Even Law Enforcement is impacted by Foreclosure.
An Austin, Texas sheriff’s deputy who committed suicide outside his home last month had been facing foreclosure.
Travis County Sgt. Craig Hutchinson told dispatchers there were prowlers in his yard before he was found mortally wounded July 25, authorities said.
Investigators initially said Hutchinson was shot while confronting suspects, but police in Round Rock, north of Austin, said that the fatal shot came from the 54-year-old deputy’s own service weapon.
SunTrust Mortgage filed a notice with the Williamson County clerk’s office on July 11 announcing that Hutchinson’s home was eligible for a foreclosure sale and proceeded to foreclose. Hutchinson’s home was valued on tax rolls at about $241,000, and was sold as a result of the foreclosure process.
Officials this week wouldn’t comment on his personal finances. Sadly, Hutchinson planned to retire this year after 32 years in law enforcement. He also earned approximately $99,000 a year. Theoretically, he brought in about $68k after paying federal taxes (Texas has no state tax). This would be around $5,667 a month, a weekly pay of $1,308, and an hourly wage of $32.69. Hutchinson’s mortgage payment would have been within his means.
However, if Hutchinson was to have a family emergency and miss even one mortgage payment, catching up on his mortgage would be very difficult when late fees and other fees were added. It could have been that his servicer gave him erroneous information or had promised a modification they revoked at the last minute. Unfortunately, we don’t know the entire story and can only speculate what would drive a well-respected law enforcement officer to take his own life in his front yard- with his own service weapon- with less than one year until retirement. Did Hutchinson commit suicide to make a point? Clearly he was a man in pain to have engaged in such a public display of distress.
The majority of Americans now live hand-to-mouth. After paying for cell phones, internet, television, escalating food and fuel costs, inflated health care costs, leased vehicles and other expenses- there is very little left over at the end of the month. We are a nation that lives on borrowed funds and this makes all of us vulnerable to the creditors who control the house we live in, the car we drive, and our access to healthcare. Job loss, divorce, health issues, or relying on a servicer’s advice can create a financial tail spin. Most Americans are one paycheck away from disaster.
The servicers are well aware that most people are living on the brink. Disinformation or bad advice from a loan servicer can quickly end in a foreclosure. The servicers are also aware that the majority of Americans can’t afford a small retainer to retain an attorney, let alone finance a lengthy and expensive lawsuit. The odds are that the homeowner will eventually walk away and give up if the servicer can posture and play dirty for long enough- and they are usually right. At Lending Lies our numbers show that less than 5% of all homeowners fight back against a fraudulent foreclosure.
Mortgage servicing has evolved into a predatory industry. The servicer can make a couple of dollars per month servicing a mortgage, or they can make a financial landslide in profits if they can engineer a default.
For example, a client the Lending Lies Team spoke to this week sent us his past five years of mortgage statements. The statements showed decreasing balances, escrows that varied by thousands of dollars within three statements, and late fees, drive-by fees, and miscellaneous fees that amounted to over 20k dollars in the last year! The homeowner and his CPA could not make heads or tails out of the servicer’s statements. The judge said to figure it out and bring him a number- but the statements were completely illegible. Thus, even though the homeowner was trying to get a new loan they couldn’t get an accurate payoff number. The client was infuriated that their only option was to pay whatever amount the servicer demanded even though the servicer could not explain the charges and fees assessed.
It is time to get back to local banking and using regional credit unions instead of mega-banking cartels who have no interest in preventing foreclosure. When local banks are used, there is an investment in community and an accountability that is not seen with impersonal and predatory loan servicers and lenders.
If Sergeant Hutchinson is like any of the clients we talk to on a daily basis at Lending Lies, he was tired of fighting an unresponsive or unhelpful loan servicer. He was tired of the third party drive-bys, notices nailed to his front door, illegible statements, predatory fees and the public humiliation associated with living in a small town where it is broadcast that you can’t pay your mortgage. It is likely that he suffered from debilitating anxiety and even panic attacks. The stress on his marriage, family and even work performance may have been overwhelming. Ultimately, he likely experienced a major depression.
Investigators turned up evidence that Hutchinson had been diagnosed with anxiety and depression and showed signs of post-traumatic stress disorder. There were also thousands of pages of financial documents that showed he had money troubles that stretched back to 2011. Hutchinson had been prescribed anti-depression medication, but the medicine wasn’t in his bloodstream at the time of his death, detectives said.
People suffering from major depression do not think logically. Law-enforcement personnel who are combating foreclosure are likely not at their professional best.
Depression and PTSD impact the ability to make rational decisions. Sergeant Hutchinson was likely a victim of a wrongful foreclosure. It says a lot about our society that a bank’s profit is more important than working to find an equitable solution. When is enough going to be enough?
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