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                                        He then prepares a single bill with a single service fee for each delivery.

"It avoids the whole issue of double charging," he said.

Coffey did not respond to a request for comment.

Marshals working for Reiner, Reiner — which changed its name to Bendett & McHugh a year ago after the departure of founder Michael Reiner — also increased charges for deliveries, although not as dramatically as those connected to Hunt Leibert. Even before 2007, marshals working for Reiner, Reiner delivered lis pendens to all defendants, though they generally did not charge double the fees. But around April 2007, those marshals also began charging the maximum for the lis pendens, typically increasing their bills by $20 per lawsuit, records show.

With the two firms filing more than 1,000 suits every month, even modest fee increases added up. Overall, the small group of marshals who serve papers for Hunt Leibert and Bendett & McHugh collected as much as $1 million in extra charges by delivering the lis pendens to all defendants and treating it as a separate service, according to The Courant's analysis. Those fees ultimately are paid by homeowners who reinstate their mortgages, or are deducted from any proceeds returned to a homeowner when a property is sold at foreclosure. In other cases, mortgage holders are left with the bill when there is no equity in a property.

Adam Bendett, a partner with Bendett & McHugh, said his firm did not orchestrate the higher fees.

"No principal or employee of Bendett & McHugh P.C. has ever advised any marshal to increase his or her fees. We are not aware of any principal or employee of our predecessor firm [Reiner, Reiner] ever advising any marshal to increase his or her fees," Bendett wrote in response to questions by The Courant. "In addition, we are not aware of any change in billing policy communicated to or requested by any marshal related to the creation of Connecticut Service Network."

Bendett said no current employee of the firm was directly involved with Connecticut Service Network. Michael Reiner, who helped create the company when he was with Reiner, Reiner, now works for another law firm, but was out of the office and unavailable last week.

In past controversies over charges, marshals have often insisted they were strictly following state law in calculating their fees. But some marshals who charged extra fees when delivering foreclosure suits for Hunt Leibert and Bendett & McHugh charged lower fees when delivering papers for other law firms. The Courant examined 12 foreclosures suits served by Marshal Fiorillo from early 2007 to mid 2009 — 11 served for Hunt Leibert or Bendett & McHugh, and one case served for a different firm, Perlstein Sandler & McCracken.

The suit brought by Perlstein Sandler & McCracken was the only one of the 12 in which Fiorillo did not charge for serving the lis pendens to every defendant. For that suit, Fiorillo served only the town clerk and the homeowner — moves that shaved $110 off his typical billing method.

Fiorillo, in written responses to questions by The Courant, did not address why he charged higher fees when serving papers for certain firms. But he said his fees were lawful.

"The services I have provided have varied over time and among firms, but my fees have always been consistent with my understanding of what is permissible under the statutory fee schedule and consistent with training materials and forms provided by the State [Marshal] Commission," Fiorillo wrote. "If the statutory fee schedule changes or the Commission provides new guidance on fees that state marshals can charge, obviously I will comply with any revisions."

The Connecticut Service Network faced scrutiny by state regulators, and by November 2007, Attorney General Richard Blumenthal had deemed the operation illegal and the company had shut down. The higher marshal fees, however, continued.

But in recent months, both firms stopped paying the extra fees.

Beginning in mid-June, Adam Bendett sent two e-mails to marshals who deliver foreclosures for his firm, instructing them first to stop serving the lis pendens on all defendants, and, later, to stop serving the lis pendens altogether, according to a marshal who was notified of the new policies. Now, the firm simply mails the lis pendens to the clerk's office.

Bendett said last week that recent publicity led the firm to re-examine the work performed by marshals.

"Many provisions of the service of process statutes, as well as the other statutes governing the fees for marshal services, are ambiguous," Bendett wrote in response to questions from The Courant. "Until further legal clarity is forthcoming regarding these issues, after careful consideration and with the goal of minimizing foreclosure costs, our office has decided to eliminate any role of the state marshals in connection with any aspect of the lis pendens."

A review of court records indicates marshals working for Bendett & McHugh stopped delivering the lis pendens to all defendants in late June, and that Hunt Leibert's marshals followed suit about two weeks later. But since Bendett & McHugh cut marshals completely out of the lis pendens service last month, at least one marshal — who did not want to be identified because he does other work for the firm — said he balked at the pay cut and stopped serving foreclosures for Bendett & McHugh.

"It just didn't make any sense to keep doing the foreclosures," the marshal said, "because you can't make any money on them now."

•Contact The Courant's investigative desk at