Alleged Junk Justice: Defendant Claims â€œKidnapâ€ In Mortgage Scam Case
Sheu says, when he stepped out of Judge Goliaâ€™s courtroom after submitting some documents, and while he was still inside the Queens Court house, two men in plainclothes approached him. The men flashed badges, tapped their side arms, and asked him to accompany them.
[Black Star News Investigation]
Part Three Of A Series
The man says he was “kidnapped” by New York City police detectives in an attempt to scare him off his fight to keep control of his home.
Sun-Ming Sheu has been fighting a foreclosure case since 2000. He says the decks are stacked against him. In addition to dealing with a mortgage company, Centex Home Equity Co., that “stole” his house in a fraudulent closing on May 23, 2000, he’s also been battling a judge he claims is “biased” against him.
He says even though Centex was well aware it had acquired the disputed property in a closing in which a forged document was used; the company still filed a lawsuit to foreclose on the property rather than pursue the criminals involved in the forgery. “Centex became part of the crime,” Sheu says.
Sheu says his numerous letters of protest to Judge Joseph Golia, who has presided over the case in State Supreme Court in Queens, and to other court officials, resulted in an arm-twisting visit from detectives.
Sheu had been demanding in the letters that two detectives who investigated the 2000 mortgage scam be permitted to testify on his behalf.
One letter Sheu sent to Judge Golia was dated January 6, 2009. He complained that he had been denied his right to discovery and deposition. Had detectives Keith Ng, formerly of the 109 precincts, and Kin Lee, formerly of the Manhattan D.A.’s office, been allowed to testify early when the case began in 2001, the two would have exposed Centex’s involvement in the phony mortgage closing, Sheu says.
Sheu also sent a copy of the letter to Administrative Judge Jeremy Weinstein. He hand delivered a copy to Judge Golia’s residence. Sheu says he decided to take the letter to the judge’s residence because in the nine years he’d been fighting the case; the judge had appeared no more than five times even though records show nearly 30 official court sessions. “Whenever I went to court I had to hand my papers to his law clerk Mitchell Kaufman,” Sheu recalls.
About a week after Sheu left the letter at Judge Golia’s residence, on January 14, 2009, Sheu says, when he stepped out of the judge’s courtroom after submitting some documents, and while he was still inside the Queens Court house, two men in plainclothes approached him. The men flashed badges, tapped their side arms, and asked him to accompany them.
Sheu says the men declined to provide business cards. He was driven in an unmarked car to the Queens county D.A.’s office, where he was led in through a rear entrance, he says.
Inside a small room, Sheu sat facing the two men across a table, he says.
He was required to provide his social security number, and made to empty his pockets. One detective left the room and made photocopies of his driver’s license as well as his credit cards, Sheu says. “One of them said ‘We know you’re a victim of mortgage fraud, but we are not going to talk about that today,’” she recalls.
Then one of them opened a folder and revealed the letter he had left in Judge Golia’s mailbox. “He said ‘did you send this letter?’ and I said ‘yes,’” Sheu recalls. “Then they began to say ‘don’t contact detective Keith Ng again.’ They said ‘the house belongs to the bank.’ They began to ask me about my tax issues and my immigration issue. One of them said they would like to go to my home to see my passport. They were getting angrier.”
Sheu says one of the detectives leaned across the desk towards him. “He said ‘you cannot send a letter again,’” Sheu recalled. And I cannot contact detective Keith Ng again. They kept saying ‘you cannot contact Keith Ng again.’”
He says he asked whether Jayson Garlick, an assistant district attorney who had once worked on the May 23, 2000 fraudulent mortgage closing case was available, and was told Garlick no longer work at the Queens County D.A.’s office.
Sheu says the detectives also copied phone numbers from his cell phone. He said he was kept for two hours before being escorted downstairs and let out of a side door that led towards a drugstore. “They didn’t write down anything,” Sheu recalls.
He said he had to demand for his driver’s license back before he walked out of the building. Sheu met with a retired detective the next day and narrated the incident to him. “He said one word,” Sheu recalled. “Kidnap.”
On January 18, Sheu sent a letter to Robert H. Tembeckjian, Administrator and Counsel to the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct, documenting what he now calls his “kidnapping.”
Judge Golia did not return a phone message seeking comment.
The judge’s law clerk, Mitchell Kaufman said the judge had not contacted the police about Sheu and that the judge also had not filed a report, raising questions about who summoned the detectives.
“However there is a matter open if you will with court security because Mr. Sheu had taken it upon himself, to, I guess through the Internet, to obtain information about the judge, and his private residence, and the judge’s wife, and the judge’s daughter,” Kaufman added. “And he left mail addressed to the judge's wife not through the mail; not with the stamped mail but going to the judge’s residence and leaving mail in the judge’s mailbox. So I imagine something came out of that. I don't know.”
“As a party in a civil case, Mr. Sheu should not have had any outside contact with the judge presiding over the matter, and he especially should not have gone to the judge's personal residence," said Kevin Ryan, a spokesperson for the District Attorney in Queen's county. "As a result of his actions, the District Attorney’s Office conducted a follow-up interview with Mr. Sheu to determine whether there was any possible threat or intimidation made against the judge by Mr. Sheu."
Ryan did not address the issue of the detectives warning Sheu not to try and contact detectives Keith Ng and Kin Lee again. He also didn't respond to a question about whether Judge Golia had filed a report and whether a copy existed.
"Mr. Sheu was cooperative and willingly agreed to go with the D.A. detectives back to their office,” Ryan added. “During the interview Mr. Sheu was told that his behavior was inappropriate and possibly criminal. The office has never received a complaint from Mr. Sheu.”
“As I said, before I had not seen the judge in person in the courtroom,” Sheu counters. “Whenever I went, only his law clerk was there. Detectives Ng and Lee had both agreed to testify without subpoena. That was the only message I wanted to deliver to the judge. I was the one being intimidated by the detectives. If it was official, why would they not even give me business cards or identify themselves. They had guns and touched it. How could I refuse to go with them? I sent a letter to the Commission on Judicial Conduct about this incident.”
George W. Bush was just into his first presidential term when this drawn-out case started.
Centex Home Equity in December, 2001, filed the lawsuit seeking foreclosure of the property, which was then in Sheu’s brother’s name, Ming Chien Hsu.
Sheu had already informed Centex on several occasions that the May 23, 2000 closing had been fraudulent and even sent the company copies of the police complaint number he’d obtained after filing a report.
Indeed, Old Republic Title Insurance Co., which was the title insurer at the Centex “closing” even, issued Sheu with a claims complaint number #43391. The fraudsters involved in the forgery later pleaded guilty. Yet Centex acted as if no fraud had occurred and filed the lawsuit to foreclose.
Detectives Ng’s and Lee’s testimonies early in the case would have exposed that Centex knew it had originated mortgage on the property based on forged documents, leaving Judge Golia with no option but to toss the lawsuit, Sheu contends.
Judge Golia ruled in favor of Centex in 2005; and again, earlier this year, on April 7—this time in favor of Old Republic. On April 25, 2008, Centex had filed a motion before Judge Golia to be substituted by Old Republic as the plaintiff on the case and the judge consented.
“Old Republic gave me a claim number years ago,” Sheu says, sarcastically. “Then the company found a more profitable way out.”
So Old Republic, which years earlier had issued a complaint number acknowledging Sheu’s report of the mortgage fraud, ends up wresting control of the property with the assistance of the court, Sheu says.
After two of the May 23, 2000 forgery suspects were arrested by police, Judge Golia vacated his earlier foreclosure order. The judge did not restore the original 15-years mortgage Sheu’s brother, Hsu, had.
He again ruled in favor of Centex, concluding that since the company had paid off the mortgage on the property –regardless of the fraudulent conveyance that records confirm—the company was entitled to foreclose an equitable mortgage, under the doctrine of Equitable Subrogation.
“It’s like a thief paying off the mortgage on a property then asking the original mortgage holder to move out,” Sheu says.
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