The United States government may believe Bank of America is too big to fail, but a Naples, Florida attorney has proven it’s not too big to go into foreclosure.
Attorney Todd Allen of the Law Office of Conrad Willkomm, P.A., has given the nation’s largest bank a taste of its own medicine, nearly two years after the bank tried to foreclose on a couple who had paid cash to buy their house from a seller that happened to be – wait for it – Bank of America.
“It was almost too much to believe,” Allen said of the story he was told by Warren and Maureen Nyerges, who went to Allen for help after Bank of America refused to follow a judge’s order to pay them for expenses they incurred defending themselves from the wrongful foreclosure. “They never had a mortgage on the house. I kept asking questions to make sure I was really understanding. It was clear this never should have happened.”
On June 3, some five months after a local judge ordered Bank of America to pay the Nyergeses, there was still no payment. So Allen showed up at a bank branch office in Naples with a moving truck, sheriff’s deputies, and a judge’s order allowing them to clean out the office, including computers and other office equipment, furniture, cash, and supplies.
Allen said a stunned and “visibly shaken” office manager eventually relented, and about one hour later the sheriff’s deputies had in their hands a check for $5,772.88. The amount includes the $2,500 the judge ordered Bank of America to pay the Nyergeses, as well as payments to the moving company and the sheriff’s department for responding to the foreclosure notice.
Allen said Bank of America sold the house to Warren and Maureen Nyerges in 2009, after having foreclosed on the prior borrowers. The Nyergeses used a cashier’s check in the amount of $165,000 to buy the house. A few months later, they were served with a foreclosure notice.
For the next year and a half, the Nyergeses fought with Bank of America to try to prove they owed nothing for the house. They defended themselves in court. They won but could not wrest the court-ordered payment from Bank of America.
Allen said when they finally contacted him, they had copies of the certified checks and other documentation to back up their story.
“They bought the house – with cash — from Bank of America,” Allen said. “The deed is from Bank of America to my clients. With just a couple of minutes of research, the bank would have seen they were foreclosing on the wrong people. Why they continued after they learned they were foreclosing on the wrong people is an even bigger question. We showed them copies of cashier’s checks, everything paid in full, and they continued to go with it.”
Allen did not become involved until Warren and Maureen Nyerges asked him to help them collect the money a Collier County judge said Bank of America owed.
Allen said the bank “rebuffed” their efforts to enforce the judge’s order. “[The bank] even appealed to another judge locally. They lost that appeal and came back again. They just refused to pay it.”
So Allen obtained a judge’s writ of execution to foreclose on the Bank of America branch office. He said he sent a copy of the writ to the bank’s general counsel. Three weeks later there was still no response, and that’s when he brought in the moving truck and sheriff’s deputies.
“They never cease to amaze me with their ineptitude,” Allen said of the bank.
Some wonder if the problem is criminality rather than ineptitude.
The law office of David J. Stern handled the Nyerges’ case for Bank of America. The Florida attorney general’s economic crimes division is investigating three law firms, including Stern’s, over allegations they engaged in various illegal and unethical practices. These include creating fraudulent legal documents, filing foreclosures without documenting lenders had legal interest in the loans, forging signatures, falsifying notarizations, and charging homeowners inflated fees.
The attorney general is also looking into the possibility Stern paid kickbacks to big banks.
Steve Stanek ([email protected]) is a research fellow at The Heartland Institute and managing editor of Finance, Insurance & Real Estate Policy News.