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The Investigators: Feds indict "sovereign citizen" on foreclosure theft – WMC

MEMPHIS, TN -

(WMC TV) – A federal grand jury indicted a self-described “sovereign citizen” on charges he fudged property deeds to steal homes.

44-year-old Devitoe Farmer of Memphis faces three counts of theft of government property. U.S. Attorney Edward L. Stanton, III, said Farmer knowingly used fraudulent “quit-claim” deeds to essentially steal foreclosed properties assumed by the U.S. Department of Housing Urban Development (HUD).

“The defendant’s scheme involved the theft of valuable real property from the United States government,” said Stanton in a press release. “These charges make clear that we will seek to hold accountable those that would perpetrate such fraud on the United States.”

If convicted, Farmer could be sentenced up to ten years in prison and fined $250,000. Walter Gunn, Stanton’s spokesperson, said a judge released Farmer on a $5,000 bond despite Stanton’s request for detention.

Farmer’s indictment comes almost a year to the date since The Action News 5 Investigators caught him quit-claiming (or quick-claiming) the property deeds of seven Raleigh-Bartlett homes he does not own, according to Shelby County property records.

Law enforcement officials confirmed the FBI, Shelby County District Attorney General’s Office and the inspector general of the U.S. Department of Housing Urban Development (HUD) were investigating Farmer for theft of the properties, six of which are foreclosures in the possession of either HUD or Freddie Mac (http://www.freddiemac.com/).

“I claim the unalienable (sic) rights that were guaranteed to us by the sovereign forefathers,” said Farmer when confronted at one of the properties, 5181 Wax Wing Ln.

Farmer’s beliefs are rooted in his claim that Congress passed a resolution in 1933 in the wake of The Great Depression, prohibiting entities, including government agencies and banks, from possessing property.

“No one that was an entity could own real property anymore,” he said. “An entity is like a bank or organization. It’s not a person like you or I that you can touch.”

Tom Leatherwood, Shelby County’s register of deeds, said Farmer quit-claimed the deeds by coming into the office and signing paperwork that shifted the properties from himself to himself, clouding the properties’ titles.

“If someone files fraudulent documents, that does create a cloud over someone’s title and creates a real headache for the legitimate property owner,” Leatherwood said.

Leatherwood also produced an affidavit of truth sworn by Farmer, declaring himself to be “…a natural, freeborn Sovereign, without subjects. I am neither subject to any entity anywhere, nor is any entity subject to me.”

“Not subject to the laws of the federal government or state government,” said Leatherwood.

Leatherwood said Tennessee law allows Farmer and other “sovereigns” to cloud the deeds to foreclosed properties because it forbids county registers and their staffs from requiring proof of identification or proof of property ownership.

“The law’s designed that way to keep bureaucrats from holding up folks just hours before closing on a home, based on a feeling that ‘something’s just not right,’” Leatherwood said.

When Action News 5 asked Leatherwood why not simply ask for a mortgage note, payoff notice or bill of sale, he answered, “It’s not so hard to ask, but if someone’s going to commit fraud, they could have a fraudulent bill of sale.

“We’re just the teller at the front counter. We’re not the ones to tackle them in the parking lot and throw them in jail. That’s what we’ve got the courts for.”

An affidavit of complaint indicated Shelby County sheriff’s detectives arrested Farmer in April 2010 on a theft of property charge after he quit-claimed the deed, then moved into the house on 4171 Sevella Rd. in Raleigh-Bartlett. According to the affidavit, the Federal National Mortgage Association, or Fannie Mae, owned the property.

Records held at the Shelby County Criminal Court clerk’s office showed Farmer bonded out on the charge. Prosecutors held the case to state in anticipation of a grand jury indictment.

Since that time, Farmer quit-claimed six more properties he does not own:  3386 Raleigh-Millington Rd., 4319 Elysian Dr., 4321 Grand Pyramid Dr., 4737 Grecco Dr., 3550 Merritt St., and the property on Wax Wing, where we found him living with his common-law wife and relatives.

Darnell Tate, an agent for the HUD-owned property on Raleigh-Millington Rd., told the Action News 5 Investigators when he checked on the property in February 2011, Farmer had a tenant moving into the home. Tate, who didn’t identify the tenant, said the tenant stopped moving in and left when Tate explained that HUD owned the property, not Farmer.

“This is a multiple-jurisdiction case, with federal and local authorities involved,” said Shelby County District Attorney General’s Office spokesperson Vince Higgins. “These are complicated issues when you’re talking about quit-claim property assessments.”

“Theft is created when someone takes something from someone. I didn’t take anything from someone,” said Farmer. ”So how are they going to have charges against me?”

Farmer’s explanations mirror the teachings of Jerry and Joe Kane, the father and son sovereign citizens who murdered West Memphis, AR, Police Sgt. Brandon Paudert and Officer Bill Evans during a traffic stop in May 2010.

The Kanes were killed in a shoot-out with law enforcement officers minutes later in the parking lot of a West Memphis department store. (Please read Andy Wise’s investigation of the Kanes’ teachings re: mortgages and quit-claim deeds here:  http://www.wmctv.com/Global/story.asp?S=12521732).

Farmer insisted that the Kanes were radical examples of sovereigns and that he does not espouse violence, despite a criminal history that includes a 1998 disorderly conduct charge and a 2007 order of protection.

“My mannerisms will never be that of an angry person or a person who has the demeanor to try to harm anyone,” he said. 

Last year, Leatherwood successfully lobbied Tennessee state legislators to make the altering of property deeds or quit-claiming of property by people who do not own the property a crime. But lawmakers watered it down to a Class A misdemeanor, a penalty of just 11 months and 29 days in jail.

“I would have preferred it being a felony simply because the (Shelby County district attorney general’s office) said they would be more likely to prosecute,” said Leatherwood.

Copyright 2011 WMC-TV. All rights reserved.

Article source: http://www.wmctv.com/story/14233885/the-investigators-dirty-deeds

Ex-cop alleges foreclosure fraud, challenges eviction


A Chicago woman fighting to keep her home says she is the victim of foreclosure fraud.

Patricia Hill, a retired Chicago Police officer, says she paid her mortgage on time but was still found delinquent.

Hill, her tenants and supporters appeared in court Friday to legally challenge an eviction order. The case was continued to a later date.

“All indications are that proper notice was not given so that they did not have an opportunity to have their proper day in court,” said Edward Boci, Hill’s attorney.

In 1995, Hill purchased her family’s home in the Bronzeville neighborhood with a fixed rate mortgage.

“I received a mortgage notice three years ago that my mortgage would go up $500 more per month,” Hill told ABC7. “Upon inquiring, I was told it was for insurance, and I refused to pay it. And I continued to try to negotiate and I sent in a regular mortgage. And on the the third attempt, they say that you’re delinquent and they sent my money back and said, don’t send me any more money.”

Hill says after a year of trying to resolve the dispute, she found that she had been foreclosed on and that her house had been sold at a sheriff’s sale for nearly half of what she owed on it. It was purchased by the Bank of New York Mellon.

On March 9, that bank attempted to evict Hill and her tenants from their home, but they were able to stop the eviction with some help.

“We are exploring all options with the hope that the bank will come to the table and negotiate with us,” said Willie Fleming, one of Hill’s tenants.

“The banks sold the house to itself for half of the value of what she owed to the banks while she was in negotiation,” said Loren Taylor of Occupy Our Homes.

“We have made efforts to negotiate with Mellon bank,” said Boci. “When I first got involved, the first thing I did was pick up the phone, talk to their lawyer and say, give me someone at Mellon negotiate with. I have heard nothing.”

“This is a bank heist,” said Clair Tobin, Illinois Citizens for Public Banking. “The homeowners, their homes are being taken away and given back to the banks without due process.”

ABC7 called the Bank of New York Mellon but did not get a response.

The Chicago Anti-Eviction Campaign has been coordinating a 24-hour eviction vigil to protect the Hill family and their tenants. One of the tenants is a Marine veteran who served in Desert Storm.

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Foreclosure Prevention Workshops

  


The first of six statewide events organized by the Illinois Foreclosure Prevention Network kicks off on Saturday in Berwyn.

The event is designed to help provide struggling homeowners with access to quality assistance and information they need to avoid foreclosure. At the March 31 st event, homeowners facing foreclosure can access free counseling services, legal advice , mortgage payment assistance programs and tips on how to avoid mortgage fraud. In 2011, 103,003 homes in Illinois received a foreclosure filing, or one in every 51 homes. RealtyTrac ranked Illinois 8th in the country for the number of foreclosure filings. The Chicago area has been especially affected, with the city of Chicago ranking second in the nation in number of foreclosures. According to RealtyTrac, as of 2011, there were 96,996 properties that were bank-owned or in some stage of foreclosure in the Chicago metro area.

Foreclosure Prevention Workshop
Saturday, March 31st, 9AM-2PM
Morton West High School
2400 Home Avenue
Berwyn, IL

IFPN HOMEOWNER TIPS

1. Don’t ignore the problem. The further behind you become, the harder it will be to reinstate your loan because you’ll have fewer options and the more likely that you will lose your house.

2. Act fast, even if you are not in foreclosure yet. If you are struggling to pay your mortgage, or had a reduction in income or expect an income reduction soon, find free relief now so you are not stretching, don’t wait until you’ve exhausted all of your savings.

3. Visit the Illinois Foreclosure Prevention Network (IFPN) website to find free housing counselor- keepyourhomeillinois.org or call the IFPN hotline at 1-855-KEEP-411 (1-855-533-7411). Foreclosure counseling more than doubles a homeowner’s chance of receiving a loan modification and reduces the likelihood of re-default by 67%.

4. Attend a free, foreclosure prevention workshop like the IFPN Keep Your Home Illinois event in Berwyn March 31. On-site resources can help you whether you are in foreclosure or just struggling to pay your mortgage.

5. Open and respond to all mail from your lender. The first notices you receive will offer good information about foreclosure prevention options that can help you. Your failure to open the mail will not delay or stop the foreclosure process. 6. Know your mortgage rights. Find your loan documents and read them so you know what your lender may do if you can’t make your payments.

7. Understand foreclosure prevention options. Valuable information can be found online. Visit the Illinois Foreclosure Prevention Network website at keepyourhomeillinois.org 8. Avoid so-called foreclosure prevention companies. Never pay a fee for foreclosure prevention help-use that money to pay the mortgage instead and find a FREE qualified housing counselor by calling 1-855-KEEP-411.

9. Never sign a legal document without reading and understanding all the terms and getting professional advice from a housing counselor. If you sign a document appointing someone else to act on your behalf, you may be signing over the title to your property and becoming a renter in your own home!

10. Maintain a household budget. A budget helps you recognize problems before they arise, and you can then change your commitments and behavior to prevent them. A housing counselor can help you with this.

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Foreclosure abuse victims sought as Mo. seeks to dole out $155M from mortgage …

COLUMBIA, Mo. — The state of Missouri is looking for victims of foreclosure abuse and homeowners struggling to pay their mortgages who may be eligible for some of the nearly $200 million received from a national settlement.

Attorney General Chris Koster’s office held a series of public sessions in each of Missouri’s 114 counties and the city of St. Louis this week to provide consumers with settlement details. More than 300 people attended a pair of sessions in Blue Springs and Kansas City on Wednesday, said Doug Ommen, chief counsel for Koster.

By contrast, just eight people showed up at a Friday afternoon forum in Columbia. But they shared similar stories of anger, frustration and fear of losing their homes — only now, they may have some legal and financial recourse.

“They have to treat you better than they did before,” Ommen told the audience. “If they don’t, there are some severe penalties.”

Borrowers who lost homes through faulty foreclosures from 2008 through 2011 are eligible for direct payments of up to $2,000, depending on the number who enroll in the program. That accounts for $31 million of Missouri’s $196 million payment from the nation’s five largest private lenders: Bank of America, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo and Ally Financial, which is also known as GMAC. The lenders will pay a total of $25 billion.

An additional $38 million will help homeowners refinance “underwater” mortgages on homes with market values less than the amount they still owe on their loans, provided borrowers are caught up on their mortgages and have interest rates higher than 5.25 percent. That could reduce monthly payments by at least $100.

Another $86.5 million will help reduce loan amounts for others whose homes are worth less than what they owe and have also fallen behind on payments. Eligibility for assistance will be determined with the help of a national settlement administrator by late summer, with payments and loan modifications expected as soon as next year but perhaps as late as 2015.

Merrell said her requests for a loan modification from Chase were denied, even though her monthly mortgage payments exceed her salary by 33 percent.

“The Missouri Attorney General’s Office does not have control over how quickly the assistance begins,” a fact sheet on the settlement notes. “However, we will work with Missouri consumers as they have questions, and will communicate with the banks to help move things as quickly as possible.”

Missouri will use the remainder of its settlement, roughly $40 million, to plug holes in the state’s budget and avoid deep spending cuts to higher education sought by lawmakers before the settlement was approved in February.

The settlement sets up state oversight of the private lenders, and also contains a pledge by the banks to improve customer service and reform a flawed process that led companies to approve foreclosures without verifying documents or by using fake signatures.

The assurances offered by Ommen were welcome news to Sarah Merrell, a 63-year-old federal worker who said she was forced to file for bankruptcy two years ago to save her Columbia home after her younger sister, with whom she lives, became ill.

Merrell said her requests for a loan modification from Chase were denied, even though her monthly mortgage payments exceed her salary by 33 percent. Her attorney hasn’t had any luck either.

“They told me it was not a problem, that it’s not a hardship,” she said.

The state Attorney General’s Office plans to soon hold additional public meetings, according to Ommen. Homeowners can register and get additional information by calling (855) 870-7676 or online at http://ago.mo.gov/mortgageSettlementInfo.htm

___

Alan Scher Zagier can be reached at http://twitter.com/azagier



Article source: http://www.therepublic.com/view/story/8684d80f681044e08c83ba1a0dda3d64/MO--Mortgage-Settlement-Missouri/

Foreclosure ruling gives Palm Beach County family another chance at keeping …


By Kimberly Miller

Palm Beach Post Staff Writer


Updated: 8:38 p.m. Friday, March 30, 2012

Posted: 7:14 p.m. Friday, March 30, 2012

A Palm Beach County family that lost its home in a 2010 foreclosure judgment is getting another shot at its case after the 4th District Court of Appeal said a lower court was premature in ruling for the bank.

In the case, Dilcia Osorto v. Deutsche Bank National Trust Co., the homeowner was seeking evidence from the bank when the final foreclosure judgment was entered by a Palm Beach County circuit judge.

Appeals court Judge Mark Polen said in the Wednesday decision that the judgment should not have occurred until the defendant’s discovery was complete. The ruling sends the case back to the circuit court.

Homeowner attorney Brian Korte, of Korte Wortman in West Palm Beach, said he had requested information about a trust that is said to hold Osorto’s mortgage when the summary judgment was granted.

“The question is, does the trust even exist, and what we find is when we finally get a deposition taken is that no one has ever talked to the trust, they don’t know what the address is, they don’t know if the trust has employees,” Korte said. “That’s why trust cases have become difficult for the banks.”

Osorto, 44, bought her suburban Lake Worth home in 2006 for $242,000. A job loss left her husband bringing in less money, and in 2008 the bank filed for foreclosure.

The final judgment was awarded in September 2010, and the home was sold back to the bank at auction in March 2011, according to court records.

The family is staying in the home pending the appeal.

“We told the plaintiff they should not evict our client because the new owners could ultimately be rejected and our clients put back in,” Korte said.

The Boca Raton-based law firm Shapiro, Fishman Gache represents the bank in the case. The attorney was not available Friday.

Korte said the law is clear that a summary judgment shouldn’t be awarded when there is outstanding discovery, but that straightforward rules don’t always seem to apply in foreclosure cases.

Foreclosure defense attorney Tom Ice, of Ice Legal in Royal Palm Beach, agreed, saying the 4th DCA ruling is remarkable only in that it shouldn’t be remarkable.

“It’s not newsworthy except for the fact that the court is saying the rules apply to foreclosure cases too,” Ice said.

Korte said banks are more willing to do loan modifications when a mortgage is buried too deep in a trust.

“W hen you hunt the trust down, you find it was closed five years ago and bought by someone else,” he said. “That’s usually when the clients get a very nice loan modification or the case is dismissed.”

Article source: http://www.palmbeachpost.com/money/foreclosures/foreclosure-ruling-gives-palm-beach-county-family-another-2272701.html

Foreclosures Down, but Not for Long

January and February saw declines in our nation’s foreclosure rates, part of the ongoing stall while five major banks waited for the terms of a $26 billion settlement agreement. Now finalized, that settlement also provides guidelines the bank must use for future foreclosures.

Those guidelines are expected to steer banks through the foreclosure process. With specific details on how to handle foreclosures now in writing, the road is paved for banks to speed the processing of foreclosures. As a result, we can expect to see an increase in new foreclosures, including a large number of delinquent homeowners who were given a reprieve when banks voluntarily delayed new filings after claims of foreclosure abuses and improper handling.

Included in the settlement were Citibank, JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Ally Financial, and Wells Fargo. With new guidelines in hand, they are now armed to tackle the backlog of default mortgages. While national foreclosure rates did drop in February, they depicted an increase since January. In fact, 21 states reported an increase, not a decrease, in foreclosures during February.

The cities of Tampa and Miami showed significant swells of 64 percent and 53 percent, respectively.

Experts are projecting future increases in foreclosures and repossessions as the banks align their practices with the terms of the settlement. Nevada, California, Arizona, Georgia and Florida are already stepping up their filings. It’s a trend we can expect other states to follow, marking an end to the reduction in foreclosures we’ve seen since 2010.

David vs Goliath

Loan Modification Guru Reveals How Homeowners Can Challenge the Big Banks and Save Their Home

Anna Cuevas, known as “America’s Loan Modification Guru,” has guided thousands of Americans in keeping their homes from foreclosure. A popular blogger (askaloanmodguru.com), Cuevas has been called a “superhero of the loan modification industry”. She is the #1 bestselling author of SAVE YOUR HOME Without Losing Your Mind or Money.

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Hope, sadness mix at Bridgeport mortgage modification event

BRIDGEPORT — Mike Doyle popped out of the doors of the Webster Bank Arena Thursday just after 4 p.m. and exclaimed to Mayor Bill Finch, “I just saved $2,000! This is 100 times better than Hartford.”

Doyle, a state employee, was among the nearly 600 people who had already visited the arena to meet with bankers, housing counselors and regulators to discuss options for reducing mortgage payments or getting some redress for predatory lending practices.

The state attorney general, Department of Banking and the city of Bridgeport sponsored the event, which started at 10 a.m. and ended at 7 p.m. At least 200 people were lined up at the door by 9:45 a.m. Thursday morning, and organizers expected more than 1,000 to attend.

“We’re still working out what I’m going to get,” Doyle said, after thanking the mayor for hosting the event. He said he was at a similar event in Hartford in November that was crowded and chaotic, an assessment with which state officials agreed.

Doyle said he was able to finally meet with a representative from Wells Fargo, which went over his situation and offered to reduce his payments and those of his daughter. Both have jobs with the state and live in Seymour. They are current on the mortgages, but like many people at the event, he said times are tighter than they were when he bought the homes and fixed them up.

Not everyone reported the same success at the event.

Erin O’Connor, from East Haven, said she got nowhere with the lenders inside the arena.

“The only way they’re going to help me is if I stop paying my bills,” she said.

Out of work for six months, the veterinary technician said there’s no help available for the unemployed. She pays her mortgage and some other bills using credit cards and her $288-a-month unemployment check. Her mortgage is $1,273.

She said four different counselors at the event told her she had to stop paying her mortgage before she could qualify for any programs, though her actual lender, who was there, said they could not officially recommend that.

“I saw a lot of sadness and dread in there,” she said, adding there were people worse off than she. “If I go on the street, it’s just me. But there was a woman with four kids who has been unemployed for four years in there.”

People waiting in line to get into the event shared common stories about being shuffled around on the phone from person to person. Many said banks lost paperwork and they weren’t able to reach an actual staff person empowered to make a decision about a modification.

Under a $26 billion U.S. settlement with some of the nation’s largest lenders, the banks have to provide a single point of contact for borrowers and can no longer continue to foreclose on customers who are in negotiations to modify loans.

Another woman, who walked in at just after 10 a.m. saying she was looking for a little hope, walked out in a half hour and said she was given papers to fill out and told to call.

Frank Benegoss, assistant vice president of Chase Homeownership Center, said his bankers are forbidden to tell people to not pay their mortgage. Chase opened a center in Stratford to help struggling homeowners last year and has about a 64 percent success rate, he said.

He said he expects there will be customers the bank was able to help at the event, but it takes about 30 days to process the applications. He said banks still have to go to investors sometimes to get approval to modify mortgages.

The event was a snapshot of the state in many ways as it drew people of different races, ages and from suburban and urban communities. Several people stood in line for older relatives who couldn’t do it themselves and while the majority were looking for help on payments, others, such as John Rindos, of Stratford, were there to lodge a complaint against a lender.

Rindos said he was going to talk to the state Banking Department about an adjustable-rate loan that has ballooned since he took it out four years ago.

“I grew up in this house,” he said. “I bought it from my parents.”

Attorney General George Jepsen commended the banks for being better prepared in Bridgeport than they were in Hartford. He said the banks didn’t plan for the strong showing in Hartford, but this time they brought in extra staff.

Indeed, two Bank of America employees said they came from Dallas and Pittsburgh for the event.

Jepsen said regulators didn’t expect everyone to meet with success at the event, but he overheard people say they’re moving forward at last — sometimes after years of getting nowhere.

Howard Pitkin, the banking commissioner, said the event was a step in the right direction for the lenders. He and Jepsen said attendees will at least walk away with a single point of contact to work with, a real chance and regulatory support.

Pitkin said if people are being told to stop paying their bills, they should contact his office so he can investigate the matter.

Finch credited Jepsen and Pitkin for the success of the event, saying their regulatory clout helped create an atmosphere where things can get accomplished.

Bridgeport has been one of the hardest hit cities in the state for foreclosures.

For information on mortgage help, call the state’s foreclosure assistance hotline at 1-877-472-8313.

Article source: http://www.newstimes.com/news/article/Hope-sadness-mix-at-Bridgeport-mortgage-3445789.php

Topless photos of Octomom pay rent (not mortgage)

Nadya Suleman, the famous celebrity mom known as Octomom, is broke. Her new topless photos only earned her enough money to pay rent on a new place — not to catch up her mortgage payments and stop her celebrity home from being sold as a foreclosure.

Sadly, as a single parent struggling to take care of her children and unable to afford childcare, she has been forced to turn (once again) to making pornography and humiliating herself to pay her household bills.

Last year, the Hollywood cultural icon Octomom found herself involved in a video clip scandal where she allowed herself to be filmed whipping a grown man who was wearing a diaper and spanking him over her knee while the adult baby frolicked among her children’s toys at the family home.

At the time, Suleman was trying to pay her debts and avoid a home foreclosure.

Turing down a one million dollar offer to appear in a pornographic movie (as opposed to simply a fetish film) at that time, Octomom thought the money she was paid for the “funny” video clip wad enough to tide the mother of fourteen children through a tough financial month.

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Selling sign footage to PETA, she allowed the animal rights activism organization to make fun of her sexuality in her own front yard, as well. Suleman allowed them to put up a yard sign that said something to the effect of, “Don’t let your dog or cat be an Octomom… spay and neuter your pets.”

The sign rental and naughty spoof did not bring her enough revenue to pay her bills and the home foreclosure has gone through.

Facing eviction, Octomom had two practical financial choices as a single mom with no real family or friends that could help her financially get out of debt. Either she could make an adult film for Vivid Entertainment and collect the quick cash to buy back her house or she could pose nude for a print magazine and hope for the best.

Unfortunately for her, topless photos of Nadya Suleman did not bring as much money as she thought. Posing topless for a European magazine called Closer she earned a mere $10,000 — enough money to pay rent but not her overdue mortgage payments.

On a plus note, Suleman says the money will help her to put a first, last, and security payment down on a more affordable rental home and she is even optimistic that she will have a bit left to pay a portion of her moving costs.

Nadya did tell one Huffington Post writer that posing nude in pictures to pay the bills is not her dream job. She said her reasons for taking the easy way out was this, “The reality is if I got a regular job, every dollar would go to day care…”

Talking more about how she plans to pay rent for her celebrity homes in the future, Octomom then claimed, “I want a regular job and it will be in the world of fitness and health. I know so much about this stuff. When the children are older in the next year or year and a half, I will get a job maybe as a personal trainer.”

SOURCE: Octomom claims panty pictures were to pay the rent (March 28, 2012)

Article source: http://www.examiner.com/hollywood-culture-in-national/topless-photos-of-octomom-pay-rent-not-mortgage

Editorial: If foreclosure crisis hits home, help may be there – Chicago Sun

Editorials

March 29, 2012 7:04PM

A foreclosed home is boarded up last year in Waukegan. | SUN-TIMES MEDIA


Updated: March 30, 2012 4:56AM

Regina Bailey is the face of too many stories in Illinois.

Her two-income family was doing fine until a decade ago, until her son died of leukemia, leaving behind a pile of medical bills. Then, five years ago, her husband died of a ruptured appendix. More medical bills.

The final blow came about a year ago, when Bailey was laid off from her job as lab tech at Elmhurst Hospital. She started to worry she would lose the bungalow in Belmont Cragin where she lives with her daughter and granddaughter.

Last week, though, Bailey got a lifeline. She was accepted into an Illinois Foreclosure Prevention Network program that will get her mortgage current and help her pay it for the next 11 months.

“They gave me a way out when I thought I was at the bottom of the pit,” Bailey said. “When you hit the bottom, you wonder: How did I get here?”

Chicago — where 97,000 homes were bank-owned or in some state of foreclosure last year — has the second-highest foreclosure rate in the nation. Statewide, more than 103,000 homes had a foreclosure filing in 2011, the eighth-highest rate in the country. But things may have started to turn around.

† Using a chunk of $446 million from the federal government, Illinois launched its “hardest hit” program last September. This program has two parts: reinstatement, a one-time payment that wipes out arrears, fees and penalties; and monthly mortgage assistance. Its website is www.illinoishardesthit.org, and its help line is (855) 873-7405.

† Eligibility was expanded in October for the federal Home Affordable Refinance Program, which helps homeowners get refinancing. Eligibility was expanded in January for the similar federal Home Affordable Modification Program .

† The state has a settlement with five major loan servicers for $1.1 billion that is awaiting approval in court. Of that, $660 million will be dedicated to loan modifications.

Taking those together, “we have about $2 billion,” said Mary R. Kenney, executive direction of the Illinois Housing Development Authority, which is spearheading the state’s foreclosure programs.

Critics worry about a “moral hazard,” a risk that aid encourages people to stiff the bank while their neighbors pay up. But Kenney said the people who can’t keep up their payments today are mostly those whose income has cratered.

Also keeping homes occupied protects neighborhood value, she said.

IHDA will hold a series of free public programs with “one-stop shopping,” where homeowners — who don’t have to be “underwater” or in foreclosure — can get legal advice, mortgage assistance, one-on-one meetings with loan servicers and advice on how to avoid mortgage fraud. The first one is from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at Morton West High School, 2400 Home Avenue, Berwyn.

Bailey will be there to talk about her story. She hopes others who are struggling will be there, too.

Article source: http://www.suntimes.com/opinions/11578267-474/editorial-if-foreclosure-crisis-hits-home-help-may-be-there.html

CalHFA Provides Nearly $1.5M for Counseling Struggling Homeowners


(Source: CalHFA) - SACRAMENTO, Calif. -The California Housing Finance Agency (CalHFA) today announced that it will receive an additional $1.5 million in federal dollars to provide counseling to homeowners struggling to avoid foreclosure.

The California Housing Finance Agency and Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)-approved counseling groups, in partnership with the Rural Community Assistance Corporation, were awarded the grant as part of a federal program to help homeowners avoid foreclosures.

This is the sixth grant CalHFA has received since 2008 to provide counseling services to homeowners, totaling more than $19 million. This additional grant will help the Agency assist over 7,000 California homeowners struggling to make their mortgage payments.

“CalHFA remains focused on supporting California families who are struggling to hold on to their homes,” said Claudia Cappio, Executive Director of CalHFA. “In partnership with community organizations, we have assisted more than 70,000 families so far and we appreciate the opportunity to continue this critical counseling program.”

The grant to support California’s foreclosure prevention counseling intervention efforts was provided by funds from the National Foreclosure Mitigation Counseling Program. The National Foreclosure Mitigation Counseling Program is administered through a competitive application process by NeighborWorks® America, within guidelines defined by Congressional legislation.

The counseling will be available to homeowners who have either defaulted on their mortgages or are in danger of defaulting on their mortgages. Homeowners in those situations can arrange counseling by contacting one of the counseling agencies in their area.

The counseling program is one part of CalHFA’s effort to assist homeowners. The agency is also administering Keep Your Home California, a special $2 billion program to provide direct assistance to homeowners struggling to pay their mortgages. For information on Keep Your Home California, please visit www.KeepYourHomeCalifornia.org

For more information on CalHFA, please visit www.calhfa.ca.gov
Contacts

California Housing Finance Agency
Ken Giebel, 916-326-8606
Fax: 916-322-2345
kgiebel@calhfa.ca.gov
www.calhfa.ca.gov


Article source: http://www.loansafe.org/calhfa-provides-nearly-1-5m-for-counseling-struggling-homeowners