Hat tip to OC Renter for sending along another episode of Michael Pines, foreclosure-chaser:

A Newport Beach man was arrested Wednesday after an attempt to regain possession of the home he claims his family was wrongfully evicted from 16 months ago.

Rene Zepeda, 72, was accompanied by his attorney and several Newport Beach Police officers as he made his way to the back yard of the spacious home at 19 Crystal Cay and, wielding a hammer, broke a window to gain entry. Officers promptly arrested Zepeda and attorney Mike Pines for trespassing and carted them away in a police vehicle.

“They told me I’d get arrested, but I don’t care,” said Zepeda before his arrest. “It’s my house. I have to do something.”

His attorney said the action was part of a revolt against “illegal” foreclosure and eviction practices that have cost countless people their homes, and he will advise other clients to commit the same act of civil disobedience until change is effected.  “These homeowners have been out of their house for more than a year,” Pines said. “That’s long enough. They deserve to get back in because it’s legally theirs.”

Located in the gated and luxurious community of Crystal Cove, the 5-bedroom, 4,400-square foot home is on the market for $3.8 million. It’s an unlikely symbol of the brewing confusion surrounding foreclosures.

Rene Zepeda and his wife Otilia purchased the home in 2008 after “years of sacrifice and hard work,” she said. Rene claims the lender, Bank of America, then raised the interest rate on their mortgage, causing the family to fall behind on payments.

Attorney Pines argues that because the foreclosure was hastily pushed through, the homeowners were denied the right to a jury trial and to present evidence in court. Public records show that the home was foreclosed on July 8, 2009; Pines says the couple has been fighting a legal battle ever since and finally resorted to this dramatic gesture because the house is now for sale.

Gary Kishner, a spokesman for JPMorgan Chase, said the homeowners lost the home 15 months ago after not making payments on the mortgage and that Chase now owns the property.

“After two illegal break-ins and squattings in a two-week period last November, a court order was obtained and sheriffs secured the property once again,” Kishner said. “Police assistance was needed today once again because of trespassing and criminal damage to the property.”

Zepeda and Pines were promptly bailed out, and Pines said prosecutors would have to prove they were trespassing.  “Newport Beach needs to know that they have to pick sides,” Pines said. “It’s either the homeowners or the financial institutions.”

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