Posted on February 28th, 2012 by Mark Stopa Esq.
The name “Danielle Sterling” may not mean much to you. Frankly, it shouldn’t. Danielle Sterling was a receptionist for American Home Mortgage until 2005, when she was promoted to a “Collateral Reviewer,” a position she held until 2007, when American Home Mortgage went out of business. I don’t want to call her a “nobody,” but Danielle Sterling was just one step up from a receptionist at a mortgage company that’s been out of business for five years … clearly she was a bit player in the mortgage industry. So why am I talking about her?
Well, I defend foreclosure cases. In that role, I look closely at every promissory note and every indorsement on those notes that come across my desk. I’ve encountered the name “Danielle Sterling” a fair number of times as an indorser on Notes. Frankly, I didn’t think much of it at the time – it was just a scribbled signature on a Note. However, when I came to learn she was just one step up from a receptionist, and she hasn’t been in the industry since 2007, it made me wonder … “why is Danielle Sterling signing so many indorsements on promissory notes, transferring millions of dollars?” If you ran a business, can you imagine giving low-level staff members the authority to transfer millions of dollars in commercial paper with a swipe of the pen? What in the name of Wells Fargo is going on here?
With the help of my friend Matt Weidner, it seems I have an answer. According to this Affidavit, Danielle Sterling did not endorse a promissory note entered by Daniel and Christine Hunk. Ms. Sterling is very unequivocal about this – she never endorsed the Note. Yet the Note has an endorsement bearing her signature.
Let’s say that again …
Danielle Sterling did not endorse the Note, but the Note has an endorsement with her signature.
I may not be a rocket scientist, but it doesn’t take Sherlock Holmes to figure out what happened here. A bank (apparently Citimortgage, since it was the plaintiff) wanted to foreclose on the Note and Mortgage entered by Daniel and Christine Hunk, but needed an endorsement from American Home Mortgage. But American Home Mortgage was out of business. So Citimortgage took the endorsement stamp that had been used by Danielle Sterling (from when she worked at American Home Mortgage), stamped it on the Note, and forged her signature.
What’s the result? If you look at the endorsement, everything looks normal. It looks like the endorsements we all see on tens of thousands of notes in foreclosure cases throughout Florida. But there’s the rub …
the endorsement looks normal, but it’s a forgery.
For anyone who thinks this is “no big deal” or merely “sloppy paperwork, bear this in mind. Foreclosure cases turn on endorsements like this. Having a Note, endorsed in blank (or specially indorsed to the plaintiff) is almost always what a foreclosure plaintiff asserts as its standing to foreclose. In other words, endorsements like this are what gives the bank the right to foreclose on a homeowner. With an endorsement, the bank is probably going to win (and foreclose). Without it, they’re probably going to lose. Hence, if these endorsements are forged, as this one clearly seems to be, then banks are, quite literally, stealing homes that don’t belong to them.
Everyone needs to take a moment and reflect on the magnitude of this situation. As you do, bear in mind – most judges I know accept an original Note with an endorsement as gospel. If homeowners and foreclosure defense attorneys have a legitimate reason to question the authenticity of the endorsements that appear on Notes in foreclosure cases – as we clearly do in light of this affidavit – then where does that leave us? In my view, courts cannot take an endorsement at face value. They just can’t. There’s a legitimate reason to question the veracity of every endorsement, not just by Danielle Sterling, but every endorsement. After all, if we’ve proven Danielle Sterline endorsements are forged, do you really think that’s the only one? I sure don’t.
And what about the legislature? How on earth can anyone – ANYONE – justify new legislation to “push through” foreclosure cases quicker in light of evidence like this? Ahhh, I forgot. Florida is full of deadbeat homeowners, and even though we’re experiencing the biggest fraud in the history of mankind, we all need to sweep it under the rug to improve the economy. Because throwing homeowners on the streets for the benefit of banks that committed widespread fraud will help. Right.
If this isn’t a wake-up call for all of America, then nothing is. Foreclosures are littered with fraud … billions of dollars in wealth are changing hands in fraudulent ways … does anyone care?
Can you imagine if I posted on this blog some sort of proof that I had endorsed a check payable to Bank of America over to myself, then cashed it? I’d be in jail tomorrow and news stories would run about how a foreclosure defense attorney was arrested for theft. But when a bank does it, nobody cares.
By the way, compare Danielle Sterling’s signature on the affidavit to the signature on the endorsement. The two signatures aren’t even close. Frankly, that’s offensive. I mean, if you’re going to forge something, at least forge it well. Here, the banks were so callous about their fraud they didn’t even try to make it a good forgery – they just scribbled something on an endorsement and use that forged endorsement as a basis for standing. And like I said in the beginning of this post, I have many cases with endorsements by Danielle Sterling.
But the issue here isn’t Danielle Sterling. The issue here is that it’s time for everyone to stop treating an original note with an endorsement as gospel. Clearly, endorsement fraud is pervasive in the foreclosure industry, and it’s about time we all put a stop to it.
I think that if it can be proved the signature/rubber stamp is fraudulent, It's Fraud upon the Court. If some one use my signature stamp without my approval, it's fraud. The case then could be dismissed with prejudice with serious sanction to the Bank.
I would take a closer look at the endorsement, check if the signature is from a Real, valid person and if he/she did work at the Bank on the endorsement at the endorsement time. So many frauds on foreclosure documents these days.
The mortgage is sign on the note with Bank A. The mortgage is in default. The B Bank files the foreclosure with an endorsement from Bank A to Bank B. The endorsement is signed by a person C who was no longer employed with neither Banks on the date of the endorsement.
Then is the endorsement is a forged, fabricated document ? The B bank brings a lawsuit to the Court using a fabricated fraudulent document. Would that be Plaintiff commit Fraud upon the Court ?
What is the Sanction for Fraud upon the Court ? Does the fabricated endorsement with a forged signature negates the Plaintiff Standing to sue ? Remember, the loan was signed with Bank A not with Plaintiff B.
What is the recourse for a Defendant if Plaintiff sues the Defendant using a forged documents i.e forged signature on an indorsement ?
All across this country, the garbage Countrywide loans are being foreclosed on and Americans thrown into the street, many times based on nothing more than a simple endorsement. To be valid an endorsement must actually be authorized and valid. But far too often, the signatures and purported endorsements are not even challenged…
AND IMPORTANTLY, THE BANKS ARE ARGUING THAT THEY NO PARTY HAS A RIGHT TO CHALLENGE THE VALIDITY OF ENDORSEMENTS!
The argument presented by the banks is that the endorsements do not matter, and that no one can challenge these signatures. By extension, this argument suggests that not even judges could question signatures when presented with obvious forgeries.
The alleged endorsements were highlighted to me by my friend David at Case Clarity
Look closely, it looks like two endorsements, two signatures, correct? Well, no, they’re not actually signatures at all….the “signatures” are just ink stamps. But that’s not what’s most interesting.
At first blush it looks like two separate stamps, but when you compare this stamp to many of the other stamps, they “both” line up perfectly and exactly. Which suggests that the figure above is really made by one singular stamp made to look like two stamps. Now did Meder stamp this? Did Sjolander stamp this? And if neither stamped it, did either stamp it?
Oh, but right, we’re not even allowed to make such inquiry correct?
Posted on May 11th, 2011 by Mark Stopa Esq.
I have a trial tomorrow in a foreclosure case. It’s in Lee County, of course – the county where the judges prosecute cases by setting trials sua sponte. Right now, I’m earnestly preparing for trial, but I thought I’d take a break to discuss the two issues are paramount in virtually every foreclosure case/trial. Depending on the facts of a particular case, there may be other issues, of course, but these two issues are critical to a Plaintiff’s ability to win at trial and should, in my view, be vigorously defended in virtually every case:
1. Introducing the Note into evidence.
2. Proving the homeowner’s default in payments and the amount owed.
Re. the former, we all know the Plaintiff must introduce the original Note into evidence, failing which a foreclosure judgment cannot lawfully be entered. The fact that a Note is “self-authenticating” makes this seem like a low hurdle – the Plaintiff’s attorney simply needs to hand the original Note to the judge and it will be admitted into evidence. Fortunately for homeowners, it’s not that simple.
Under Fla. Stat. 673.3081, if a homeowner denies the authenticity of a Note or the signatures thereon in the pleadings, the Plaintiff must authenticate the Note, and its signatures, at trial. There is still a presumption the Note and all signatures are authentic, but by contesting authentication, a homeowner can force the bank to authenticate the Note at trial. This may be harder than you think. For instance, if I challenge the authenticity of a blank indorsement, the Plaintiff must put on testimony from someone who can swear, under oath, that he/she saw the indorsement executed or that he/she recognizes the signature and it is authentic. Similarly, if I challenge the authenticity of the Note, the Plaintiff must present a witness who can testify he/she saw the homeowner sign the Note or who recognizes the homeowner’s signature based on other documents. The way that Notes change hands between banks, neither of these things would be very easy, and I doubt the Plaintiffs’ lawyers will be prepared to deal with these evidentiary issues. In other words, it’s quite possibly that if the homeowner preserves these evidentiary objections at trial, the Plaintiff’s lawyers won’t be prepared for them and won’t even have the requisite witness(es) at trial to testify.
Re. the second issue, testimony at trial must generally be based on personal knowledge. That means the Plaintiff must testify to events he/she has seen with his/her eyes or heard with his/her ears. This is virtually impossible to do with regard to proving a homeowner did not pay a mortgage payment or proving the amount owed, so the Plaintiff invariably must rely on documents to prove these facts. This is permissible, but only if the Plaintiff can introduce these documents under the business records exception to the hearsay rule.
Again, this is harder than you think. The Plaintiff must show: (1) the documents are a memorandum, report, record, or data compilation; (2) made at or near the time of the event; (3) by or from information transmitted by a person with knowledge; (4) kept in the course of regularly conducted business activity; and (5) that it was the regular practice of that business to make such a record. All five elements must be satisfied or the documents cannot be used as evidence at trial.
I’m not trying to teach anyone how to practice law. Rather, my point is that there are virtually always things that can be done to make it difficult for a bank to prevail in a foreclosure case; these are just two examples. So don’t give up – keep fighting foreclosure!
It would be nice if successful Pro Se mentioned in Unregistered Post can give out their case numbers so other Pro Se and I can learn from them .
Talk is cheap !!!
Legal pleadings and court dockets are public. Anyone can see them at the court house, including Bank lawyers. Anyone can crow on their non existent
victory on the Internet without proving proof. Appeal Court publish their Opinion immediately after the Hearing.
I have the feeling that some people for unknown reason try to spread negativity and incorrectness in this forum. Including incorrectly critize REAL attorney opinions on legal matters. Jealousy perhaps ? Or do they work for the Bank ?
Readers is advised to be careful taking internet advices/opinions from unknown posters. Consult competent lawyers before taking any legal steps.
I post comments from real lawyers so people can give it a thought . They tell you a view of boots on the ground.
It is well known that unless a person possesses high legal knowlege, fighting foreclosure lawsuit Pro Se is dangerous and risking losing their home. Hiring a lawyer is not a guarantee to win a free home either. However, fight it Pro Se is still better than doing nothing at all and could buy some additional time to be in the house or obtain loan modification or other settlement.
However, Pro Se should try to hire a lawyer when Bank files Motion for Summary Judgment. Losing this Motion could result in the sale of your house. The SMJ hearing is similar to a Bench trial, the SJ Judgment is difficult to reverse. Filing BK or Appeal could buy some time. Those in states with Deficiency Judgment should consult a BK lawyer or the Bank will go after their other assets and income later.
Fighting foreclosure lawsuit Pro Se is similar to go to war with a stick while the enemy owns machine gun. The Bank lawyers often steamroll, crushing the Pro Se at Hearing and bring out tricky strategies to corner the Pro Se so Bank can win. Sometimes Judges don't bother to read the Pro Se pleading no matter how good it is. It helps to go to Court House in your jurisdiction , look at winning cases to learn how REAL winners do it. Read real pleadings to note good case law in your own state. Go watch Court hearings to prepare for your own hearing. It will not be easy. Remember to file pleadings and other legal documents on time or you could be considered forfeiting your rights. Object to the court or file Motion to Strike if the Bank lawyers says/files something incorrect or fraudulent documents.
For Florida, there are a lot of info to do research at http://www.scribd.com/winstons2311 and click on Collection. The website http://www.foreclosureprose.com also have some helpful info on Pro Se strategies.
Remember, first attorney consultation is usually free. Take your case to see few attorneys and ask them what your options are.
Best wishes to you all
Posted on March 1st, 2012 by Mark Stopa Esq.
I had a hearing yesterday and the Court was running a little late, so I had the opportunity to observe hearings in other cases. Geez, what a fiasco. The defendant/homeowner in the hearing before mine was pacing the halls, visibly upset. I’m friendly with the JA, so I inquired what was happening. She told me her attorney decided not to attend the hearing. Not that he got a flat tire on the way to court, not that he was moving to withdraw, and not that his staff inadvertently didn’t calendar the hearing … he just decided not to attend. Worse yet, it was a summary judgment hearing.
This is just absolutely inexcusable. Appalling. An embarrassment to the profession. A summary judgment hearing is the most important hearing in a foreclosure case. For the homeowner’s attorney simply not to attend – to choose not to attend – is disgraceful. I think the homeowner said it best when she muttered under her breath “I guess having the best lawyer possible really does matter.” Or perhaps Judge Rondolino summed it up best when he called this lawyer at the start of the hearing and said something to the effect of “I have your appearance as counsel in the file, you haven’t moved to withdraw … what do you expect me to do here? Rule in your client’s favor just to protect you from your own malpractice?”
That, ladies and gentlemen, is the basic problem with many foreclosure defense attorneys. A lot of them don’t know how to defend cases, don’t care, or both … they just file papers just to collect a fee, then when they lose tell the client “well, you were going to lose anyway.” My clients realize I may lose their case, but they know (at least I hope they know) they won’t lose without a knock-down, drag-out fight.
The bad lawyering is hardly limited to the defense side of foreclosure cases, but I’m not about to complain there. I have no aversion whatsoever to running roughshod over newbie attorneys who have no idea how to handle a contested foreclosure case.
Is there any good lawyering out there? Well, I had a client today say that she was referred to Stopa Law Firm by her bank. Apparently, GMAC told her my firm is “the best in the business” at defending foreclosure cases. A referral from the opposing bank – weird, but that one made my day. I don’t want this to be a brag-fest, though, so enough about me. Instead, I’ll do something rare – I’ll throw a compliment to an opposing attorney.
I’ve been litigating a case against Attorney Gary Gassel out of Sarasota. He’s pushed the case aggressively and competently (certainly compared to most foreclosure lawyers I see). However, my client was just diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer and is not expected to live much longer. So I filed an Emergency Motion to continue the summary judgment hearing, arguing the rather obvious unfairness of foreclosing a homeowner on his death-bed and the impropriety of letting a case proceed when my client is incapable of participating in his own defense.
To my surprise and pleasure, Mr. Gassel cancelled the hearing. I was expecting some sort of “my client won’t approve” or “I can’t reach my client for approval” excuse (and that I’d feel compelled to talk to my friend Shannon Behnken at the Tampa Tribune about how U.S. Bank wanted to foreclose on a homeowner with Stage 4 lung cancer) but nope – this lawyer did the right thing, acknowledging the hearing should be cancelled. That’s good lawyering.
With so much frustration and outrage in this industry, it made my day to see some basic fairness in a foreclosure case. Now, if everyone could exhibit the same compassion to all homeowners all of the time …
The general public just has no idea how difficult the job our elected circuit court judges have. Specific to this foreclosure crisis, the banks have exponentially increased the case loads our judges are expected to hear, while at the same time the Florida Legislature has effectively cut their salaries, reduced their staff and reduced the pay for the staff that remain. The working conditions and the working environment for these public servants is demanding and difficult.
Most times the disputes and arguments heard by these judges are weighty and significant. By and large the people that are arguing in front of them are very intelligent, very prepared. These attorneys are also usually supported by competent and organized support staff, paralegals and assistants. They have a team of support players and resources to support the effort.
Our judges on the other hand largely head into battle each day alone and not properly supported. For hours on end, they and their staff are forced to sort through the roughly 368,000 foreclosure filings that are a mess of contradictions and confusion. Then, in the middle of all this, they stop work on all these cases to preside over a two week long, gut wrenching trial where a young family lost an infant in a medical malpractice case. For two weeks, the judge alternates between hearing devastating emotional testimony then days of technical, complex medical testimony. And then it’s right back int the foreclosure quagmire. A disturbing parade of hard luck stories, job loss, divorce, misery.
As a judge you undoubtedly feel moved at times by the gut wrenching stories. As a member of the community, you are not immune to the very difficult economic circumstances ripping across this country. Aside from what you see in your courtroom, you suffer the same economic uncertainty as everyone else. As a judge you know family members, friends, co workers who are suffering the same very real tragedies that hear about for eight hours a day, every single day. But even if a homeowner or a good defense attorney presents compelling evidence and testimony, you are handcuffed and boxed in by appellate court decisions that force your hand in so many areas. Wearing the robe means you’re a judge first and foremost, your duty is to the law and as conflicting as it must be sometimes, you must serve her before the heartaches you see pouring out before you.
And you are provided no room for error, especially the reversible kind. Just think about it, how would you like to have every single word out of your mouth reduced down to writing? And how would you like to have every single word and every single decision you make picked apart by a team of extraordinarily intelligent and extremely gifted superiors who not only probably have many more years of experience then you do, but also have the benefit of lots of time and a whole lot of dedicated support staff, bright young lawyers and teams of judicial assistants that can ponder and second guess for months over a decision that you made late in the day in an instant? Every single word you speak, every word you write, subject to intensive critical review. Not just the final, formal decision at the end of the trial, but every decision, every fork in the road, every thought in your brain along the way. Examined under a microscope. Picked apart and attacked. Publicly. For all the world to see and read about. Forever.
Given all of this, how would you like to walk into a highly charged and very difficult environment every single day and listen to people arguing and battling bitterly?
Now as you think about all that, I want you to slip on the black robe, enter the courtroom and get prepared to do this job. The transcript that follows provides just a brief perspective on the difficult job our judges do. The fact of the matter is many of the issues our trial courts are facing are new and novel, complex and confounding. There are oftentimes no definitive guideposts or opinions you can rely upon for the answers. Listen as this judge drills down into a 30 year practicing lawyer, demanding out of him answers and details, no vagueness or generality. Listen to this judge’s command of the facts and the law and consider that while the lawyers in front of him may have only a few hundred cases, this judge is responsible for many thousands of cases. This is a great example that shows why our judges are deserving of so much respect……
Smart shoppers check out several stores. Smart researchers visits different forums/websites to check out different info and opinions.
If you want to see cases , all you have to do is go to the Court house and read them.
I agree. Ice Legal is one of the premier foreclosure defense firm . They have made public many robot signors deposition and Hearing transcripts which are very helpful to foreclosure defenders.
[ps re Ann ~ one question for you - of all the questions that you have raised on this forum plez just reference one post authored by Ann that 'helped'?
John, i read tons of legal work regarding foreclosures, motions, opinions of appellate courts, federal courts etc...i enjoy it. I try to lean everyday from many different sources. Some makes sense, some don't. I do not believe that forensic audit is really helps, at least not at the state level. Most circuit court judges have no clue how the stuff works. The fact is there is not one formula, defense or theory that works all the time. What really helps us is the fact that most foreclosure mills do make lots of mistakes and they do come to court unprepared. I was asked for a copy of my motion 5 minutes before the hearing by the plaintiff's counsel several times. Too funny! But we have just a lots of stuff to overcome. You know the sentiment: " you borrowed the money...."
For those who bad mouth Matt Weidner Esq. Shame on you to attack a consumer attorney who has the guts to stand up to the Banks and fight for the Homeowners !!!
?4 Amicusman: What State is:1. Lex Consultling LLc, and/or2. Mortgage Fraud Examinersregistered in?also, what relationship does either above share with 3. 'www.realestaterama.com'?4. Alison Bradfrod?5. William Fowler?6. 'ILP'?lastly7. to ' Americans United For Justice'?just asking?
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