Deed Theft Scams: Why Not Prosecute the Banks Too?

It is supreme irony that individual scam artists are being prosecuted for false representations and deed theft — while the the institutional scam artists on Wall Street did the same thing raking in trillions of dollars, without a whiff of criminal prosecution.

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What the fraudster did in this case was reprehensible and criminal. Any person who does this deserves jail. So beware of anyone who suggests that they have some nifty way to save you from foreclosure if you just deed the property to them. It’s an industry. And it is based on your payment of rent while they zig and zag with the banks.

Beware of any who promises you guaranteed results. The only thing that will stop a foreclosure judgment or sale is a court order from a court of competent jurisdiction. In the real world of the justice system there is no such thing as guaranteed results.

But when you look at the details, it is impossible to distinguish between the fraud visited upon the victim in the article linked above and the fraud visited upon the same victim that put him in the position of losing his home to another complete stranger.

Consider this:

  • The “loan” you received was merely one part of a fraudulent scheme in which the money of third parties was swindled from them and then applied to create the illusion of your loan.
  • The note you signed was to the sales agent for the fraudulent scheme and not to the party whose money was used to make the “loan.”
  • By receiving the money you are obligated to pay it back. That’s called the debt.
  • By signing the note you are obligated to make payments to the payee on the note. That’s your second liability and it WILL be enforced if someone pays real money for your signed note, at least before it goes into default. That person would be a holder in due course.
  • By signing the mortgage deed or deed of trust, you have put your home up as collateral to guarantee payments on the fraudulent note, not to guarantee payment of the debt.
  • The mortgage deed or deed of trust are deeds. How is the above transaction different from conventional deed theft?
Quote from article:
“The scammers are no longer content with stealing $5,000. Now they want the whole house,” said Dina Levy, who heads the Homeowner Protection Program in the New York attorney general’s office, which has spread word about deed theft and prosecuted culprits.
Isn’t that what happened on Wall Street? No longer content to overcharge you for unaffordable loans the banks want your whole house. And no longer satisfied to take your house they want ten times the value of your house by “trading” in securities that everyone treats as non-securities under the 1999 law. But they are securities and they are in violation of SEC regulations and laws defining theft as a crime on the grandest scale ever seen in human history.

Here’s a detailed breakdown of Ocwen’s new restrictions by state

A deeper dive reveals what Ocwen can and can’t do going forward

The servicing issues at Ocwen Financial are allegedly so widespread that some states are placing stricter restrictions on the nonbank, beyond freezing the company’s ability to acquire new mortgage servicing rights.

On Thursday, a group of state business regulators issued joint cease-and-desist orders to Ocwen. The main announcement from the states shows that an examination into Ocwen’s servicing shows “several violations of state and federal law, including, but not limited to, consumer escrow accounts that could not be reconciled and willful and ongoing unlicensed activity in certain states.”

The orders also showed that the regulators are concerned with Ocwen’s ability to continue operating due to financial constraints, an issue that Ocwen denies.

The orders prohibit the acquisition of new mortgage servicing rights and the origination of mortgage loans by Ocwen Loan Servicing, a subsidiary of Ocwen, until the company is “able to prove it can appropriately manage its consumer mortgage escrow accounts.”

However, HousingWire analysis of each state’s cease-and-desist order or accompanying press release, show that some states’ regulators are restricting Ocwen’s business much further than that.

In fact, in one state, Ocwen has basically been put of out business entirely.

All in all, Arkansas, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming each placed restrictions on Ocwen’s business, according to the Conference of State Bank Supervisors.

But several states’ restrictions were not equal to the others– namely Massachusetts and South Dakota.

According to the announcement from the Massachusetts Office of Consumer Affairs & Business Regulation’s Division of Banks, Ocwen is not only no longer allowed to acquire new mortgage servicing rights, the company is also no longer allowed to service mortgages in the state, at all.

Here’s how Massachusetts describes its reasoning for restricting Ocwen’s business:

Of paramount concern is the company’s deteriorating financial condition, in which the company has lost nearly $1 billion since 2014, and will not be profitable by its own estimations for at least two years. The company has not developed or implemented an effective plan to curb these losses.

The examinations and monitoring noted the company has shown ineffective management of consumer escrow accounts and their internal servicing systems.

Therefore, Massachusetts is requiring Ocwen to “develop and implement a plan to transfer its loan servicing activities for Massachusetts consumer mortgage loans to a Division-approved licensed loan servicer(s).”

That means Ocwen can no longer service any mortgages in the state and must work to transfer all current mortgages it services to other servicers.

According to the Massachusetts Division of Banks, Ocwen services approximately 34,472 loans in Massachusetts, representing 3.5% of Ocwen’s portfolio – all of which must be transferred away.

Massachusetts’ order also requires Ocwen to “either fund or place mortgage loan applications in process with other lenders at no loss to applicants, and to cease accepting new applications,” which means no new loans for Ocwen in Massachusetts either.

“The Division will be closely monitoring Ocwen’s compliance with the Order,” the Division of Banks’ order states. “During this time, consumers with mortgage loans serviced by Ocwen should continue to submit loan payments to Ocwen in normal course in accordance with their loan terms. Ocwen will continue to service these loans until an orderly transfer of the servicing is completed in accordance with the Order. Any current mortgage loan applications should continue to be processed.”

South Dakota also placed its own serious restrictions on Ocwen’s business in the state, in the form of halting all foreclosures in the state until the escrow issues are addressed.

Here’s how the South Dakota Department of Labor and Regulation’s Division of Banking described it:

Ocwen does not possess the competence, experience, character, or general fitness required to permit Ocwen to continue to acquire new business as a mortgage lender in South Dakota.

The public interest will be irreperably harmed if Ocwen’s mortgage lending liscense is not conditioned immediately.

Therefore, Ocwen is required to “immediately cease acquiring new mortgage servicing rights, and acquiring or originating new residential mortgages serviced by Ocwen, until Ocwen can show it is a going concern by providing a financial analysis that encompasses all of the liabilities Ocwen currently maintains, as well as liabilities it has knowledge it will incur in the course of its business.”

Ocwen is also required to “immediately cease from acquiring new mortgage servicing rights, and acquiring or originating new residential mortgages serviced by Ocwen, until Ocwen can provide a third-party audit of its South Dakota escrow accounts showing that borrower funds are appropriately collected, properly calculated, and disbursed accurately and timely, and make any corrections of whatever type necessary to remedy all mistake, errors, and improprieties occurring due to Ocwen’s actions.”

Ocwen is also required to “immediately cease any and all foreclosures in the state of South Dakota until all South Dakota escrow accounts have been correctly and properly balanced and all corrections due to mismanagement of the escrow accounts have been effected.”

Nearly all of the other states list the same restrictions: no new mortgage servicing rights and no new loans to be serviced by Ocwen Loan Servicing, except for Nebraska and Rhode Island, which each expect Ocwen to provide detailed reports on its servicing activity on a frequent basis going forward.

The Nebraska Department of Banking and Finance states that Ocwen is prohibited from “the acquisition of mortgage servicing rights and the origination of mortgage loans until they are able to prove they can appropriately manage their consumer mortgage escrow accounts.”

Beyond that, Nebraska’s order requires Ocwen to provide a list of all the residential mortgages it services in the state, including the name, address, telephone number, and state of residence of the borrower; as well as the loan number; the owner of the loan; the account balance; and the location of any escrow funds.

Ocwen is then required to provide a report on the status of every Nebraska loan it services to the Nebraska Department of Banking and Finance every 10 days.

Ocwen is also required to provide written notice of all servicing transfers within 72 hours of execution.

And in Rhode Island, Ocwen “shall immediately cease from acquiring new mortgage servicing rights and acquiring or originating new residential mortgages serviced by Ocwen, which mortgage loans are secured by Rhode Island property, until Ocwen can provide the Department of Business Regulation with a reconcilement of its escrow accounts showing that consumer funds are appropriately collected, properly calculated, and disbursed accurately and timely.”

Ocwen is also required to “immediately cease acquiring mortgage servicing rights and acquiring or originating new residential mortgages serviced by Ocwen, which mortgage loans are secured by Rhode Island property, until Ocwen can show it is a going concern by providing a financial analysis that encompasses all of the liabilities it currently maintains, as well as liabilities it has knowledge it will incur in the course of its business.”

Additionally, Ocwen is required to file written confirmation by 4 p.m. on May 22, 2017, stating that the company has stopped acquiring new mortgage servicing rights and acquiring or originating new residential mortgages serviced by Ocwen for properties in Rhode Island.

Ocwen is also required to provide the Rhode Island’s Department of Business Regulation with the following information: a list of all loans secured by Rhode Island property presently serviced by Ocwen, including the date such loans were originated; a list of all loans secured by Rhode Island property as to which Respondents are acting as a third party servicer, including the date such loans were originated; and a list of all pending acquisitions of servicing rights and applications for mortgage loans that would be secured by Rhode Island property that are in the pipeline.

Below is a list of the remaining states with relevant passages about each state’s restrictions on Ocwen:

ArkansasArkansas Securities Commissioner, B. Edmond Waters, issued a press release in connection with a cease and desist order issued against Ocwen Loan Servicing, LLC and Ocwen Mortgage Servicing, Inc. Ocwen Loan Servicing, LLC and Ocwen Mortgage Servicing, Inc. are ordered to cease and desist from acquiring new mortgage servicing rights and originating new mortgage loans. The order prohibits the acquisition of mortgage servicing rights and the origination of mortgage loans until the company is able to prove it can appropriately manage its borrower mortgage escrow accounts.

ConnecticutThe Commissioner finds that the public welfare requires immediate action in order to prevent irreparable and immediate harm to Connecticut borrowers and the necessity of a temporary order requiring Ocwen to cease and desist from violating the laws cited herein, pursuant to Section 36a-52(b) of the Connecticut General Statutes in that, since December 2013, State Mortgage Regulators, including this Department, have been concerned about Ocwen’s mortgage servicing practices including, but not limited to, the misapplication of borrower payments and inaccurate escrow accounting and statements, and that the recent Multi-State Examination and CT Examination indicate that these issues have not been resolved, but rather may be exacerbated.  In addition, Connecticut borrowers have no ability to select a different mortgage servicer to remedy such persistent and pervasive errors by Ocwen.  Considering the potential harm to Connecticut borrowers and Ocwen’s inability to provide sufficient information concerning its existing borrower escrow accounts, the Commissioner finds it imperative that Ocwen cease from acquiring new mortgage servicing rights in connection with Connecticut residential mortgage loans for which it would have to maintain escrow accounts, and acquiring or originating new Connecticut residential mortgage loans serviced by Ocwen for which it would have to maintain escrow accounts, until it can ensure that the escrow accounts of its existing residential mortgage loan servicing portfolio in Connecticut are properly reconciled and that all Connecticut borrowers’ monies are maintained in segregated deposit or trust accounts for the benefit of such Connecticut borrowers.

District of ColumbiaThe majority of the orders prohibit the acquisition of new mortgage servicing rights and the origination of new mortgage loans until the company is able to prove it can appropriately manage its existing mortgage escrow accounts and not further harm consumers. Some orders also require Ocwen to cease any ongoing unlicensed activity.

FloridaFiled a separate lawsuit over Ocwen’s servicing practices.

HawaiiThe Notice of Charges and Proposed Order prohibits the acquisition of mortgage servicing rights and the origination of mortgage loans until the company is able to prove it can appropriately manage its consumer mortgage escrow accounts. The Notice of Charges and Proposed Order also demands Ocwen to cease illegal unlicensed activity that is believed to be occurring in Hawaii.

IdahoThe department’s order prohibits Ocwen from violating Idaho law in the handling of consumer escrow accounts. Managing the money that borrowers remit as part of their monthly mortgage payments is critical to the business of a mortgage servicer, and the department’s order requires Ocwen to accurately and lawfully fulfill that function when dealing with Idaho borrowers’ mortgage payments.

IllinoisA search of the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation did not show record of Illinois’ actions against Ocwen.

MaineOcwen shall immediately cease acquiring new mortgage servicing rights, and acquiring or originating new residential mortgages serviced by Ocwen, until Ocwen can show it is a going concern by providing a financial analysis that encompasses all of the liabilities Ocwen currently maintains, as well as liabilities it has knowledge it will incur in the course of its business; Ocwen shall immediately cease from acquiring new mortgage servicing rights, and acquiring or originating new residential mortgages serviced by Ocwen, until Ocwen can provide the state regulators with a reconcilement of its escrow accounts showing that consumer funds are appropriately collected, properly calculated, and disbursed accurately and timely.

MississippiOLS shall immediately cease acquiring new mortgage servicing rights, and acquiring or originating new residential mortgages serviced by OLS, until Ocwen can show it is a going concern by providing a financial analysis that encompasses all of the liabilities Ocwen currently maintains, as well as liabilities it has knowledge it will incur in the course of its business; OLS shall immediately cease from acquiring new mortgage servicing rights, and acquiring or originating new Mississippi residential mortgages serviced by OLS, until OLS can provide the DBCF with a third party audit of its escrow accounts associated with any Mississippi residential mortgage loans demonstrating that consumer escrow funds are appropriately collected, properly calculated, and disbursed accurately and timely; and make any and all corrections of whatever type necessary to remedy all mistakes, errors, and improprieties occurring in the past due to OLS’s Actions.

MontanaThe order prohibits Ocwen from acquiring new mortgage servicing rights until the company is able to establish that it can appropriately manage its Montana escrow accounts. Over the past three years, the Montana Division of Banking and Financial Institutions has handled 16 complaints against Ocwen and required Ocwen to credit $51,368.56 to Montana borrowers. Division officials will now focus on assisting borrowers who currently make mortgage payments to Ocwen.

NevadaThe majority of orders, including the order issued by the Nevada Division of Mortgage Lending, prohibit the acquisition of mortgage servicing rights and the origination of mortgage loans until the company is able to prove it can appropriately manage its existing mortgage escrow accounts and prevent harm to consumers.

North Carolina Lead state in announcing restrictions.

South CarolinaA search of the South Carolina State Board of Financial Institutions – Consumer Finance Division did not show record of South Carolina’s actions against Ocwen.

TennesseeThe Tennessee Department of Financial Institutions (“Department”) issued today an enforcement action against Ocwen Loan Servicing to prohibit the company from acquiring new mortgage servicing rights or originating mortgage loans in Tennessee until it provides the Department with a plan to demonstrate an ability to operate in a sound manner.

TexasA search of the Texas Department of Savings and Mortgage Lending did not show record of Texas’ actions against Ocwen.

West VirginiaA search of the West Virginia Division of Finance did not show record of West Virginia’s actions against Ocwen.

WisconsinThe majority of orders prohibit the acquisition of new mortgage servicing rights and the origination of mortgage loans until the company is able to prove it can appropriately manage its existing mortgage escrow accounts and not further harm consumers. Ocwen conducts mortgage loan servicing for approximately 1.5 million consumers nationwide, including about 13,500 in Wisconsin.

WyomingA search of the Wyoming Division of Banking did not show record of Wyoming’s actions against Ocwen.

[Editor’s note: If any of HousingWire’s readers can assist in locating the missing states’ orders against Ocwen, please contact Ben Lane at This article will be updated as appropriate.]

Sub-Prime Mortgage Servicer Ocwen fabricates Mortgage Documents

Ocwen is the bottom-feeder of mortgage servicing companies.  Most survey’s rank Ocwen as the absolute worst in customer service and accountability including consumer research by J.D. Powers.  Ocwen acts as a debt-collector and our experience at LendingLies is that Ocwen often cannot identify the true creditor or provide any documentation demonstrating who owns the loan.  Ocwen then resorts to fabricating documents and obfuscation to keep the borrower in the dark until they can successfully foreclose.  Why is the CFPB and Multi-State Mortgage Committee not investigating Ocwen’s fabrication of loan instruments?

Last year we had a client from Texas contact us who was dealing with Ocwen.  He had pulled his paperwork and discovered that his loan was one of the Taylor, Bean & Whitaker (TBW) fraudulent transactions, there was no evidence that the note had ever been endorsed, and there were no assignments from TBW to Ocwen.   To overcome these issues Ocwen either photoshopped endorsements or assignments in-house, or went to a third party who creates fraudulent loan instruments and filed to foreclose.

The Lendinglies staff sent a copy of the note and assignment to a forensic document fraud examiner and he discovered that the “original” copies submitted by Ocwen were nothing more than computer-generated forgeries.  We did a little more investigating and discovered that  the “corrective” assignment of the Deed of Trust was signed by Ocwen employee Amber K. Wilson.

Amber K. Wilson was employed as a Servicing Operations Specialist at Ocwen since May 2015.   Located in Iowa, Amber’s Linked-In profile stated that her current duties included, “Researching Mortgage Documents to verify a full Chain of Title is present. If it is not create the needed Documents (sic). Work from Excel Spread Sheet daily as well as several internal data programs.”  Amber K. Wilson admitted on a public website that Ocwen Loan Servicing creates documents to create a “proper Chain of Title” if there are errors.

This is an admission that Ocwen employees are engaging in fraudulent activity by fabricating notes and assignments (the derogatory information has since been removed from her Linked-In profile but a screenshot of last year’s Linked-In profile is included below). Hopefully the CFPB and Multi-State Mortgage Committee who have filed lawsuits will investigate this type of criminal activity.

It is fraudulent to recreate a chain of assignment with fabricated documents to create the appearance the current servicer has standing. As Neil Garfield has repeatedly pointed out- copies of the note and assignment don’t document an actual transaction (sale, transfer)- they are nothing but window dressing to create the illusion an event occurred.

Our client was a victim of these sham documents Ocwen filed in the Tarrant county records. He has been fortunate enough to find an attorney who has successfully kept Ocwen at bay.  Texas is involved in the multi-state effort to regulate large servicers across the country while ensuring compliance with applicable state and federal law, while protecting consumers.

Amber Wilson’s Linked-In profile where she admits fabricating loan instruments:

Ocwen admits its substandard servicing is standard in Industry

By K.K. MacKinstry/Lendinglies

During the Multi-State Mortgage Committee’s investigation, Ocwen made an accurate revelation when attempting to justify charges of mortgage servicing failures by claiming that its servicing policies are comparable to other mortgage loan servicing operations.  Truer words have not been spoken, and the entire mortgage loan servicing industry is in shambles because servicers make more money foreclosing than servicing a loan.

Ocwen said that these independent reviews “consistently confirmed Ocwen’s escrow practices are in line with common industry standards for timeliness and accuracy.”  That may be true because ALL loan servicers practice similar predatory and illegal servicing tactics to increase the probability that a homeowner will default. Every homeowner who has a mortgage serviced by Ocwen, Nationstar, CitiMortgage, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, JPMC, EverHome, PHH or any other major loan servicer is at risk of being victimized by their servicer because they follow similar servicing strategies as seen in other investigations and lawsuits.

Ocwen admitted that: “No mortgage servicer is perfect – to the extent mistakes are made, we have a process to identify and remediate consistent with other mortgage servicers.”  Ocwen has thus admitted there is a systematic failure among the servicing industry to properly service loans in a legal manner and they are merely following the herd.  Servicers have proven they are unwilling or unable to cure their defective practices, therefore it is time that consumers demand a complete overhaul of the way mortgage loans are serviced and potential issues managed.  At this point the government has been unresponsive to regulating loan servicing practices and until there are serious financial or criminal penalties the behaviors will go unabated.

According to Ocwen, its efforts to employ third parties to audit its compliance efforts are, “consistent with methods used in other regulatory settlements and with the Multi-State Mortgage Committee’s examination manual practices.”

Ocwen said that it is engaging an independent review firm to conduct that review.

The state banking regulators also accused Ocwen of being unsound financially, a charge that Ocwen disputes.  If they were not financially unsound on Thursday, they certainly were by Friday when the markets closed and Ocwen stock had suffered a 54% decrease in value.

From Ocwen’s statement:

Ocwen disagrees with any allegation it is not financially sound. Despite significant operating losses from 2014 to 2016 driven by a shrinking portfolio and $171 million of state and national regulatory monitoring expenses, Ocwen generated over $1.4 billion of positive operating cash flow.

What Ocwen fails to mention is that Ocwen has incurred huge legal expenses to defend against lawsuits brought by wronged homeowners.  Over the past year, Lendinglies has seen Ocwen back off of pursuing foreclosures when homeowners retained aggressive counsel. Although Ocwen has made huge profits by foreclosing on homes it doesn’t own and reselling those properties, homeowners have concluded through their investigation that Ocwen is little more than a debt-collector who routinely creates documents as needed in order to create the appearance of ownership.  Livinglies in possession of these documents if the MMC has any interest in these illegal practices.

Ocwen said that it provided the state regulators with “remarkable transparency” into its operations, but that still wasn’t enough for the states and is also untrue.  What the state regulators need to investigate is how Ocwen is creating endorsements on notes and fabricating assignments.  Are these activities done in-house or outsourced to third parties?  There must be a paper-trail of this fraudulent activity and employees should be interviewed and an external task force retained to investigate.  Of course, no one wants to reveal the ugly underbelly of modern mortgage loan servicing.

“Ocwen provides a variety of financial information to select individual states as well as the MMC, such as recurring liquidity reports, monthly results, and future financial and cash projections,” Ocwen said in its statement but the MMC was not convinced and proceeded with allegations of wrongdoing.

Another issue brought up by the states is Ocwen’s alleged operating of “unlicensed mortgage servicing facilities in certain states in apparent violation of state licensing statutes over a period of several years.”  Ocwen admitted past issues but claims those issues are now in the past.

“Ocwen has worked diligently to correct perceived licensing concerns and has entered into recent settlements with three states, without admitting or denying wrongdoing,” Ocwen stated. “Ocwen believes it is properly licensed in all states where it conducts business and welcomes the opportunity to demonstrate its compliance to any state regulators who may still have questions or concerns.”  Ocwen must be taking a page from United Airlines’ playbook and denying all responsibility until forced to face the inevitable consequences of its actions.

Ocwen adds that the company has been in “regular communication” with the state regulators in question for the last two years and progress has been made.  Somehow nothing Ocwen says rings of truth.

David Dayen: The CFPB Just Sued a Crooked Mortgage Servicer, but Indicted Itself

The lawsuit against Ocwen is welcome, but should have happened four years ago.

Injured by Ocwen? Take Action Now!

By K.K. MacKinstry

Ocwen has admitted that its mortgage servicing policies and loan processing systems are a “trainwreck”.  As regulators and the Consumer Fraud Protection Bureau (CFPB) tighten the noose on Ocwen, we recommend that Livinglies readers who have experienced issues with Ocwen contact their state Attorney General offices, the CFPB, state banking regulators and government representatives to express your outrage and share your experience NOW.

Although Ocwen is being investigated for predatory servicing practices, please make regulators aware of the deeper level of fraud that is occurring and consists of fabricating and forging loan instruments including notes and assignments.  If you have been subjected to any of Ocwen’s tactics that push homeowners into default please provide this information to the aforementioned agencies.

The regulators found that Ocwen manipulates escrow accounts to create defaults and problems with taxes and insurance, does not respond accurately to submitted Qualified Written Requests, fails to properly post payments, revokes loan modifications without reason, and engages in other tactics designed to create loan defaults.  Now is the time to speak up about your experiences.  If homeowners damaged by Ocwen inundate the CFPB with complaints, perhaps this predatory servicing operation will be shut-down for good.

It appears that Ocwen’s business model and policies were designed to maximize the chances that a homeowner will default through processes that create confusion, disinformation and a deliberate lack of accountability by Ocwen.   Ocwen is not the only loan-servicing entity that engages in these practices, but it is the one currently in the regulatory crosshairs.  If these issues are brought to light, other loan servicers may be forced to change their business practices or suffer the same fate.

To file a complaint with the CFPB do so here.

To file a complaint with a state member, please do so here or find your state contact below:

AK – Alaska
Ms. Patrice Walsh
State of Alaska Department Commerce, Community & Economic Development
Chief Examiner

Phone Number:



AL – Alabama
Mr. Scott Corscadden
Alabama State Banking Department
Supervisor, Bureau of Loans

Phone Number:



AR – Arkansas
Ryan Drake
Arkansas Securities Department
Examiner Supervisor

Phone Number:



AZ – Arizona
Mr. Robert D. Charlton
Arizona Department of Financial Institutions

Phone Number:



Mr. Jeffrey Mason
State of California Bureau of Real Estate
Chief Deputy Commissioner

Phone Number:



Mr. Victor Wells
California Department of Business Oversight
Deputy Commissioner

Phone Number:



Ms. Marcia Waters
Department of Regulatory Agencies – Division of Real Estate
Department of Regulatory Agencies – Division of Real Estate

Phone Number:



CT – Connecticut
Mr. Carmine Costa
Connecticut Department of Banking
Director, Consumer Credit Division

Phone Number:



DC – District of Columbia
Mr. Christopher Weaver, Esq
Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking
Associate Commissioner of Banking

Phone Number:



DE – Delaware
E. Quinn Miller
Office of the State Bank Commissioner
Investigative Supervisor

Phone Number:



FL – Florida
Mr. Andy Grosmaire
Florida Office of Financial Regulation
Bureau Chief

Phone Number:



GA – Georgia
Mr. Rod Carnes
Georgia Department of Banking and Finance
Deputy Commissioner, Non-Depository Financial Institutions Div.

Phone Number:



HI – Hawaii
Ms. Iris Ikeda
Division of Financial Institutions
Commissioner of Financial Institutions

Phone Number:



IA – Iowa
Mr. Rodney E. Reed
Iowa Division of Banking
Finance Bureau Chief

Phone Number:



ID – Idaho
Mr. Mike Larsen
Idaho Department of Finance
Consumer Finance Bureau Chief

Phone Number:



IL – Illinois
Mr. Alan Anderson
Illinois Dept. of Financial & Professional Regulation, Div of Banking
Senior Counsel of Mortgage Banking Regulation

Phone Number:



Ryan Black
Department of Financial Institutions
Deputy Director

Phone Number:



IN – Sec. of State, Securities Div.
Mr. Alex Glass
Secretary of State, Securities Division
Securities Commissioner

Phone Number:



KS – Kansas
Ms. Jennifer Cook
Kansas Office of State Bank Commissioner
Deputy Commissioner – Consumer and Mortgage Lending

Phone Number:

785-296-2266 x209


KY – Kentucky
Ms. Tammy Scruggs
Kentucky Department of Financial Institutions
Division Director, Non-Depository Institutions

Phone Number:



LA – Louisiana
Mr. Darin Domingue
Louisiana Office of Financial Institutions
Chief Examiner

Phone Number:



MA – Massachusetts
Ms. Cindy Begin
Massachusetts Division of Banks
Chief Risk Officer

Phone Number:



MD – Maryland
Mr. Clifford Charland
Maryland Commissioner of Financial Regulation
Director of Mortgage Examination Process

Phone Number:



ME – Maine
Mr. Terry Fancy
Maine Bureau of Consumer Credit Protection
Principal Consumer Credit Examiner

Phone Number:



MI – Michigan
Mr. Kirt L. Gundry
Michigan Department of Insurance and Financial Services
Director, Mortgage Examination & Investigation Section

Phone Number:



MN – Minnesota
Sarah Butler
Minnesota Department of Commerce
Supervisor, Non-depository Institutions

Phone Number:



MO – Missouri
Mr. Mick Campbell
Missouri Division of Finance
Supervisor of Mortgage Licensing

Phone Number:



MS – Mississippi
Ms. Traci McCain
Mississippi Department of Banking and Consumer Finance
Director, Mortgage Division

Phone Number:



MT – Montana
Chris Romano
Montana Division of Banking and Financial Institutions
Non-Depository Bureau Chief

Phone Number:

(406) 841-2928


NC – North Carolina
Ms. Molly Sheehan
North Carolina Office of the Commissioner of Banks
Deputy Commissioner of Banks/Non-Depository Entities

Phone Number:



ND – North Dakota
Mr. Bob Entringer
North Dakota Department of Financial Institutions

Phone Number:



NE – Nebraska
Ms. Jean Angell
Nebraska Department of Banking and Finance
Review Examiner

Phone Number:



NH – New Hampshire
Ms. Raeleen Schutte
New Hampshire Banking Department
Director of Consumer Credit

Phone Number:



NJ – New Jersey
Mr. Thomas M. Hunt
New Jersey Department of Banking and Insurance
Assistant Division Director

Phone Number:

609-292-7659 x50223


NM – New Mexico
Mr. Joe Cruz
New Mexico Financial Institutions Division
Industry Manager

Phone Number:



NV – Nevada
Mr. James Westrin
Nevada Division of Mortgage Lending

Phone Number:



NY – New York
Ms. Rholda Ricketts
New York Department of Financial Services
Deputy Superintendent

Phone Number:



OH – Ohio
Zachary Luck
Ohio Division of Financial Institutions
Deputy Superintendent for Consumer Finance

Phone Number:



OK – Oklahoma
Mr. Scott Lesher
Department of Consumer Credit

Phone Number:



OR – Oregon
Kirsten Anderson
Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services

Phone Number:



PA – Pennsylvania
Mr. Robert Knaub
PA Department of Banking and Securities
Director for Non-Depository Licensing

Phone Number:



SC – Board of Fin Inst.
Mr. Jim Copeland
SC Board of Financial Institutions – Consumer Fin. Div.
Assistant Commissioner

Phone Number:



SC – Dept. of Cons Affairs
Ms. Carri Grube Lybarker
South Carolina Department of Consumer Affairs

Phone Number:



SD – South Dakota
Ms. Jean Blow
South Dakota Division of Banking
Policy Analyst

Phone Number:



TN – Tennessee
Mr. Mike Igney
Tennessee Department of Financial Institutions
Assistant Commissioner / Compliance Division

Phone Number:



Ms. Leslie L. Pettijohn
Texas Office of Consumer Credit Commissioner
Consumer Credit Commissioner

Phone Number:



Ms. Caroline C. Jones
Texas Department of Savings and Mortgage Lending

Phone Number:



UT – Utah
Mr. Jonathan C. Stewart
Utah Division of Real Estate

Phone Number:



UT – Utah
Ms. Eva Rees
Utah Department of Financial Institutions

Phone Number:



VA – Virginia
Ms. Susan E. Hancock
Virginia State Corporation Commission
Deputy Commissioner

Phone Number:



VT – Vermont
Ms. Sue Clark
Vermont Department of Financial Regulation
Regulatory and Consumer Affairs Director

Phone Number:



WA – Washington
Mr. Charles Clark
Washington Department of Financial Institutions
Acting Deputy Director and Director of Consumer Services

Phone Number:



WI – Wisconsin
Cheryll Olson-Collins
Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions
Administrator, Banking Division

Phone Number:



WV – West Virginia
Ms. Tracy Hudson
West Virginia Division of Financial Institutions
Director of Nondepository Institutions

Phone Number:



WY – Wyoming
Mr. Joe Mulberry
Wyoming Division of Banking
Deputy Commissioner

Phone Number:




Deed Theft scams are stealing victims’ homes

Around the U.S., deed theft has emerged as one of the most sophisticated and devastating frauds ever to menace homeowners.


The phone call came as Raymond Murray neared the bottom of his luck. His wife had died, his career had been ended by injuries, and struggling to get by on his disability check, he had scraped together just enough to pay a lawyer to avoid imminent foreclosure on his modest Brooklyn home.

The voice on the line offered a godsend: No more attorney fees, no more foreclosure, a lower monthly mortgage, and all this help for free.

Murray was soon picked up by a black Mercedes-Benz, off to meet the man on the phone. Not long after, he was back at the office again, property deed in hand and a ring of people around a conference room table, finalizing the supposed fix to keep him in the home he hoped to die in.

Eventually, the blessing Murray thought he had found was revealed as a curse. Amid unfulfilled promises, unreturned calls and unwelcome visitors at his door, the truth became clear: This aging immigrant, who thought he’d realized an American dream, was scammed out of his home.

Around the U.S., deed theft has emerged as one of the most sophisticated and devastating frauds ever to menace homeowners. Foreclosure “rescue” scams that have stolen thousands of dollars from individual homeowners in the years since the housing collapse have been pushed by savvy perpetrators to their limit. They use lies to convince the desperate to sign over their title, then force them into homelessness or a years-long legal battle.

“The scammers are no longer content with stealing $5,000. Now they want the whole house,” said Dina Levy, who heads the Homeowner Protection Program in the New York attorney general’s office, which has spread word about deed theft and prosecuted culprits.

Although there are no firm numbers on how many cases of deed theft have occurred, they have been reported around the U.S., particularly in markets that have rebounded from the housing crisis or in neighborhoods that are gentrifying.

“It’s growing, absolutely,” said Kristen Clarke, who heads the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, a nonprofit that has researched foreclosure-related fraud. “We’re beginning to see these scammers operate in a far more bold way.”

— In San Diego, federal prosecutors netted a guilty plea and a six-year prison sentence last year for a man who forged deeds on at least 15 homes, then quickly sold them to the surprise of unwitting owners. The ringleader of what investigators called a “tangled web of deceit” netted about $2.2 million in the scheme. Buyers coaxed into purchasing the homes were left with worthless claims to titles.

— In Detroit, the Wayne County Register of Deeds is looking to expand its mortgage and deed fraud unit to deal with a crush of cases. The problem is so severe the office runs a round-the-clock property fraud hotline and has a marked deed-theft patrol car used by investigators following up on tips. Investors in Kuwait, Australia and the United Kingdom looking to capitalize on Detroit’s resurgence are among those who have been caught up in scams.

— In Indianapolis, Crystal Francis, an attorney with Indiana Legal Services, tells of deed theft cases sprinkled throughout the area in recent years, with elderly people the preferred targets. One woman victimized by a scam while in the throes of a liver problem and dialysis treatment was overcome with shame. She couldn’t muster the strength for a protracted legal fight, choosing to simply walk away from her longtime home and move in with a friend. “She was so discouraged,” Francis said. “She just concluded it was too much.”

The problem has been gravest in New York, particularly the ever-pricier neighborhoods of Brooklyn. The New York sheriff’s office has taken a lead on the cases and since 2014, the office has amassed more than 1,700 complaints, with hundreds under investigation, and some 32 arrests already tallied.

The cases can take investigators years to solve. Sheriff Joseph Fucito points to a graphic of a single case, a snare of lines representing the three partners at the center of the probe, and their ties to 110 different companies and 189 properties. In this case, like many others, Fucito said the perpetrators did a mix of above-board and fraudulent business through a series of limited-liability companies, leaving it to detectives to pinpoint victims.

“Some of it’s legitimate, some of it’s not legitimate, and we have to pick through it,” Fucito said. “But all of it smells funny.”

The sheriff ticks off the ways the thefts happen, from opportunists cobbling together documents on vacant properties to those transferring the home of an unwitting family member into their name, to fake housing assistance businesses that prey on those in financial crisis.

Cases in that final category are the hardest to prove, and the toughest to undo. Companies use misrepresentations to get a home signed over to them and often use licensed professionals to notarize and file legal documents.

The American dream

Murray came to New York in 1989 from his native Guyana, and dove into long days at work — as a telephone technician sometimes chased by dogs, and later as a police traffic control agent dodging irate motorists. He and his wife Desrie, a teacher, lived in a relative’s basement, then rented a home before saving enough to buy. It wasn’t much — a two-story brick house with a white metal gate, on a quiet, tree-lined Brooklyn street — but he felt like he finally could see what he’d been working for.

“It was an American dream,” the 67-year-old says.

After two on-the-job accidents, Murray was forced into retirement. Money became tighter, and the couple refinanced their mortgage for $388,000 in 2006 and took out another $21,800 loan a year later to stay afloat. After Murray’s wife died suddenly of ovarian cancer in early 2009, the real financial pinch set in. He cut back on food, kept the house darkened and found other ways to scrimp.

“I tried and I tried and I tried and I tried with my little savings,” Murray said.

Before long, his savings were nearly gone and he was falling short on the mortgage, and in time, a default notice alerted him that he was being referred for foreclosure. Turning to an attorney to try to restructure his debt, he spent $5,000.

Then came that chance call in January 2014, from a man named Mario Alvarenga whose promises, Murray said, were exactly what he needed to hear. He was impressed by the black Mercedes that picked him up, by the politeness of the woman at the Homeowner Assistance Services office, and by the Alvarenga’s professionalism.

“These people have class,” he thought.

Murray left the office that day with a sense of hope he hadn’t felt in years. He said Alvarenga told him his mortgage could be restructured to fit his income. It wouldn’t even cost anything, so long as Murray fired his attorney.

Because of his poor credit, Murray said he was told, his home would need to go in the name of another company Alvarenga was tied to, Launch Development, for 90 days; then the loan modification would be finalized and the property could be put in the name of one of his children or, as he’d remarried, his new wife.

When Murray returned to Alvarenga’s conference room, it was full of people — a man he was told was his new attorney, a real estate agent, a notary public and others. Murray, whose vision was blurred by cataracts, struggled to read stacks of documents presented for his signature — papers he said he was assured would keep him in his home.

After signing, Murray left that day awash in relief. That feeling was short-lived. Alvarenga phoned to tell him the loan modification wasn’t approved, but pleaded for him to be patient. As Murray grew worried and suspicious, he tried several times to reach Alvarenga, each time turned away by a receptionist, he said.

“Well, what do I have to do, call the FBI?” he remembered saying. “Something is funny.”

It all climaxed with Murray finding a man on his property taking pictures and informing him the house now belonged to him. An eviction notice was soon posted on the door, ordering him to vacate.

The chilling realization dawned: “They stole my home from me.”

Deed theft not always obvious

Francis, the Indiana lawyer, said some of her elderly clients became aware when strange mail started arriving in their box or when receiving an eviction notice. Deed theft victims are often older, or have some other perceived vulnerability, such as difficulty with English or a limited grasp of finances.

“People will say things like, ‘I’m really stupid.’ They’re embarrassed,” Francis said. “Having your trust broken is so harsh.”

Sometimes, the fraud takes place entirely on paper. Bernard Youngblood, the register of deeds in Wayne County, Michigan, tells of a case in his office, when a man came to file a quitclaim deed transferring ownership on a property. A clerk recognized the address and went to a co-worker with a question.

“Are you selling your house to that guy?” she asked.

She wasn’t. Youngblood said he faked a computer outage, leaving the would-be fraudster waiting at the counter. It bought enough time to get deputies to respond and make an arrest.

Today, Youngblood’s office has an eight-person “war room” dedicated to fighting deed theft, with representatives of his office working alongside prosecutors and deputies. They’ve raised awareness for police more used to dealing with stolen purses or cars. “They had never heard of stolen houses,” he said.

Undoing deed theft damage can take herculean efforts. Linda Fisher, a law professor at Seton Hall University who runs a legal clinic that frequently litigates mortgage fraud cases, says deed theft typically takes two to three years to resolve. Her first case, she said, took eight years.

While cases are often complicated, they are winnable, said Amy Mix, an attorney with Legal Counsel for the Elderly, a Washington-based affiliate of AARP. Homes are frequently returned to their rightful owners. And since it’s often “the only asset of any real value that they have,” it’s a worthy fight, she said.


After finding the eviction notice on his door, Murray got help from attorneys at JASA Legal Services for the Elderly in Queens, who found a vast paper trail they believe was part of the ruse to make the transaction look legitimate. A real estate agent had even posted Murray’s home on the multiple-listing service. (“Property sold ‘as is,'” it said, in a listing detailing the brick construction, steam heat and $170,000 asking price.)

What Murray believed was a mortgage restructuring was actually a sale, meticulously documented in the paperwork, making the fight to undo it a legal challenge. A judge initially ruled against Murray on his eviction, but his attorneys got a stay of that order.

There is no resolution yet, but Murray has been allowed to remain in the house even as, on paper, he is no longer the owner.

Murray sees the whole ordeal as a battle between good and evil. When he received the call from one of his lawyers, Robert Seewald, telling him Alvarenga and others had been arrested and faced federal charges in the scheme, he says he felt as if he had seen an angel.

“These defendants manipulated and took advantage of vulnerable people,” then-U.S. attorney Preet Bharara said in announcing the charges.

In court papers, Alvarenga’s attorneys dismissed Murray’s story, saying he had “simply conspired a plan to live for free, for as long as possible.” But Alvarenga later pleaded guilty to conspiracy. He awaits sentencing. Six others also face federal charges in the case, two of whom have pleaded guilty.

Jim Druker, one of Alvarenga’s attorneys, said, “Mario is just a nice guy who got caught up in something,” and that it went “from overzealous salesmanship into the criminal arena.”

Murray’s lawyers are still fighting in court for the return of the title to his home. Meantime, he worries his neighbors will learn he was scammed and he says it’s hard to trust people now, after his bitter experience with those who targeted him.

“They see that I was desperate, that I was in need,” he said. “But I can see justice coming.”

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