15 -Year Battle: Connecticut Homeowner Claims Bank Of New York Wants To "Steal" Home Through "Fraudulent" Foreclosure

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Roman standing in front of the home BNY has been fighting for since 2000

[Black Star News Investigative Report]

After holding off the Bank of New York for 15 years Louis Roman, a Connecticut homeowner, claims the giant corporation could "fraudulently" foreclose on the house he's lived in for 47 years, tomorrow.

The bank filed a lawsuit seeking to foreclose in 2000 and won a summary judgment. Somehow Roman, who owns the home in Bridgeport that he bought with his then wife Diane, has managed to hold off the bank, representing himself through most of the years, by filing extensions on the foreclosure dates, appeals, counterclaims and bankruptcies.

The bank eventually won a judgment for a strict foreclosure with a law date of September 22.

"How can Bank of New York foreclose when they don't own the note and mortgage on the property," Roman, a former banker himself who says he earned an MBA from Harvard, says. "I've been demanding for a trial for years so I can introduce the evidence of fraud but no judge in Connecticut wants to give me my day in court. The bank wants to steal my home through a favorable ruling on a motion, from the judges."

"These aren't just my words, I have documentation to back it all up," Roman adds.

In recent years there have been reports of massive fraud against homeowners by major banks including BNY; in one case the bank reportedly filed foreclosure proceeding on a property three months before it had even been assiged the note and mortgage.

Roman says a Connecticut Superior Court Judge granted BNY strict foreclosure even after the IRS placed a federal tax lien on the property.

The whole saga started when Bank of New York, through its attorneys Hartford, CT-based Hunt Liebert Chester & Jacobson, P.C. (now Hunt Liebert Jacobson, in Hartford CT) filed the lawsuit on October 16, 2000 to foreclose on the property listed in Diane Roman's name.

In the complaint, signed by Richard Liebert, a partner in the law firm, and in other court documents here's how the Bank of New York claims it was assigned the note and mortgage.

On November 24, 1998 Diane Roman executed a mortgage with Northeast Mortgage for $84,000 and the note and mortgage was recorded on December 1, 1998 on the Bridgeport Land Records.  The mortgage was assigned by Northeast Mortgage to INMC Mortgage Holdings on the same date, November 24, 1998 and recorded on the Bridgeport Land Records on December 1, 1998.

According to the Bank of New York's October 16, 2000 complaint after Northeast assigned the note and mortgage to INMC Mortgage (IndyMac), the same company, IndyMac, assigned the note and mortgage back to Northeast Mortgage, LLC "by assignment of mortgage to be recorded on the Bridgeport Land Records."

Thereafter, according to the complaint The "Note and Mortgage Deed were assigned by Northeast Mortgage Corp., LLC to the Bank of New York, Trustee by Assignment of Mortgage dated November 8, 1999, recorded on November 8, 1999 in volume 4235, page 186 of the Bridgeport Land Records."

Louis Roman, who eventually became a respondent to the lawsuit when his then wife assigned her 50% interest to him says "baloney."  He says the note and mortgage was never assigned to Bank of New York. "It's all a fraud," he says.

Here's what Roman claims happened in interviews with The Black Star News and in numerous court documents filed over the years.

He agrees with BNY that his now ex-wife executed the mortgage with Northeast Mortgage on November 24, 1998 and that it was recorded on December 1, 1998 on the Bridgeport Land Records. He agrees that Northeast Mortgage assigned the note and mortgage to IndyMac on November 24, 1998 and that it was recorded on the Bridgeport Land Records on December 1, 1998.

From that point onwards is where Roman's account departs from Bank of New York's.

In legal documents, one of Diane Roman's former attorneys, Michael J. Leventhal states that he secured a signed affidavit dated September 24, 2001, a copy of which has been reviewed by The Black Star News, from Scott Husted, First Vice President at IndyMac, stating that the note and mortgage was assigned to Donaldson, Lukfin & Jenrette in 1999.

"You tell me, how can the same note and mortgage be assigned to two different entities? Who really believes that IndyMac would assign the note and mortgage back to Northeast?" Roman says.

There's more to this saga.

Documents in support of the Bank of New York's successful summary judgment motion in October 2000, include papers confirming that IndyMac assigned the note and mortgage to Northeast and it's signed by a person identified as Ms. Rosa Salgado an Assistant Vice President at IndyMac.

Leventhal, the lawyer, also obtained an affidavit dated September 24, 2001, a copy of which has also been reviewed by The Black Star News, from Judith Leclerc, who was the personnel director at IndyMac, stating that the person who signed off on the purported mortgage assignment and who was identified as Ms. Rosa Salgado, "was neither an employee nor an officer at IndyMac."

What's more, the same person identified as Ms. Rosa Salgado also signed another document, an affidavit in support of BONY's October 2000 motion for summary judgment in which she identified herself as an Assistant Vice President at Washington Mutual, the servicer on the note and mortgage, in which she confirmed that Diane Roman had defaulted on the loan.

Leventhal didn't respond to an e-mail message from The Black Star News seeking comment.

Both of the documents -- the one where Ms. Salgado is identified as AVP at IndyMac and the one where she's AVP at Washington mutual-- were notarized by Erika Herrera, a California notary whose license had expired.

"So now you see the kind of fraud I've been dealing with. All I need is a trial so all the facts can come out," Roman says.

"In addition to the fraudulent papers from Rosa Salgado, up to this day there is no recording in the Bridgeport Land Records of the purported assignment of the note and mortgage from IndyMac to Northeast Mortgage because there never was such an assignment," he says.

In an auto-response to an e-mail message seeking comment Richard Liebert the lawyer for BNY says he's out of the office until September 22; the auto-answer provided a list of other attorneys with the firm as contacts.  The Black Star News didn't receive a response from two of the attorneys Ben Staskiewicz and Richard Jacobson.

Roman claims even though he knew that BNY's purported note and mortgage was "fraudulent" he tried to pay off the debt twice in 2006 and 2008 because the stress of fighting the case was taking its toll on him and Diane. On both occasions the bank refused his payment, he said.  It was only in 2010 that he found out why the bank refused the money; the note had already been discharged in a 2004 chapter 7 bankruptcy filing by his wife who had never received the paperwork at the time. "The Bank's lawyers knew it would have been a felony to accept the money on a discharged note," Roman says. "But by foreclosing on the property they will be collecting on a discharged debt."

The Black Star News contacted the Bank of New York to inquire about the affidavits from IndyMac officials that the note and mortgage had been assigned to Donaldson, Lukfin & Jenrette and that Ms. Salgado had never worked for the company. BNY spokesperson Kevin Heine issued the following statement: "As trustee, we have no powers or duties with respect to the foreclosure, maintenance, sale or disposition of properties.  Those powers and duties fall exclusively to the servicer. So while foreclosure action related to properties held in the trust must be brought in the trustee's name, as they have been in this particular case, the foreclosure activity itself is coordinated, litigated and managed entirely by the servicer."

The Black Star News in a follow-up message inquired whether the servicer, which in this case is JP Morgan Chase, took instructions from Anthony Mancuso BNY's president of fixed assets and also to relay Roman's claim that since the bank never was assigned the mortgage any foreclosure would amount to "theft."

Heine declined further comment and referred BSN to JP Morgan Chase.

Roman says in all the 15 years he's "stood up to Bank of New York," the closest the case ever got to trial was when he appeared for a status conference on March 3, 2014 before Barbara N. Bellis, a Superior Court judge in the District of Fairfield, CT..

A transcript of that status conference shows that the judge was not prepared to grant BNY's motion for strict foreclosure because she felt Roman had raised several issues of fact. Judge Bellis said she would refer the case for trial. After a second status conference on March 13, 2014 the judge granted BNY's motion for strict foreclosure.

The transcript shows that Roman testified about his allegations that BNY was using fraudulent documents. The bank had also filed a successful motion to bar him from filing any more appeals.

Judge Bellis didn't return a phone message through her secretary and didn't respond to an e-mail message with detailed questions inquiring as to why she changed her mind about a trial.

Similarly, when contacted by The Black Star News and sent questions about Roman's allegations of fraud and forgery on the documents used for the purported assignment of the property, a spokesperson for JP Morgan Chase the servicer sidestepped the questions. Jason Lobo, vice president for external communications at the bank, said, "we cannot comment on pending litigation."

In a May 11, 2015 ruling Judge Trial Referee Alfred J. Jennings, Jr., of Superior Court granted strict foreclosure, acknowledged the chapter 7 discharge but wrote that the bank wouldn't be entitled to recover any debts beyond 2004. With regard to the existing federal tax lien on the property Judge Jennings said it "would not be an impediment to the vesting of title by strict foreclosure..." The judge said any further appeals by the defendant would be a stalling tactic.

Judge Jennings never addressed Roman's allegations and evidence of fraud and forgery with respect to the Salgado documents used by BNY for its successful summary judgment motion in 2000 or the affidavit from the IndyMac VP stating that the note and mortgage had been assigned to Donaldson, Lukfin & Jenrette -- not from IndyMac to Northeast which then assigned it to BNY as the bank contends.

"I'm not surprised that Bank of New York and JP Morgan Chase didn't address the fraud issue," Roman says. "They know there is going to be liability down the line. All I need is for a single judge to grant me a trial."

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