Refinance From Hell Leads to Eviction

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Due to a refinance gone very wrong, a Florida woman will soon lose the home she bought 13 years ago for $80,000. Imogene Hall's nightmare started when she needed to borrow $50,000 on equity in her Miami Gardens home to pay bills while she looked for a job as a home health nursing aide.

A mortgage broker named Johnson Cuffy knocked on her door and offered to help. Unfortunately, he turned out to be someone who would ultimately defraud her by finding a "straw buyer" who worked with Cuffy to obtain a $230,000 mortgage from a subprime lender.
Miami-Dade County records show a purchase of Hall's home by Kervyn Harris in December 2005 for $230,000 (County Record Book ID 24154-2201). They then show Imogene Hall as repurchasing the home for $0 in March 2006, which is County Record Book ID 24391-3233. The sale back to Hall is included among "sales which are disqualified as a result of examination of the deed," so clearly the county questions the transaction.

Based on closing documents, the mortgage broker and his affiliates made $25,000 in transaction fees and pocketed more than $180,000 from subprime lender Argent Mortgage. Hall didn't know about these transactions. All she got was $50,000 from what she thought was a simple refinance.

After the loan was closed, Hall made her monthly payments to Johnson Cuffy rather than the lender. The broker sent her "bogus receipts indicating 'mortgage paid,'" according to the Miami Herald. The Herald's story says that the broker pocketed the payments and never sent them to the lender.

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Although Cuffy is now serving an 11-year prison sentence for what a state investigator described as "outright mortgage fraud" in Hall's refinancing, Hall's problems didn't end there.

The title agent that signed the crucial deed transfers operated as an unlicensed title company, stealing more than $1.5 million from South Florida homebuyers. Not only was Hall the victim of fraud, she also had to deal with the Florida Default Law Group, which is one of four Florida law firms being investigated by the state attorney general for "robo-signing."

Meanwhile, the courts recognized the mortgage fraud and slowed down Hall's case so that she could prepare a defense. That is, until July, when Hall's case was transferred to Judge Jeffrey Rosinek, who gained a reputation for his quick decision making in foreclosure cases.

Critics have dubbed Rosinek's style of handling foreclosure cases the "rocket docket." And after three years of winding its way through the courts, when Rosinek got Hall's case he ignored the evidence of mortgage fraud and tossed out her defense.

With all these cards stacked against her, she couldn't even depend on the attorneys whom she hired to defend her. According to a story in the Palm Beach Post, her attorneys charged her $20,000, even though they regularly failed to appear in court. One attorney even charged her $2,800 for the time he spent trying to withdraw from the case.

Hall is expecting a knock at her door today from law officers who will evict her, her three children and three grandchildren from her 1,494-square-foot home in Miami Gardens, Fla that she bought in October 1997. The 2010 assessed value of the home is $98,310, well below the $230,000 fraudulent loan that was taken out in March 2006.

Lita Epstein has written more than 25 books including "The 250 Questions You Should Ask to Avoid Foreclosure" and "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Personal Bankruptcy."

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