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All Wells Fargo director nominees elected, some with scant support

All Wells Fargo Co. board members were reelected Tuesday at the company’s annual meeting, though with markedly lower support than in previous years.

For his part, Sanger acknowledged that Wells Fargo shareholders “have sent the entire board a message of dissatisfaction” with their votes. But all the proposed Wells Fargo directors were elected, though one got barely 53 percent of shareholders votes.

In a statement Friday, CalSTRS, which owns almost 10 million Wells Fargo shares, said it had voted against nine board members, including Sanger.

Some votes were still coming in Tuesday morning, meaning vote tallies could still shift, the person familiar with the matter said.

The shareholder meeting, at a golf resort in Jacksonville, Florida, was held about 2,800 miles from Wells Fargo’s headquarters in San Francisco.

While the re-election of directors, if confirmed, will be a relief for the bank, the likelihood that at least some board members will receive below 60% of votes cast is concerning. Usually, incumbent board members receive a much higher percentage of votes.

Bruce Marks of NACA, the Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America, said he wanted to hear from the directors whether they were “complicit and incompetent” in the scandal.

Wells Fargo’s board is on the hot seat after the bank reached a $185 million settlement in September over allegations that its employees potentially created more than 2 million unauthorized customer accounts to meet aggressive sales goals.

“The expansion of this agreement is another important step to make things right for our customers”, said Tim Sloan, Wells Fargo president and CEO. There was a brief recess after one shareholder made what Sanger called a “physical approach” toward a board member and was removed. For instance, Stephen Sanger, the former General Mills CEO who became Wells Fargo’s chairman last fall, has been a director since 2003.

Sanger said on CNBC’s “Power Lunch”, however, that shareholders weren’t sending a message to any particular director.

Wells Fargo has been out of order for years, and your response is, ‘Well, we’re sorry”, Marks yelled.

When he refused to sit down and stop speaking, or to leave on his own, Sanger adjourned the meeting to allow security personnel, including St. Johns County Sheriffs officers, to remove him.

The big item to watch Tuesday will be whether Wells Fargo shareholders oust the board. Citing a need to “refresh” the bank’s board, Rees said he would cast the group’s 1.6 million shares against the nominees.

“We know that these issues are not what you expect of us”, said Sanger, who apologized and outlined the bank’s recent overhaul of its sales practices, employee compensation system, and other reforms prompted by the scandal. All four candidates received at least 98 percent of shareholder votes in 2016.

In addition to the day of action, Forgo Wells is circulating a petition that, Bhatti explained, “calls on the bank to divest from Dakota Access Pipeline, to stop investing in private prisons and immigration detention centers, to stop funding the payday lending industry, to stop its tremendous lobbying that it’s doing to try to influence our politics, to stop its predatory foreclosure practices, and a number of other demands that we raise”.

The Wells Fargo board conducted its own investigation of the scandal and in a report this month placed the blame squarely on two former executives: former community banking head Carrie Tolstedt and former CEO Stumpf.

Several hedge funds and other institutional investors have recently bought and sold shares of WFC.

Another shareholder advisory firm, Glass Lewis, recommended voting against Baker, Dean, Hernandez and Milligan, members of the bank’s corporate responsibility committee, which is charged with overseeing reputation risk and customer complaints.

Article source:

What CDBG funding pays for here





Explainer of Community Development Block Grant funds.
Meaghan McDermott

Lead abatement. New roofs, furnaces and windows. Knock-downs of zombie homes. Transportation and meals for shut-in seniors. Sidewalks, roadways and sewers. A refurbished community center.

These are just a handful of the more than 60  initiatives all over Monroe County that were funded in fiscal year 2016 with a stream of federal money from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Community Development Block Grant Program. In one way or another, that money has had impact on quality-of-life issues region-wide, whether through direct assistance, boosting neighborhood property values, encouraging business activity, providing job training or helping provide for infrastructure or public facilities upgrades.

More:$10M in neighborhood grants at risk

Here, CDBG money is provided directly to Rochester, Irondequoit and Greece. Monroe County also gets funding, which it administers in turn to various county-wide initiatives as well as in small grants for towns and villages.

All told, the county’s benefit in 2016 exceeded $10.6 million. Over the past decade, that number tops $100 million. And, during the 42-year history of the CDBG program —which is in danger of being eliminated entirely under a budget proposal for 2018 floated by President Donald J. Trump — that total exceeds a half-billion dollars.

According to a Democrat and Chronicle analysis of CDBG documents, here’s a look at some of the projects and programs that money supported in the past fiscal year:

►$343,000 in Irondequoit to help 80 low- and moderate-income homeowners make vital house repairs

►$185,000 in Irondequoit to renovate the Pinegrove Recreation Center

►$950,000 in Rochester to provide grants and loans to minority-owned city businesses for new equipment and machinery and to purchase real estate

►$200,000 in Rochester to help Empire Justice and The Housing Council help homeowners avoid foreclosure

►$186,000 to help HOME Rochester rehabilitate vacant single-family homes and get them back on the market

►$500,000 in Rochester to tear down decrepit vacant structures

►$35,000 for new playing surfaces in Chili’s Hubbard Park

►$25,000 for Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant entry doors at the Sweden/Clarkson Community Center

►$81,000 to fix sanitary sewers in Brockport

►$6,000 for new ADA-compliant library doors in Rush

►$65,000 for new sidewalks in Kittleberger Park in Webster

►$145,000 to repave Almay and Willmae roads in Greece

Article source:

Frank Theatres dodges foreclosure: Business resumes until further …

As a result of the hearing in the Montgomery County Circuit Court, Judge Marc Long said Frank Theatres had been “wrongly ousted,” and later granted Frank Theatres an emergency injunction — meaning that Blacksburg APF Partners, who own First Main shopping center, are now mandated by the law to unchain the doors belonging to Cinebowl and allow workers back into the facility. This includes returning the sign that was taken Tuesday morning without prior warning. 

According to Mallory Joy, marketing assistant for Frank Entertainment Group, regular business is set to resume today at 4 p.m. The group’s press release reads as follows:

“Frank Theatres CineBowl Grille will reopen its doors Friday afternoon at 4 PM following a three-day lockdown from the First Main property owners. Members of the community will be able to enjoy all that the CineBowl Grille has to offer, including its high quality restaurant and bar, IMAX theatre, and luxury bowling lanes. Previously planned parties and events will be hosted as scheduled. Frank Theatres is excited to resume its partnership with the community in providing the best entertainment for all of Blacksburg and the surrounding areas. Frank Entertainment Group is thankful for the patience and the compassion of the community throughout this time. The company hopes to swiftly reach an agreement with APF Properties in order to continue their long-lasting presence in the First Main shopping center.”

As for Cinergy, the rival entertainment group that Blacksburg APF Partners announced as new tenants of the property, what happens next?

“We’ll have to see how this plays out but we’re confident we have a great new operator,”  Jeff Mitchell of Blacksburg APF Partners said to the Roanoke Times.

The next hearing is May 19, where Blacksburg APF Partners plan to claim the $450,000.01 unpaid rent and a $42,500 late payment fee.

Article source:

Humble’s Weekend Home Foreclosure Listings – Humble, TX Patch

Checking out the foreclosure listings in Humble can speed up the homebuying process, and help you buy a home that might have been out of reach. There are a wide range of home listings available, and one of them is right for you and your family. You’ll find all the details in Patch’s town-by-town houses-for-sale listings. All listings are provided by our partners at

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Ex-Easton Man Gets 9 Years For Cheating Homeowners Facing … – Trumbull

EASTON, Conn. — A 65-year-old former Easton man will serve nine years behind bars for defrauding distressed homeowners facing foreclosure and evading taxes, federal prosecutors said.

Timothy W. Burke was sentenced Friday by U.S. District Judge Michael P. Shea in Hartford to 108 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release, said U.S. Attorney for Connecticut Deirdre M. Daly.

According to court documents and statements made in court, from 2010 to November 2015, Burke engaged in a scheme to defraud individuals, mortgage lenders and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

In the scheme, he falsely represented to homeowners who were in, or facing, foreclosure on their homes that he would purchase their homes and pay off their mortgages.

The homeowners agreed to sign various documents, including quitclaim deeds, indemnification agreements, management agreements and third party authorization letters, which Burke presented to them.

They believed that by signing the documents, they would be able to walk away from their homes without the burdens of their mortgage or other costs associated with home ownership.

He also told homeowners to ignore any notices regarding foreclosure. Burke then rented out the properties to tenants via and told tenants that he owned the property.

Burke or one of his agents collected rent from tenants, in person, and Burke used the funds for his own benefit.

He failed to negotiate with the homeowners’ mortgage lender or pay expenses associated with the home, including the homeowner’s mortgages and property taxes, and he did not pay any collected rental income to the homeowners.

Many of the properties Burke purportedly purchased were ultimately foreclosed upon by the mortgage lenders.

He made extensive efforts to disguise his true identity from his victims through the use of multiple aliases and business entities.

Dozens of distressed homeowners, property renters and mortgage lenders were victimized by his scheme.

Judge Shea will determine the amount that Burke will be ordered to pay in restitution after further court proceedings.

In addition, from 1994 to 2012, Burke evaded paying $403,726 in federal taxes and now owes the IRS more than $1 million in back taxes, interest and penalties.

He has been detained since his arrest Nov. 19, 2015. On Jan. 24, he pleaded guilty to one count of mail fraud and one count of tax evasion.

Article source:

‘Incorrigible fraudster’ to serve 9 years for housing scam, tax evasion

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U.S. District Judge Michael P. Shea sentenced con man Timothy W. Burke to 9 years in prison Friday, saying the scheme in which Burke took in millions at the expense of financially troubled homeowners was one of the most serious white-collar crimes the judge had seen.

Shea went beyond the maximum eight-year prison term recommended under federal sentencing guidelines, in part he said because Burke, 65, previously had served three sentences, the longest for five years, for committing the same or similar crimes.

“Imagine, Mr. Burke, if you were robbed at gunpoint by someone who previously had received a relatively short sentence for the same crime. You’d be outraged,” Shea said.

Burke, described by victims as a charmer who would take them out to dinner, stop by their homes often and promise to relieve them of their underwater properties, would disappear as soon as the victims realized he had not fulfilled his promise, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney David T. Huang. Burke, described in sentencing documents as an “incorrigible fraudster,” used more than a dozen aliases to prevent his victims from learning his true identify and his criminal past.

Apologizing profusely to the court and victims, Burke said he had a lot of time to think about his actions while staring at the walls at the Donald W. Wyatt detention facility in Central Falls, R.I. He was arrested in November 2015 and in January 2016 pleaded guilty to mail fraud and tax evasion. He said his business was “flawed and unsound,” but he hadn’t set out to hurt anyone. He said of the more than $1 million in taxes that he had failed to report that he was waiting until he could make a good deal with the IRS, presumably under an amnesty program.

“I gave them false hope,” he said of the victims, several of whom attended the sentencing hearing in Hartford and addressed the court. “I was a light at the end of the tunnel and I closed that light off.”

He said he was eager to get out of prison, begin working at a legitimate job and repay the victims. The judge ordered three years of supervised release, imposed a long list of prohibitions designed to keep Burke from reoffending and ordered he repay the victims first, then the government. Shea didn’t give the victims false hope, though; he said that in many cases, defendants are never able to repay their victims.

Burke’s public defender, James P. Maguire, asked the judge to impose a sentence of five years in prison, then impose strict conditions of probation, including that Burke never work in the real estate or mortgage industries again, be prohibited from gambling and only be allowed to open bank or credit accounts with the permission of his probation officer. Also, Maguire recommended that the court order a mandatory psychological evaluation of Burke so that he could receive needed treatment. 

Burke had grown up in Preston and moved to Bridgeport after his parents divorced, according to testimony. He hoped to go to medical school but started drinking excessively during college and his grades suffered. He worked in the medical field for years, then went into real estate.

Burke and his attorney, Bradford Barneys, were the subject of a series of stories published by The Day beginning in November 2014. The scheme involved homeowners in Bridgeport, New London, Griswold, Ledyard, Waterbury, Plymouth, Portland, Andover, New Haven and West Haven. The Day’s investigation found more than a half-dozen cases in which Burke and his associates sent out mass mailings to people whose homes were in foreclosure, then allegedly bilked them out of thousands of dollars after promising to purchase their homes and free them of their mortgages.

The government launched its own investigation and determined that between 2010 and November 2015, Burke engaged in a scheme to defraud individuals, mortgage lenders and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development by falsely representing to homeowners who were in, or facing, foreclosure on their homes that he would purchase their homes and pay off their mortgages.

The distressed homeowners agreed to sign various documents, including quitclaim deeds, indemnification agreements, management agreements and third-party authorization letters, which Burke presented to them on the understanding that, by signing the documents, they would be able to walk away from their homes without the burdens of their mortgage or other costs associated with home ownership.

The government found that Burke told homeowners that the process of negotiating with the lenders can take time and that, in the meantime, to ignore any notices regarding foreclosure. After he gained control of these houses, Burke rented out the properties to tenants by advertising the properties on and other means and falsely representing to tenants that he owned the properties.

Burke or one of his agents then collected rent from tenants, and Burke used the funds for his own benefit, according to the government. He liked to deal in cash and structured his bank deposits to avoid making mandatory government disclosures, according to testimony. He failed to negotiate with the homeowners’ mortgage lenders and failed to pay expenses associated with the homes, including the mortgages and property taxes, and he failed to pay any rental income he was collecting to the homeowners. Many of the properties ultimately were foreclosed upon by the mortgage lenders.

Burke went to great lengths to disguise his true identity through the use of more than a dozen aliases, including Pat Riley, Jim Caldwell, Jim Saunders and M. Soler, to conceal the sources of and expenditures from his criminal proceedings. He has been associated with multiple business entities, including Birmingham Investments LLC; Saunders Associates; New Haven Investments; Realty Partners Group; Preston Associates II; Turnkey Construction Services LLC; The Complete Handyman LLC; and Woodbridge Associates.

One victim, Kendra Jones, said she had traveled all the way from South Carolina to attend the sentencing. A single mother of two children, she was living in Bridgeport when she lost her job at Cablevision and was forced to file for bankruptcy. Her condominium was being foreclosed, and one day in 2013 she called the number on a card that had been left on her door by a company that claimed it would take over her mortgage.

She met Burke and was comforted that he was working with an attorney, Barneys, she said. But by 2013, she started getting calls and letters from attorneys and learned that there were tenants in her condominium and she still was incurring condominium fees. She said she contacted attorneys, who told her it sounded like she’d been scammed.

Burke resigned as the “property manager” of her condo and said the tenant would pay her directly, but she never received a dime, Jones said.

“The last message I left on his phone was that he’s going to pay for this. I didn’t know how, but he would,” she said in the courthouse hallway during a recess. “And today’s the day.”

Barneys, who also was charged in the scheme, has pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing.

Article source:

Movie Addict: Stop me if you know this one: Three guys walk into a bank…





When their retirement plans become a corporate casualty, lifelong buddies Willie (Morgan Freeman), Joe (Michael Caine) and Albert (Alan Arkin) risk it all by embarking on a daring adventure to rob the very bank that absconded with their money.

Don’t get mad; get even. Or something, right? That’s how the saying goes?

But, truth be told… to want to get even, one must first get mad. And the three fellas at the heart of this new comedic crime caper are exactly that.

“Going in Style” is a remake of sorts of the 1979 movie of the same name, which I didn’t even know existed. As such, I have not seen it and can neither compare nor contrast.


But this updated version, directed by Zach “Scrubs” Braff, is chock full of Oscar winners, starring Morgan Freeman (supporting actor, “Million Dollar Baby”), Sir Michael Caine (supporting actor, “Hannah and Her Sisters” and “The Cider House Rules”), and Alan Arkin (supporting actor, “Little Miss Sunshine”) as three retired long-time friends who get sinfully jerked around — so they decide to stick it to the man.

What has these fellas so upset?

Well, for starters, Joe (Caine) gets a foreclosure notice that will leave him, his daughter (Maria Dizzia) and his granddaughter (Joey King) without a place to live. But the squirrelly scoundrel at Williamsburg Savings Bank tells him not to worry: “You’re on the yellow notice; the red one is (enunciating)more weighty.”

Gee, that’s a relief.

The bank then is robbed by a trio of extremely capable fellas dressed in suits and wearing masks.

They make it look easy, but Special Agent Hamer (Matt Dillon — where has he been?) warns that criminals “always make one stupid mistake that ends up screwing up the whole plan.”

Joe watches the entire robbery, and it sort of plants the seed for a solution to his financial woes — a solution that takes a few days for Joe to fully realize and consider, but it makes its point nonetheless.

But first these guys find out that the steel company for which they worked for decades… is dissolving its pension fund.

As a result, “We’re (bleep) broke,” Albert (Arkin) announces.

And that red notice Joe was warned about at the bank? Yeah, it shows up at his door. “(Bleep)holes,” he mutters. He’s not wrong.

That’s the final straw.

“I think I may rob a bank,” Joe quietly tells Albert and Willie (Freeman). “They’re taking my house; I’ve got 30 days. These banks practically destroyed this country… and nothing ever happened to them.”

What have they got to lose? Not much. “If we get caught,” Joe insists, “we get a bed, three meals, and better healthcare than we got right now.”

But after a hilarious yet failed attempt at simple shoplifting, these amateurs realize they’ll need some guidance, and for that they turn to pet store owner and marijuana dealer Jesus (John Ortiz, so funny).

“You Five-O?” he suspiciously asks, to which Joe replies, “We’re practically 8-0.”

This is one of those movies where you root for the bad guys — err, (air quotes) “bad guys,” because truly these criminals are far from felonious. They’re just trying to get back what’s rightfully theirs.

And to be fair, their plan isn’t without principles: “We only take what’s in the pension.”

The visuals get exponentially cooler the more these guys step up their collective game.

The transitional wipes and split screens and superimposed graphics keep us informed of the plan and the time elements and the intricacies as Joe and Willie and Albert hone their skills. It all looks and feels so… heisty.

They’ll need a getaway vehicle and an alibi and supplies; they’ll need to learn to shoot a gun; they need to look out for “dye packs and tracing devices.”

It’s all quick and detailed, and the images slide across the screen in continuous motion to help build anticipation toward this impractical but necessary mission.

And it’s funny because crime clearly is not their thing. Neither is technology. Or weapons.

Will they go through with it? Will they get caught? I can tell you this much: There’s a moment or two that’ll have you gasping in uncertainty.

Freeman and Caine and Arkin are charming and natural, and they’re so much fun to watch together.

Their camaraderie is undeniable. The banter, looks and fluid comebacks between them makes it feel like they truly have been best friends for 30 years — the very kind who would hold up a bank together.

And we benefit from their indignation.

Arkin’s character is a little more curmudgeonly and surprisingly more reluctant than the others — regarding just about everything, but it’s totally fine; there’s always that guy, and he’s usually the one who’s accidentally funny.

And just because these guys are older doesn’t mean they don’t have a trick or two up their sleeves.

I didn’t split my gut or anything, but I laughed quite a bit, smiled a lot and was fully entertained throughout. Hell, I even was impressed with a little piece of this story that I hadn’t anticipated; there are some moments that will answer a question or two — with a wink and a nod.

Sly. Very sly.

“Going in Style” is a lighthearted comedy that’s meant to draw us in and satisfy. It does that.

It’s also smart. It’s cagey. And despite the age of its stars — or maybe because of that — the movie is very lively and is sure to steal some chuckles.

This is the opinion of news assistant and Movie Addict Melissa King. Follow her on Twitter @stcmovieaddict or email her at Read more of her columns at

Article source:

Arc building buyer says he wanted to help others

Eric Herrholz said he understands about foreclosure.

When the 45-year-old Gulf Breeze businessman was a teenager in Chicago, his father died suddenly, and Herrholz and his mother lost their home.

As a result, Herrholz said he felt compelled to act when he read media reports several months ago that 81 Santa Rosa County families faced losing services for people with intellectual disabilities with the foreclosure of the former Arc of Santa Rosa County building in Milton.

“God has given me a lot,” Herrholz said. “I felt there were 81 people there who were more important than I am.”

Herrholz is in the process of purchasing the building at 6225 Dixie Road, saving the services and programs now under the organization of the Arc of the Emerald Coast.

Herrholz was previously not identified as the buyer. He said he had no problem remaining anonymous but had received multiple inquiries from people asking if he was buying the building.

More:Buyer saves Santa Rosa County Arc program

Real estate professional Randy Paun, who is facilitating the transaction, said processing of legal paperwork has moved the closing date to late May.

Herrholz, who now owns a several businesses and works in real estate, said he’s at a point in his life where he can help others.

“After hearing the story, I pulled in my driveway and I had these beautiful classic cars,” Herrholz said. “I was saying how blessed I am to have these extra vehicles. I didn’t drive them. It was God yelling at me. It was a message from God. Outright, God. Smack, outright.”

Herrholz said he sold the cars, some of which were from the 1950s, to help pay for the building.

“I’m in a place where my kids are grown and my servitude is more toward others than myself,” Herrholz said.

In January, the state foreclosed on the Arc building to collect more than $300,000 owed to the Agency for Health Care Administration, the state agency responsible for Medicaid funding. A 2015 audit of the Arc found it owed the agency Medicaid repayment and penalties.

The Arc of the Emerald Coast stepped in as a stop-gap for Santa Rosa residents in March 2015, but the organization said it couldn’t continue services without the use of the building.

Since December, when news of the Arc’s financial struggles were revealed, families involved with the organization met with state and regional Arc representatives to find a way to save the building and the services there.

Those meetings included Arc of Emerald Coast CEO John Roper and Deborah Linton, CEO of the Arc of Florida, both of whom also had meetings with Santa Rosa County officials with the goal of finding a building to keep the Santa Rosa residents close to home.

Article source:

Scams push foreclosure fraud to limit, taking victims’ homes – Press

NEW YORK — 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 man on the phone offered a godsend: The foreclosure could be averted, the legal fees could be eliminated and the monthly mortgage payment he could no longer afford could be trimmed.

Soon, Murray was sitting at a conference room table in the man’s office, finalizing the fix he believed would keep him in his home. It didn’t take long for the sad truth to become clear: This aging immigrant 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.

Deed theft has been reported around the U.S., from San Diego, where prosecutors recently netted a guilty plea and six-year prison sentence for a man involved in deed thefts of at least 15 homes, to Detroit, where the register of deeds hopes to expand his fraud unit to keep up with a crush of cases.

The problem has been most severe in gentrifying neighborhoods quickest to rebound from the housing crisis, nowhere more so than ever-pricier blocks of New York.

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. Sheriff Joseph Fucito 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.

“You can just wake up,” Fucito said, “and it happened on a piece of paper.”

Murray came to New York in 1989 from his native Guyana, working as a telephone technician and then a police traffic control agent. 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 said.

After two on-the-job accidents, Murray was forced to retire. Money became tighter, but after his wife died suddenly of ovarian cancer in early 2009, Murray’s real financial pinch set in. He cut back on food, kept the house darkened and found other ways to scrimp.

His savings disappeared, he fell behind on the mortgage and a default notice alerted him that he was being referred for foreclosure. He had already spent $5,000 on an attorney to try to restructure his debt when that chance call came in January 2014, from a man named Mario Alvarenga.

Murray said Alvarenga told him his mortgage could be modified, and the fix wouldn’t even cost anything, so long as he 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.

After signing a stack of papers at Alvarenga’s office, Murray left awash in relief. But, soon after, Alvarenga phoned to tell him the loan modification wasn’t approved, pleading for patience. Murray grew worried and suspicious, and Alvarenga became impossible to reach. It all climaxed with Murray finding a man on his property taking pictures and informing him the house now belonged to him. Later, an eviction notice on his door ordered him to vacate.

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

Murray got help from attorneys at JASA Legal Services for the Elderly in Queens, who found a vast paper trail they say was part of the ruse to make the transaction look legitimate. What Murray believed was a mortgage restructuring was actually a sale, meticulously documented in paperwork. 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.

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, including two who 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.” As Murray’s lawyers fight for the return of his home’s title, he now sees why he was targeted.

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

By Matt Sedensky

AP National Writer

Article source:

More Bang For Your Buck: How to buy a foreclosed home


The lack of houses for sale is driving demand and causing prices in Central Virginia to spike. That puts home ownership out of some people’s reach.

But what if you could get a house for less than market value?

It’s unfortunate, but sometimes people lose their home to foreclosure. The first notice the public gets is the trustee sale in the daily paper.

“That’s actually a step before it makes it to the normal real estate market,” said Agent Max Williams.

Williams says don’t get your hopes up with these listings. Many never sell because the owner files for bankruptcy.

“Or there’s actually no equity in the property and it’s extremely difficult, if not impossible, to get traditional financing for a house you buy at the courthouse steps,” he said.

When they do sell on the courthouse steps, potential buyers cannot inspect inside the home. So most of them go unsold, reverting them back to the lender. Those lenders then contact certain local realtors, like Williams, to sell the home.

“HUD’s properties technically are foreclosures, (but) they don’t refer to them as foreclosures, they refer to them as HUD homes, but they went through the same process,” he said. 

The only difference is the HUD home had an FHA insured mortgage. Just because it’s a HUG or foreclosure doesn’t always mean it’s an attractive price.

“The valuation process, especially for homes that need work, can be subjective. If they are high or low, that will result in what the home is listed at,” Williams said. 

He’s seen this firsthand.

How can you find a foreclosure? Don’t count on sites such as Zillow. Miss one monthly payment and homebuyers may think your house is up for sale, even though it’s not.

HUD homes typically include that information in the MLS listing. For bank-owned houses, look for a small sticker, typically on the front door, that’s from the property preservation company.

“If you have a sharp eye, you’ll see those in neighborhoods and that means the home probably will be coming to foreclosure soon,” said Williams.

Williams says there’s even room to negotiate with foreclosures and HUD homes as long as the offer is reasonable.

Know that lenders will not make any improvements from a home inspection, but the savings on the selling price often justifies the repairs. If you’re not satisfied with what needs to be fixed, you can get out of the contract.

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