fltimes.com | February 8, 2017
By Spencer Tulis
In 1998, Leanne Labadee bought a three-unit home on Ogden Street in Penn Yan for $75,000. The 50-year-old faithfully paid her mortgage every month, the majority of the time with money orders.
She never missed a payment.
Like many, she received notices about her loan being resold to another mortgage company; federal banking laws allow financial institutions to sell mortgages or transfer the servicing rights to other institutions. Consumer consent is not required. It’s a common practice, and Leanne’s mortgage has been owned by at least three different banks.
In short, the secondary mortgage industry is huge.
In 2008, out of the blue, she was informed foreclosure proceedings were being started on her home unless the mortgage was paid in full. The mortgage company? Wells Fargo, an outfit that has dealt with controversy in recent years because of questionable business practices.
Leanne has been in a fight with Wells Fargo ever since, all the while still not missing a payment. She even enlisted Congressman Tom Reed to help fight on her behalf for two years — with no success.
One would think a few phone calls would be able to straighten things out. Leanne certainly couldn’t afford to fly to Wells Fargo’s headquarters in Des Moines, Iowa. Chances are it wouldn’t have mattered anyway because it seems no one can find all the paperwork and account information that relates to her property.
Her sister, Lori, has been a tremendous help in this fight. Leanne is disabled due to a combination of diabetes, depression and anxiety. The ongoing foreclosure threats have done little to improve her health.
Lori has a file full of paperwork; it’s a foot tall. She couldn’t tell you the number of phone calls she has made on Leanne’s behalf, contacting the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and New York State Attorney General’s Office, to name just two.
When mortgages are resold, consumers are not supposed to become collateral damage during the process. Mortgage companies have a legal obligation to protect consumers. That means paperwork should never be lost and should never hinder a consumer’s chance to save their home from unnecessary foreclosure.
Famous last words and, ultimately, empty promises for Leanne.
Two weeks ago her home was sold at foreclosure for $55,000. Not only did she lose out on all the equity she has put in through the years, but she received a bill from Wells Fargo saying the home was foreclosed for $87,200, and they insisted she has to continue making payments for the $32,200 difference.
If there is a “smoking gun” here, it may lay in some of the paperwork she possesses with the name Steven Baum on it.
In 2010, a federal, class-action complaint on behalf of tens of thousands of New York state homeowners who lost their homes to an alleged foreclosure fraud began. The fraud was orchestrated for years by a New York “foreclosure mill” attorney along with major mortgage companies. The case is filed in the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York, entitled “Connie Campbell against Steven Baum.
The action seeks to return tens of thousands of foreclosed homes to their owners, or its value, along with hundreds of millions in punitive damages against Baum.
“Mr. Baum is an attorney who knows better, yet his foreclosure filings for parties who have no standing to sue confuse the courts and homeowners while he and his banking clients profit tremendously by throwing people on the streets after their bad loans sold by the very same banks become unaffordable to innocent people,” said Susan Lask, who filed the claim: “The aforementioned false foreclosure filings potentially hit tens of thousands of New Yorkers who were foreclosed upon.”
Baum has been accused of deliberate sloppy filings to hasten foreclosures on unwitting homeowners and courts. In 2012, he was fined $6 million.
Last week Leanne found a Rochester attorney who has agreed to represent her in her fight against this injustice.
She is now living with her sister.
Back to February 2017 Archive
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