Monday, April 18, 2011

Homeowner’s foreclosure case alleging fraud heads to state’s high court

A South Florida homeowner who alleges the mortgage foreclosure action against him was tainted by fraudulent paperwork will have his case reviewed by the Florida Supreme Court, in a closely watched action that could reshape state law.

The 4th District Court of Appeal had asked the state’s high court to decide the case as matter of “great public importance.” The Supreme Court agreed to hear the case in an order issued Friday.

Legal experts say the case, Roman Pino vs. The Bank of New York Mellon, could result in changes in foreclosure cases where there is evidence of fraud in the way documents were handled by lenders, mortgage servicers and law firms.

“Many, many mortgage foreclosures appear tainted with suspect documents,” the appeals court in West Palm Beach wrote.

If the case is decided in favor of Pino, a resident of Greenacres in Palm Beach County, the ruling could affect thousands of foreclosures across Florida where there are allegations of document fraud.

One reason the case is being closely watched is that the Bank of New York Mellon was represented by the Law Office of David J. Stern. That Plantation-based firm, which shut down last month, is one of eight high-volume firms under investigation by the Florida Attorney General’s Office for allegedly using fraudulent documents.

The Stern firm once handled one in every five foreclosure cases in the state but collapsed after lenders stopped doing business with it last fall.

Pino’s attorney, Thomas Ice, originally claimed his client was the victim of document fraud, but the bank voluntarily dropped its foreclosure action. Ice argues the bank should not have been allowed to dismiss the case, cutting off his fraud claims and ability to seek sanctions against the bank. The justices will have to decide whether the trial judge had the authority to allow Ice to go forward.

The bank later filed another attempt to foreclose on Pino’s home, using different documents, and Pino is still fighting that case.

No comments: