This week's feature is on two investigators who were kicked out of the Attorney General's Office a year ago but keep trying to uncover foreclosure fraud however they can.
In late 2010, robo-signing was just making it to the public consciousness, a sign of our economic downfall in which overworked employees had put their signature to thousands of foreclosure documents a day to rush an insane amount of financial misery through a system too inept to handle it.
If one person "discovered" that phenomenon, it was Lynn Szymoniak, a Palm Beach Gardens lawyer who had found lots of screwy documents after researching her own foreclosure case. She had gathered up binders full of examples and brought them to June Clarkson and Theresa Edwards, two Fort Lauderdale economic-crimes investigators with the Florida Attorney General's Office.
By December, court clerks were itching to find out more about this phenomenon that was happening on their watch -- so they asked the AG to send someone to their annual conference, on December 8, 2010. Clarkson asked Szymoniak if she could use part of a PowerPoint slideshow she had prepared and drove across the state to deliver a presentation that shocked the clerks. Here were allegations of outright fraud by many major banks.
From our feature this week:
The end product was pretty exciting stuff in the court clerks' world. It included pictures of half a dozen different signatures purported to be from the mysterious Linda Green, with the title, "Who is the real Linda Green?" In the slideshow, Clarkson called Green's signatures "forgeries."
But the "forgery" that Clarkson was publicizing went far beyond the national story of overworked employees who were simply signing too fast because there were so many foreclosures to process. This stuff was wackier than that. Slides depicted blown-up copies of documents made out to "bogus assignee" or "bad bene[ficiary]," placeholders that [Lender Processing Services] sometimes used internally in place of a bank name; these should never have been on official documents. There were banks assigning mortgages to themselves, signing on behalf of banks that had gone out of business years earlier. There was an assignment dated 9/9/9999. There was Szymoniak's cut-and-paste endorsement page.
There was much more, and it didn't exactly fly with the companies that were being called out. Lender Processing Services, the nation's largest foreclosure document mill, said they shouldn't have called the signatures "forgeries." Clarkson and Edwards now believe that the corporate blowback from public accusations like this were the reason behind their ouster from the AG's office in May 2011. After spending a year in private practice, they still stand by the kind of accusations that this blockbuster slideshow helped unveil. Read our story for more.