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PJC Files Opening Brief on Behalf of Homeowner Caught Up in a Foreclosure Rescue Scam

The Public Justice Center has taken yet another step to advance the interests of persons marginalized in the present economic/housing crisis – those caught up in so-called foreclosure “rescue” scams. On July 15, 2009, Murnaghan Appellate Advocacy Fellow Matthew Hill, acting as co-counsel with Phillip Robinson of Civil Justice Inc., filed an opening brief on behalf of Ms. Harriette Julian, a homeowner caught up in one such foreclosure “rescue” scam, in Julian v. Buonassissi, No. 37, Sept. Term 2009, in the Maryland Court of Appeals.  The two organizations had successfully petitioned the Court to review the case in May of 2009.
In 2006, Ms. Julian was a homeowner in foreclosure when the Metropolitan Money Store (MMS) offered to “save” her home if she would deed the home to them. The supposed plan was for MMS to use the equity in the home to make the monthly payments for one year on a new mortgage, financed by Wells Fargo, during which time Ms. Julian would continue to live in the home, improve her financial status, and then repurchase the home. Instead of paying the new mortgage, however, MMS stole the equity for the personal use of its executives. See http://baltimore.fbi.gov/dojpressrel/pressrel09/ba032509.htm
PJC and Civil Justice’s brief argued that Wells Fargo’s interest in the property via its deed of trust was illegal under the Maryland Protection of Homeowners in Foreclosure Act (PHIFA) and therefore void against Ms. Julian’s superior interest in her home. The brief also argued that if the deed was not considered void, Wells Fargo (and its successor, U.S. Bank) could still not ignore clear signs that the deed of trust was part of a foreclosure consulting agreement and subsequently turn a blind eye to whether or not the transaction complied with PHIFA. Such reckless underwriting standards have fueled the current housing crisis, and unless the Court of Appeals holds Wells Fargo and U.S. Bank to account here, hundreds if not thousands of other deceived homeowners will lose their homes in these fraudulent “rescue” transactions. Ms. Julian’s brief was supported by amicus curiae briefs filed by the Maryland Legal Aid Bureau, the Maryland Attorney General Consumer Protection Division, the Community Law Center, the Maryland Cash Campaign, the Maryland Consumer Rights Coalition, and St. Ambrose Housing Aid Center.
Oral argument in the case is scheduled for December of 2009.

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