Justice Department to probe foreclosure practices after series of scandalous allegations
In yet another sign that the foreclosure crisis in the US may be getting out of hand, a Florida woman has gone to the press about having her home broken into -- by an agent of her mortgage bank.
Nancy Jacobini of Orange County, Florida, says she was three months behind on her mortgage payments, but not in foreclosure, when she heard an intruder breaking into her home.
Panicked, she called 911 and spent 10 nervous minutes on the phone with a dispatcher only to discover that the intruder was an agent of her mortgage company, JPMorganChase, who had come to change the locks on her home.
"Someone is breaking ... somebody broke into my house!" a frightened Jacobini can be heard saying on a 911 tape obtained by WTFV channel 9 in Jacksonville.
Listen to the whole 911 conversation at 4closurefraud.org.
According to WFTV, the bank claims Jacobini never established a mortgage payment plan, and the house was assumed to be vacant as there were no utilities at the address. But the news crew found electricity and running water in the house.
A JPMorganChase representative told the news crew that the company had made a "mistake" in attempting to change the locks, and that the company has no right to change the locks on a home that hasn't been foreclosed and which is occupied.
As some blogs were quick to point out, the bank agent's move may have broken Florida law.
"We now have confirmed instances, including 911 calls, of banks hiring people to break into homes where the foreclosure has not yet taken place, and in some instances, they're breaking into the wrong house," writes Karl Denninger at the Market Ticker blog. "That's illegal -- until the bank has a court order giving them possession, they don't have possession and they have no right to be there."
Denninger describes the bank agent as a "thug."
In another notorious instance last month, a Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, man had his home foreclosed by Bank of America -- even though he had paid cash for it seven months earlier.
"I feel like I'm hanging in the wind and I'm scared to death," Jason Grodensky told AP. "How did some attorney put through a foreclosure illegally?"
JUSTICE DEPT. OPENS FORECLOSURE PROBE
The news comes as lawmakers in Washington grow increasingly alarmed over allegations of foreclosure fraud in the wake of the housing collapse. On Wednesday, Attorney General Eric Holder held a press conference to announce the Department of Justice would be carrying out a probe into foreclosure practices at mortgage banks, The Hill reported.
The move came after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and 30 other House Democrats called for an investigation into how banks are carrying out foreclosures.
"We are aware of the charges that have surfaced in the newspapers in the last couple of days, and we're looking at them," said Holder.
Among the allegations the attorney general was referring to was the phenomenon of "robo-signers" -- bank agents who approve home foreclosures without reading the necessary documentation to determine if the house is due for foreclosure.
On top of the federal investigation, "authorities in at least seven states are probing whether lenders used false documents and signatures to justify hundreds of thousands of foreclosures, and the number of these inquiries will grow, according to state officials and legal experts," reports Bloomberg News.
Last week, Bank of America announced it was freezing foreclosures in 23 states over allegations of wrongdoing. JPMorgan, the bank involved in the alleged Florida break-in, quickly followed suit, suspending foreclosures in the same 23 states. Ally Financial, formerly known as GMAC, did the same last month.