Friday, November 5, 2010

Brooklyn judge Arthur Schack is a local hero, decision casts light on fraudulent mortgage paperwork

Juan Gonzalez - News

Brooklyn State Supreme Court Judge Arthur Schack has done it again.

The self-described "little judge from Brooklyn" has dismissed another foreclosure case, this time in favor of an East New York homeowner who did not even have a lawyer.

Schack ruled Thursday that California's OneWest, the last of several banks that relied on an admitted "robo-signer" to transfer the $492,000 mortgage on Covan Drayton's Hemlock St. home among them, failed to prove it even owns the property in question.

"To prevent the waste of judicial resources, the instant foreclosure is dismissed without prejudice," Schack wrote.

His startling, 37-page decision is the latest of several that have turned him into a hero of troubled homeowners across the nation.

With 6 million homes nationwide in foreclosure or facing the imminent risk of foreclosure, the federal government's response has been shamefully slow.

Only 475,000 homes are in some form of permanent modification. The Obama administration has spent more effort bailing out a few big lenders than millions of little borrowers.

Shack's opinion, released by the courts Tuesday, is the most detailed picture yet of the shoddy or fraudulent mortgage paperwork too many of those lenders used.

This is not just a matter of minor technicalities, as the banks and their spin masters want us the believe - the same ones who told us the subprime crisis would blow over.

At the heart of the Drayton case is an Austin, Tex., robo-signer named Erica Johnson-Seck. In July, Johnson-Seck admitted in a Florida deposition in another case that she "executes 750 foreclosure documents a week; without a notary present; does not spend more than 30 seconds signing each document; [and] does not read the documents before signing them," Schack noted.

Johnson-Seck's signature appears repeatedly in documents connected to Drayton's mortgage, and in several other foreclosure cases Schack dismissed in the past three years.

At different times, she signed notarized documents assigning the loan, claiming to be a vice president of MERS (a private financial recording service for major banks), a vice president of INDYMAC, a vice president of Deutsche Bank and a vice president of OneWest.

She also claimed to have "signing authority" from several banking institutions, including the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., Bank of New York and U.S. Bank, noting, "That's all I can think of off the top of my head."

In one particularly pointed exchange, Johnson-Seck admitted she was not employed by MERS and didn't know who its president was or the location of it headquarters.

As he has in previous cases involving her, Schack insisted that Johnson-Seck "must explain to the court ... her employment history for the past three years and why a conflict of interest does not exist" in her various titles.

Johnson-Seck did not respond to calls to her home and office in Austin for comment.

When asked during her deposition about Schack's repeated requests that she appear in his Brooklyn court and explain her employment history, Johnson-Seck claimed she'd gotten no notice.

I wonder if he has the right address," she said. "Maybe that's what we should do, send Judge Schack the most recent [address], and I will gladly show up in his court and provide him everything he wants."

Until then, Schack said, case dismissed.

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