Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Robo-Signing in Maryland: "We're going to be cleaning up this mess for a long time"

More foreclosure irregularities alleged in Maryland

Former law firm employee says over 1,000 deeds were recorded with false signatures

March 08, 2011|By Jamie Smith Hopkins, The Baltimore Sun
Prosecutors have launched an investigation into a complaint that more than 1,000 deeds for homes foreclosed upon in Maryland were improperly executed — the latest development suggesting widespread problems in the way foreclosures have been handled in the state.
The complaint, filed last week by a paralegal formerly employed by the Shapiro & Burson law firm, lays out allegations that attorneys who were supposed to be signing deeds and key foreclosure paperwork for Maryland properties instead instructed others to falsify their signatures on the documents.
"We're looking at this case very closely," said Ramon V. Korionoff, chief of staff to the Prince George's County state's attorney, whose office is investigating. "It's very troubling."

John Burson, who is managing partner of Virginia-based Shapiro & Burson and was named in the complaint, declined to comment.
The validity of foreclosure proceedings in Maryland has been thrown into doubt by falsified signatures, "robo-signing" of affidavits and other documentation problems that have come to light in recent months. The revelations prompted Maryland courts to approve emergency rules. Some of the problems were discussed at a congressional field hearing in Baltimore Tuesday.
State regulators said this week that they also have received complaints about alleged foreclosure-documentation problems at the Baltimore law firm of Friedman & MacFadyen. Four notaries employed there resigned their commissions earlier this year after inquiries from the Maryland secretary of state's office, according to the agency.
Lawyers at the firm did not return phone calls and e-mails seeking comment.
A total of 16 notaries at several firms since last summer either have stepped down, were stripped of their commissions or let them lapse after complaints that the workers falsely attested to witnessing specific attorneys sign foreclosure documents, the secretary of state's office said. An additional nine cases are pending.
The complaint regarding improperly signed deeds at Shapiro & Burson, sent in the form of an affidavit to both regulators and law-enforcement agencies, represents a new wrinkle in botched foreclosure processes because deeds are essential to establishing a chain of ownership on property.
The Maryland attorney general's office said it couldn't comment on specific cases, but deeds with false signatures "would raise concerns," said spokeswoman Raquel M. Guillory.

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