem, Victor Tobin, chief judge overseeing Broward County, claims “The people who come get fully, fully heard.” That just isn’t true, especially in Broward – just ask anyone who’s ever tried to get “fully heard” – like Jacksonville Area Legal Aid attorney April Charney: “You get a five-minute hearing. It’s a factory.”

One of the awful parts about using retired judges to “clear out the foreclosure backlog” is that retired judges no longer have to face the voters at election time. At least when elected circuit judges were making the decisions, they had to wonder if tossing people out of their homes without any due process whatsoever might have consequences at the ballot box. Not true of the retires judges – who are now immune from ever having to face the voters. Whatever you think about electing judges, using the retired judges on the foreclosure docket is clearly a dodge to protect some of our circuit court judges who have failed to do their jobs.

Foreclosure fraud is slipping by these unelected judges

Most foreclosures are filed by just a handful of “foreclosure mill” law firms. Those law firms, in turn, are under investigation by Florida’s Attorney General Bill McCollum for committing widespread fraud in the evidence they provide to the courts. McCollum said:

Thousands of final judgments of foreclosure against Florida homeowners may have been the result of the allegedly improper actions of these law firms. We’ve had so many complaints that I am confident there is a great deal of fraud here.

They submit false documents, fabricate the documents, or the documents actually don’t exist. They wanted to speed the process up because the faster they get the foreclosures done the better.

If he’s right, then as many as two thirds of all foreclosure cases in Florida may be tainted by faked evidence and systematic forgery of foreclosure documents. If he’s right, all those people who lost their houses should, by law, get them back. If he’s right, then banks and their lawyers have perpetrated one of the greatest crimes that Florida has ever seen.

Do you think anyone will actually do jail time? I wish I was more optimistic.

Pay special attention to the part of the article describing the business practices of David J. Stern, foreclosure mill lawyer.

( Photo source / Photo rights )

Want to know more? Contact us at Ricardo & Wasylik, PL.

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