Springfield Ward 1 City Council candidates Zaida Luna, Adam Gomez discuss ...

Category: Prevent Foreclosure
Published: Friday, 30 October 2015
Written by Super User

SPRINGFIELD What makes Ward 1 City Council incumbent Zaida Luna the right woman for the job? Experience. What makes her opponent Adam Gomez right for that seat? Innovation and new ideas.

Luna and Gomez cited their experience and fresh new approach respectively as reasons why residents living in the North End and metro-downtown area should choose them to represent Ward 1.

On Thursday night the candidates participated in a forum organized by the Armoury-Quadrangle Civic Association where they answered various questions about public safety, civic engagement, small businesses and more.

As a longtime social worker and Ward 1 City Councilor since 2009 Luna said it is her experience that will propel the city forward.

The city of Springfield is in a unique situation where an experienced, proven leader is needed in Ward 1 to continue to move the city forward, she said. We cannot afford to have someone who is inexperienced at City Hall and gamble our future.

Gomez, a business owner and lifelong resident of the city, said its OK to make a change.

As a father, as a business owner and as a resident I understand what all the residents and business owners are going through. I understand we have a lot of issues going on here, but we need somebody who is going to show up, he said. I have tremendous respect for this woman next to me. She has pioneered for Latinas and been a great role model, but sometimes we need a change. Its OK to have change, change is good, it shows growth, it shows leadership.

When asked what should be done to reduce crime or the perception of crime in Ward 1 both candidates said it is important for the community to engage with police.

We have to work with the police and we have to work with the community. Its not only about one meeting and thats it, this is something we have to encourage young kids to get involved in and to volunteer, Luna said.

She said targeting the youth is the way to reduce crime in the city.

I have always worked with the youth, I was a coach and have sponsored basketball teams. I have a passion to work with them because I know they need a lot of help, Luna said.

Gomez said he has been very involved with the North Ends C-3 C policing initiative which unites local businesses, organizations, law enforcement and residents. He also said it is important to give young people an out from a life of crime and poverty.

A long time ago I erected a tournament with Women of the Vanguard in which we created book scholarships. Sometimes we can get to school but you cant afford the books or a laptop, but now we can give these kids resources, he said.

Gomez also touted the benefits of Project Coach, a mentoring initiative in the North End which provides jobs for local youth.

If something like that could be done in the whole city I would support that and encourage kids to get involved, he said.

Candidates were asked what they would do to encourage Ward 1 residents to become more informed and involved with the City Council and its initiatives and meetings.

Listen to your constituents. Its important before you make a decision to go back to the people that elected you and put you in those positions and get the feedback from them so that collectively you can make decisions that are for the betterment of our ward, said Gomez, pointing out that he has done this type of work with the organization Neighbor to Neighbor.

Luna said going door to door is the most effective way to reach residents.

Our job is to listen to them but also to encourage them to get involved, she said. People have my number they can call me if they have questions about the city. You have to be connected with the community.

Candidates were also asked about the housing challenges facing the neighborhood from foreclosures to blighted properties and homelessness.

We have to first go to the state, Luna said. We need more funding. People cant always get a house or even an apartment. We have to make sure we get people responsible for funding to bring it to the city to help people who are homeless.

Unlike Luna, Gomez said he believes homeownership is a solution to many of the housing challenges facing the city.

Educating potential homeowners on the various options available would be the first priority. First-time home buyers education as well as financial institutions such as NACA (Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America) have high success rates, he said.

Gomez said connecting individuals with programs that prevent foreclosure and rehab homes is key.

We need to create a whole new culture in our community and a sense of pride that is instilled, he said.

Luna ended by saying she loves what she does and hopes people will see that she is in it to help residents to create a better community.

I owe no one any favors and Im not a part of any group. I work for you and I hope you will vote for me on Nov. 3, she said.

Gomez said if elected he will represent the entire Ward 1 community.

I believe we need to go out there and be more effective with our community by letting them know we are there for them and we are going to show up, he said. If you dont speak up for everybody in the ward then you are not fulfilling your qualifications to sit in that seat.



TWO PLEAD GUILTY IN $18.5 MILLION MORTGAGE MODIFICATION SCHEME

Category: Prevent Foreclosure
Published: Thursday, 08 October 2015
Written by Super User

More than 8,000 Homeowners Victimized Across the Country

WASHINGTON, DC September 23, 2015 (RealEstateRama) Christy Goldsmith Romero, Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, and Preet Bharara, US Attorney for the Southern District of New York announced Wednesday that Ped Abghari, also known as "Ted Allen", and Justin Romano pleaded guilty for their roles in orchestrating a massive mortgage modification scheme that collectively defrauded over 8,000 homeowners out of over $18.5 million. Abghari and Romano each pleaded guilty to wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and Abghari also pleaded guilty to misprision of a felony. Romano pleaded on September 14, 2015 and Abghari pleaded on September 15, 2015 before US District Judge John F. Keenan. SIGTARP was the sole law enforcement agency responsible for bringing this case to justice.

"Ped Abghari aka Ted Allen and Justin Romano admitted to fraud and a criminal conspiracy to defraud more than 8,000 desperate homeowners into paying for lawyers to save their homes by getting them into TARP's foreclosure prevention program HAMP, when in reality their non-lawyer, inexperienced processors either did nothing at all, or did no more than complete the free HAMP application that is on www.makinghomeaffordable.gov," said Christy Goldsmith Romero, Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (SIGTARP). "They admitted to pocketing more than $18.5 million, including money that homeowners thought were being paid to their lender on their mortgage. After realizing that there were complaints on the internet by homeowners claiming they had been ripped off, Abgahri changed the name of the companies and emailed some employees telling them that he changed the company name every 9 months "to keep things cool and have all agencies off our backs." Despite this name-change ruse, SIGTARP and US Attorney Bharara worked to uncover the crime and bring justice to this elaborate and deplorable crime. "

"As they have now admitted, Ped Abghari and Justin Romano took advantage of thousands of homeowners under water with debt and in need of assistance from the Home Affordable Modification Program and similar mortgage modification programs," said Manhattan US Attorney, Preet Bharara.

"Instead of helping to lift desperate homeowners out of debt, Abghari and Romano pushed them deeper in through exorbitant fees for mortgage modification services they never intended to provide. More than 8,000 homeowners were victimized by the defendants' greed, but thanks to the extraordinary efforts of the Office of the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, those victims now can find some comfort in knowing that those who preyed on their suffering have been forced to admit to their crimes."

According to the Indictment, and statements made at the plea proceedings:

The Home Affordable Modification Program
As a result of the financial crisis and collapse of the housing bubble in 2008, Congress enacted the Home Affordable Modification Program ("HAMP"), which was to be funded through the Troubled Asset Relief Program ("TARP"). HAMP permits qualified home owners to obtain mortgage relief. Specifically, HAMP seeks to prevent foreclosure by modifying troubled loans to achieve monthly payments the homeowner can afford.

Pursuant to HAMP, any homeowner may apply to his or her mortgage provider by completing a short form and submitting it, along with supporting paperwork, to the homeowner's mortgage provider. HAMP further sets guidelines for lenders to follow in determining eligibility, such as guidelines based on the homeowner's income and the principal balance remaining on the mortgage. Pursuant to HAMP, only a homeowner's lender may determine the homeowner's eligibility for a modification and, if appropriate, the modified rate and monthly payment for which the homeowner is eligible.

HAMP applications are readily available online as well as in many local banks. Submitting an application is, by law, free of charge to the homeowner. Virtually all mortgage providers are required to participate in the HAMP program and accept HAMP applications.

If a HAMP applicant is approved, he or she receives a reduced monthly mortgage payment set by the lender. If the HAMP applicant is not eligible for a modification, the application may be rejected. Common reasons for rejection of a HAMP application include that the homeowner earns too much income to qualify or has not demonstrated sufficient financial hardship or need for a modification.

Mortgage Modification Fraud
Ped Abghari, a/k/a "Ted Allen," was a president and owner of an Irvine, California, company that offered purported mortgage modification services (the "Telemarketing Firm"). Justin Romano held himself out as the president of two purported law firms (the "Purported Law Firms"), based in Holbrook, New York, and Sayville, New York, which offered purported mortgage modification services in conjunction with the Telemarketing Firm.

From at least January 2011 through May 2014, through the Telemarketing Firm and the Purported Law Firms, Abghari and Romano, among others, perpetrated a scheme to defraud homeowners in dire financial straits who were seeking relief through HAMP and other mortgage relief programs. Through a series of false and fraudulent representations, the defendants duped thousands of homeowners into paying thousands of dollars each in up-front fees in exchange for little or no service from the defendants or their companies. In total, through their scheme, the defendants obtained over $18.5 million from more than 8,000 victim-homeowners throughout the United States.

Through the Telemarketing Firm, Abghari and others purchased thousands of "leads," consisting of the name, address, and other contact information of homeowners who had fallen behind in making mortgage payments on their homes. Abghari and others then caused the Telemarketing Firm to send, by e-mail, false and fraudulent solicitation letters to the homeowners they identified through the "leads," misleading these homeowners into believing that their mortgages were already under review and that new, modified rates had already been contemplated and approved by the homeowners' lenders.

At the direction of Abghari and Romano, among others, the Telemarketing Firm's telemarketer and sales people (the "Sales Staff") called homeowners and/or answered telephone calls from homeowners who received the Telemarketing Firm's fraudulent solicitations. During these calls, in an effort to convince

the homeowners to pay up-front fees, the defendants, through the Sales Staff, regularly caused various false and fraudulent representations to be made to homeowners, including that (a) the homeowners were retaining a "law firm" and an "attorney" who would complete the HAMP application and negotiate aggressively on the homeowners' behalf with banks to modify the terms of the homeowners' mortgages; (b) the defendants would "pre-approve" the homeowners for a guaranteed modification through HAMP; (c) the defendants employed underwriters who would calculate and guarantee the homeowners a new, modified rate and monthly mortgage payment; and (d) the defendants' mortgage modification services were free, and the up-front fees paid by the homeowners would be paid directly to the homeowners' lenders. In truth and in fact, and as Abghari and Romano well knew, all of these representations were false and fraudulent.

Abhari, 38, of Irvine, California, and Romano, 41, of Blue Point, New York, each pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of wire fraud, each of which carries a maximum sentence of twenty years in prison. Abghari also pleaded guilty to one count of misprision of a felony, which carries a maximum sentence of three years in prison. Sentencings for Abghari and Romano have been set for January 14, 2016.

The maximum sentences are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencings of the defendants will be determined by the judge.

The remaining defendant charged for his role in the scheme, Dionysius Fiumano, a/k/a "D," is scheduled to begin trial on December 9, 2015, before Judge Keenan. The charges pending against Fiumano are merely allegations, and he is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

The case is being prosecuted by the US Attorney's Office for the Southern District's Complex Frauds and Cybercrime Unit. Assistant US Attorneys Edward B. Diskant and Joshua A. Naftalis are in charge of the prosecution.

This prosecution was brought in coordination with President Barack Obama's Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force, which was established to wage an aggressive and coordinated effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. SIGTARP is a member of the task force and co-chairs the Rescue Fraud Working Group. To learn more about the President's Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force, please visit www.StopFraud.gov.

About SIGTARP
The Office of the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program investigates fraud, waste, and abuse in connection with TARP. To date, SIGTARP investigations have yielded more than 200 convictions and resulted in the recovery of over $1.5 billion to the Government.

To report suspected illicit activity involving TARP, dial the SIGTARP Hotline: 1-877-SIG-2009 (1-877-744-2009).

To receive alerts about quarterly reports, new audits, and media releases issued by SIGTARP, sign up at www.SIGTARP.gov/pages/press.aspx. Follow SIGTARP on Twitter @SIGTARP.

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Media Inquiries: 202-927-8940
Web: www.SIGTARP.gov



Letter: Need more than talk

Category: Prevent Foreclosure
Published: Tuesday, 06 October 2015
Written by Super User

I have a major concern about the closing of some historically black colleges and universities. For example, in 2013 budgetary issues, overwhelming debt and a rejected accreditation forced St. Paul College in Virginia to close its doors after 125 years. Morris Brown College in Atlanta, a private college, had to close after losing its accreditation and federal funding. In August 2012, Morris Brown College filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in an attempt to prevent foreclosure and the auction of the school.



Ask an Attorney: Missed Payments and Foreclosure

Category: Prevent Foreclosure
Published: Monday, 28 September 2015
Written by Super User

By Attorney Xenophon Peters, Partner, Peters and Associates, LLP

Question: The bank told me I had to miss payments on my house before anyone could help me with a modification. Now they're telling me I don't qualify for a modification and they're going to foreclose! What can I do? Please help!

It's usually true that to qualify for a loan modification, you have to miss at least one payment because being able to pay signals to the bank you're not in need of help. In addition, most federal programs (HAMP, HAFA, etc.) require you to be at least 30 days late to receive assistance. Nongovernment programs tend to follow the same guidelines.

If you were advised to fall behind on your payments, or you simply fell behind on your own, and the bank issued a notice of default, you should seek the advice of legal counsel as soon as possible. If the bank issues a notice of trustee sale, you should seek help immediately or you risk losing your home.

Once you've been issued a notice of default, you have 30 calendar days to elect mediation and 60 days to cure the default. However, if you're actively pursuing a foreclosure alternative, the timelines should pause.

Trouble often arises when people think they're actively pursuing a foreclosure alternative, when in the eyes of the law, they're not. In order to be actively pursuing an alternative, there need to be evidence-quality records to prove as much, which is why legal counsel usually is necessary.

Though it's not impossible for homeowners to prevent foreclosure on their own, bad self-help information that permeates the Internet makes it unlikely that they'll be successful. The stakes are simply too high to rely on nonspecific, general advice from random people that may not even apply to the case.

Finally, it's important to remember that Nevada has no right of redemption in nonjudicial foreclosure sales, so if the foreclosure goes through legally, it may be impossible to get your home back.

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What is mediation? Mediation is a regulated in-person sit-down between the bank's attorney, the homeowner and, in best practice, the homeowner's attorney. It may result in a modification, permission to do a short sale or a foreclosure certificate being issued.

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If your credit report shows you're 120-plus days late on your mortgage, lenders will regard it as a foreclosure whether or not the bank has seized your home.

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If you have a question you'd like to see answered by an attorney in a future issue, please write to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit PandaLawFirm.com.

Please note: The information in this column is intended for general purposes only and is not to be considered legal or professional advice of any kind. You should seek advice that is specific to your problem before taking or refraining from any action and should not rely on the information in this column.