Trashing Home = 270 Days in Jail

From the

For crimes associated with trashing their foreclosed Winchester home, a former San Diego police officer and his wife each received a sentence of 270 days in jail and five years on probation.

In rendering the sentence, Judge Mark Mandio at the Southwest Justice Center decided against handing out the maximum punishment of four years in prison to Robert Conrad Acosta, 40, and Monique Evette Acosta, 37.

A jury convicted the couple in May of defrauding their lender by ripping out fixtures in the home and attempting to sell them after they were kicked out in June 2010 for failing to make mortgage payments.

Mandio cited their lack of prior convictions and the damage that long-term incarceration could do to them and their family as reasons for giving them lighter sentences.

“This was an act of anger,” Mandio said. “I think it was out of character for each of these individuals.”

Apparently incensed that they were getting booted from the home on Via Laguna, the Acostas tore the house apart, taking nearly everything of value and leaving the property in shambles.

Jurors saw a video and photographs taken after the family’s departure that showed piles of rubble, empty doorways where doors were removed, damaged rock facings, spray-painted walls, tile grouting saturated with black hair dye and loose wires sticking from walls from which light fixtures had been taken. The kitchen literally was gutted for everything of worth.

The swimming pool was filed with cypress trees that had been cut down and dumped there along with other debris.

The Acostas contended they had a right to take the items from the house because they had purchased them. However, the deed of trust that ran with the outstanding loan on the property prohibited the removal of permanent fixtures regardless of who installed them, according to evidence presented at trial.

Investigators discovered Robert Acosta had advertised many of the items for sale on the online marketplace Craig’slist and the couple were arrested.

While awaiting trial, Robert Acosta resigned from his position with the San Diego Police Department.

During Friday’s sentencing proceeding, the judge rejected requests by the Acostas’ defense attorneys for a reduction in their convictions from felonies to misdemeanors.


Protest Material?

A few more of these stories and people are going to take it to the streets. From Reuters:

Remember Jackie Ramos? She caused a huge stir by going public, on YouTube, with her story of working for Bank of America, which fired her for allowing customers to pay off their debts with installment loans.

Now Ramos is back, and her latest story of Bank of America is even worse. The short version: BofA started charging her extra money, on her mortgage bill, for mortgage insurance she’d never asked for. Eventually, when she found out what the charges were for, she agreed to keep on making those insurance premiums, since they would allow her to stay in her home if anything ever happened to the other person on the mortgage, her son’s father Tim.

Then, in April 2011, Tim died — and the mortgage insurance didn’t pay out. Instead, BofA foreclosed on Ramos, and she lost her house. When she tried to ask why the insurance didn’t pay out, they wouldn’t answer her questions, on the grounds that she and Tim weren’t married.

Over email, Ramos told me that the insurance in question was absolutely mortgage life insurance, over and above the standard mortgage insurance which they already were paying for from another provider. That’s what BofA explained when they agreed to keep on paying the premiums. And Ramos also passed on a tax form 1098 from Bank of America to Tim, which clearly shows that Tim had paid mortgage insurance premiums in 2011 — even as the bank is now telling Ramos that there was no mortgage insurance at all.

At the very least, this is a case of Bank of America communicating in an absolutely atrocious manner with one of its homeowners. And at worst it’s a case of BofA foreclosing on and evicting someone who should instead have had her home paid off. One can’t expect that anybody at BofA realized that the person they were talking to was that Jackie Ramos. But it’s unfortunate for them that they didn’t. Because I suspect that this video might prove just as popular as the last one — which received more than 440,000 views, at last count.

OWS Takes Advantage

From the

They’re occupying his home.

Occupy Wall Street protesters announced with great fanfare last month that they moved a homeless family into a “foreclosed” Brooklyn home — even though they knew the house belonged to a struggling single father desperately trying to renegotiate his mortgage, The Post has learned.

“They’re trying to take a house and say the bank is robbing the people because the mortgage is too high — so contact the owner!” fumed Wise Ahadzi, 28, who owns the home at 702 Vermont St. in East New York.

Occupiers “reclaimed” the row house on Dec. 6 and ceremoniously put out the welcome mat for a homeless family.

But Bank of America, which has been in and out of foreclosure proceedings against Ahadzi since 2009, confirmed to The Post that he is still the rightful owner.

Meanwhile, the family that OWS claimed to be putting into the vacant house has not yet permanently moved in. And it turns out the family is not a random victim of the foreclosure crisis, but cast for the part, thanks to their connection to the OWS movement.

OWS last week said it has spent $9,500 breaking into the house and setting it up for the homeless Carrasquillo family. A photo of the smiling family covers a window, under the slogan, “A place to call home.”

The head of the family, Alfredo Carrasquillo, 28, is an organizer for VOCAL- NY, a group that works with OWS. His Facebook page shows him in a “99 Percent” T-shirt at an OWS protest in November.

The Post visited the Vermont Street home last week — six weeks after OWS announced that the Carrasquillos were moving in — and the family was nowhere to be found.

In fact, the only people occupying the house were occupiers themselves.

“They only stay here sometimes,” a protester named Charlie said of the Carrasquillos. “There’s not enough room for the kids.”


‘Wild Old Women’

Hat tip to daytrip for sending this along:

SAN FRANCISCO – It was a slow-moving Occupy Wall Street protest, but it was an effective one. A dozen senior citizens calling themselves “the wild old women” succeeded in closing a Bank of America branch in Bernal Heights Thursday.

The women, aged 69 to 82, who live at the senior home up Mission street from the Bernal Heights Bank of America branch, decided to hold their own protest by doing what they called a “run on the bank.”

Tita Caldwell, 80, who led the charge of women with walkers and wheelchairs, said that they’re demanding the bank lower fees, pay higher taxes, and stop foreclosing on, and evicting, homeowners.

Click on the link and go to the podcast of the ladies being interviewed!

Free-Rent Program Extends

From (seen at CR):

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — Delinquent borrowers facing foreclosure are learning that they can stay in their homes for years, as long as they’re willing to put up a fight.

Among the tactics: Challenging the bank’s actions, waiting to file paperwork right up until the deadline, requesting the lender dig up original paperwork or, in some extreme cases, declaring bankruptcy.

Nationwide, the average time it takes to process a foreclosure — from the first missed payment to the final foreclosure auction — has climbed to 674 days from 253 days just four years ago, according to LPS Applied Analytics.

It takes much longer than that in Florida, where the process averages 1,027 days, nearly 3 years. In D.C., foreclosure averages 1,053 days and delinquent borrowers in New York often stay in their homes for an average of 906 days.

Because California is a trustee-sale state, the delays are shorter – only 11 months on average:

Days to Foreclose/Sell - California

And while some borrowers are looking for ways to make good with lenders and get their homes back, many aren’t paying a dime. Nearly 40% of homeowners in default have not made a payment in at least two years, according to LPS.

Many of these homeowners are staying in their homes based on a technicality. There is rarely any dispute over whether or not they have stopped paying their mortgage, said David Dunn, a partner at law firm Hogan Lovells in New York, who represents banks and other financial institutions in foreclosure cases.

“In my experience, they never say, ‘I’m not delinquent’ or ‘I want to pay my bill but I’m confused over who to send it to,’ or ‘Oh my God, you mean I didn’t pay my mortgage?’ They’re not in technical default. They’re in default because they’re not paying,” he said.


Occupy Y’all Street

Hat tip to jpinpb for sending this along, from

‘Occupy’ protesters and housing rights activists are planning to help families resist eviction from foreclosed homes and take control of  vacant properties in some 25 U.S. cities on Tuesday,  an effort aimed at focusing attention on the ongoing housing crisis and giving the movement a new focus after the dismantling of many of its encampments.

The protesters have been crafting proposals – often quietly to prevent police from learning about their intentions beforehand — to defend families facing eviction or return others home. In Minneapolis, for example, they plan to help a Vietnam War veteran stay in his home, in New York, protesters will try to help a family get back into their house, and in Chicago, two sisters and their seven children will be moved into an abandoned single-family home, activists said.

“It’s part of a national day of action that we hope will kick off a wave of defenses and home re-occupations,” Max Berger, 26, told the Occupy Wall Street General Assembly late Thursday while requesting $6,400 in funding to buy tools for the project. “This is not just about one event; this is a huge frontier for us. We can do these kinds of actions all the time, and we should. And it doesn’t have to be just us. We got to do this one right so we can inspire people to do it theirselves.”

“This movement is about taking back this country for regular people and that’s exactly what we’re doing with these actions,” he later added. “We’re not going to let the power of the banks keep people from having what they need.”

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Another here:

Occupy Foreclosures

Hat tip to jpinpb for sending this in, from

Occupy Wall Street is promising a “big day of action” on Dec. 6th that will focus on the foreclosure crisis and protest “fraudulent lending practices,” “corrupt securitization,” and illegal evictions by banks.

The day will mark the beginning of an Occupy Our Homes campaign that organizers hope will energize the movement as it moves indoors as well as bring the injustices of the economic crisis into sharp relief.

Many of the details aren’t yet public, but protesters in 20 cities are expected to take part in the day of action next Tuesday. We’ve already seen eviction defenses at foreclosed properties around the country as well as takeovers of vacant properties for homeless families. Occupy Our Homes organizer Abby Clark tells me protesters are planning to “mic-check” (i.e., disrupt) foreclosure auctions as well as launch some new home occupations.

This is a shift from protesting Wall Street fraud to taking action on behalf of people who were harmed by it. It brings the movement into the neighborhoods and gives people a sense of what’s really at stake,” said Max Berger, one of the Occupy Our Homes organizers and a member of Occupy Wall Street’s movement-building working group.

Foreclosure Hunger Strike


One Baltimore homeowner has found a way to make her message resonate across the nation, and also get her into the office of Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley.  

Unlike many homeowners who are facing foreclosure, Lauren Rymer has been steadily employed since well before she purchased her home in 2006, and only fell behind on her mortgage payments when her property taxes increased 55% in two years. But similar to many homeowners in default, she was unable to qualify for a loan modification or to refinance her interest-only loan.

With her home less than 45 days from foreclosure, she started a hunger strike Monday outside her state Capitol to protest not just potentially losing her own home, but also the structural problems in the industry:

Although Rymer might not get to stay in the house on which she still owes  more than $200,000, she’s hoping she can at least negotiate to avoid foreclosure by handing over the deed in lieu of foreclosure.

Real Estate/Bank Terrorist

Bruce Marks doesn’t bother being diplomatic. A campaigner on behalf of homeowners facing foreclosure, he was on the phone one day in March to a loan executive at Bank of America Corp.

“I’m tired of borrowers being screwed!” Mr. Marks yelled into the phone. “You’re incompetent!” Before hanging up, he threatened to call bank CEO Kenneth Lewis at home to complain about the loan executive.

Mr. Marks’s nonprofit organization, Neighborhood Assistance Corp. of America, has emerged as one of the loudest scourges of the banking industry in the post-bubble economy. It salts its Web site with photos of executives it accuses of standing in the way of helping homeowners — emblazoning “Predator” across their photos, picturing their homes and sometimes including home phone numbers. In February, NACA, as it’s called, protested at the home of a mortgage investor by scattering furniture on his lawn, to give him a taste of what it feels like to be evicted.

In the 1990s, Mr. Marks leaked details of a banker’s divorce to the press and organized a protest at the school of another banker’s child. He says he would use such tactics again. “We have to terrorize these bankers,” Mr. Marks says.

Though some bankers privately deplore his tactics, Mr. Marks is a growing influence in the lending industry and the effort to curb foreclosures. NACA has signed agreements with the four largest U.S. mortgage lenders — Bank of America, Wells Fargo & Co., J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. and Citigroup Inc. — in which they agree to work with his counselors on a regular basis to try to arrange lower payments for struggling borrowers. NACA has made powerful political friends, such as House majority whip James Clyburn of South Carolina, and it receives federal money to counsel homeowners.

Some 1.7 million U.S. households will lose their homes in foreclosure this year, according to a forecast by Moody’s, versus under 500,000 a year early in the housing boom. Banks want to show they’re making every effort to keep people in their homes. That can mean working with housing-advocacy groups that routinely bash the industry, increasing the clout of such nonprofits. Less certain is whether these groups can translate their new leverage into long-term influence over how mortgage lenders treat customers.

“We have the opportunity to change how lending gets done in this country,” says Mr. Marks, whose group is itself a mortgage broker and has 40 offices staffed with housing counselors. He favors a return to more traditional standards, with full documentation of income and the same fixed interest rate for everyone.

Instead of relying on credit scores, he thinks lenders should look into the reasons for any late payments in prospective borrowers’ past and prepare renters for the responsibilities of home ownership. Then, if people are given a loan they can afford, they shouldn’t be required to make a down payment, he argues.

Critics doubt some of these changes would be helpful. Having to use a single interest rate for all would make banks less likely to lend to people with blemished credit records, says Richard Riese, an executive at the American Bankers Association.

A single rate also could lead to higher rates for everyone, adds John Courson, chief executive of another trade group, the Mortgage Bankers Association.

Mr. Courson declined to comment on Mr. Marks. “You’re not going to drag me in there,” he said.

NACA seeks to limit mortgage payments to whatever a borrower can afford, and doesn’t favor stretching out payment periods. That contrasts with a loan-modification plan pushed by the Obama administration, which aims to limit payments to 31% of income.

NACA says it arranged $367 million of mortgages last year. Those borrowers must become members of NACA, agreeing to participate in its protests or help out at its offices, and for several years must contribute to a fund for homeowners who fall behind because of sickness or job loss. All NACA members pay the same interest rate, currently 4.375%.

Mr. Marks says 3.67% of loans NACA originated were 90 days or more overdue as of March 31. The industry average was 3.49%, according to LPS Applied Analytics, a data firm. According to Mr. Marks, 0.68% of the NACA loans were in foreclosure. The industry average was 2.45%, says LPS.

Some lenders have refused to sign contracts to work with NACA, among them HSBC Holdings, Barclays and Credit Suisse Group. All declined to comment. Mr. Marks says some banks that won’t sign agreements do negotiate individual cases with NACA. Even so, NACA sometimes pictures their executives and the executives’ homes on its Web site.

It recently added a photo of William Gross of Pacific Investment Management Co., the big bond house known as Pimco, along with pictures of his home and other information. Mr. Marks says his contacts in banking and government tell him Pimco doesn’t support the administration’s push to modify mortgages. “We’re exposing them,” Mr. Marks says. A spokesman for Pimco said neither it nor Mr. Gross would comment.

Mr. Marks says financial executives should be held personally responsible for actions that affect people’s lives, and “if they interpret that as intimidation, so be it.” He says that “we’re not talking about violence. We don’t do violence.”

“I have a difference with Bank of America. I have a substantial amount of assets with them,” Mr. Frey says. “We take them to court. This is how we do it in this country….It’s a civilized society.” The response from NACA, he adds, “is a mob showing up at someone’s house to intimidate them to drop this suit. At what point do people say, ‘This is starting to be uncomfortable’?”

“It should be uncomfortable,” says Mr. Marks. “You win a campaign by being relentless. Everybody has a breaking point….At some point they say, ‘How do I get these crazies off my back?’ “

Bank of America says home loans originated by NACA “are equal to and in some cases are performing better than our prime book of business.” A bank spokesman added, “There are few organizations that can bring a buyer to the table who has been through such extensive pre-buying counseling.”

Despite receiving taxpayer money, NACA doesn’t provide public reports on either its loan-brokerage business or its campaign to modify mortgages. Jim Campen, an economics professor emeritus at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, says he tried in the 1990s to analyze the performance of loans arranged by NACA, but Mr. Marks refused to provide data.

Mr. Marks says he feared the data would be used by another nonprofit to discredit his group. NACA does provide information to lenders that work with it, he says, but sees no duty to disclose it to the public.

“He’s been very effective in shaking money out of the banks,” says Mr. Campen, but “he’s not one to open up his records to public scrutiny.”


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