Sorry You Lost Your Home: Americans Deserve More than an Apology for the Foreclosure Fraud Epidemic

Salon | August 9, 2016      “I lost my home of 30 years to fraudclosure.”

“I have been fighting this bank for over five years now. I am finally losing everything to their fraud.”

“We feel captive in our own home.”

This is a sampling of what I have awakened to practically every day for the past few months, since my book “Chain of Title: How Three Ordinary Americans Uncovered Wall Street’s Great Foreclosure Fraud” came out. Hundreds of people have emailed me, sent me letters, attended my public events, to relate their personal horror stories of foreclosure and dispossession. They come from across America, from different social and economic backgrounds. Some lost everything, and some haven’t given up.

They contact me, a non-lawyer who has only written about and not participated in their struggle, because they have been abandoned, by a government that chose sides against them after the crash of 2008. They seek answers that I mostly don’t have and support I mostly cannot provide. Outside of referring them to legal aid, I cannot solve their foreclosure problems. I cannot convince a judge disinclined to rule in their favor, or a bank disinclined to see them as anything but a financial asset to be plucked, to change their minds. I can only note in sorrow that the massive netting of fraud laid by the mortgage industry over a decade ago continues to capture people like them.

But despite my lack of assistance, they typically express to me their gratitude, for one simple reason: just by giving voice to similar nightmares, I have instilled in them hope that they aren’t utterly alone in their misery, that they haven’t been singled out by a vengeful nation, that somewhere out there they have an ally and a confidant.

I wrote my book for them, for everyone who suffered as a result of the largest consumer fraud in American history and the greatest economic collapse in nearly a century. They shouldn’t be forgotten. In fact, somebody should apologize to them for having to bear the weight of the financial collapse on their shoulders, even while that suffering was exacted through outright fraud. It might as well be me.  Read more here.

The Foreclosure Sleuth

New Republic |  June 29, 2016    New Republic contributor David Dayen’s book Chain of Title focuses on three individuals in South Florida—cancer nurse Lisa Epstein, car dealership worker Michael Redman, and Lynn Szymoniak, a lawyer specializing in insurance fraud—who stumbled upon the biggest consumer fraud in American history. They did so after they fell into foreclosure, and realized that all the documents they were sent by their mortgage companies—the evidence being used to kick them out of their homes—were fake. It turned out that the industry broke the chain of title—the chain of ownership, really—on millions of securitized mortgages, and were using false documents to cover it up.   Read more here.

Foreclosure Fraud Is Supposed to Be a Thing of the Past, But It Happens Every Day

The Intercept | May 18, 2016       Six years ago, FBI agents in Jacksonville, Florida, wrote a memo to their bosses in Washington, DC, that could have unraveled the largest consumer fraud in American history. It went to the heart of the shady mortgage industry that precipitated the financial crisis, and the case promised to involve nearly every major bank in the country, honing in on the despicable practice of using bogus documents to illegally kick people out of their homes.

But despite impaneling a grand jury, calling in dozens of agents and forensic examiners, doing 75 interviews, issuing hundreds of subpoenas, and reviewing millions of documents, the criminal investigation resulted in just one conviction. And that convict—Lorraine Brown, CEO of the third-party company DocX that facilitated the fraud scheme—was sent to prison for duping the banks.

Thanks to a Freedom of Information Act request, VICE has obtained some 600 pages of documents from the Jacksonville FBI field office showing how agents conducted a sprawling investigation. (The Jacksonville case is also featured in my new book, Chain of Title.) The documents suggest the feds gained a detailed understanding of how and why the mortgage industry enlisted third-party companies to create false documents they presented to courts, as detailed in the 2012 National Mortgage Settlement, for which the big banks paid billions in civil fines. The banks' conduct is described in the settlement documents as "unlawful," and the Jacksonville FBI had it nailed almost two years earlier.   Read more here.