Category: Featured Articles Created: Wednesday, 11 December 2013 Written by Delaney Rohan

After Forensic Investigation of Mortgage Documents

Massachusetts Official Declares Registry a "Crime-Scene"

Massachusetts Southern Essex Register of Deeds John O'Brien is calling for a full-scale criminal investigation into forged and fraudulent foreclosure and mortgage documents that he says are filling the filing cabinets of court clerks and County recorders across the country.

After declaring his registry a "crime scene" recently, O'Brien sent copies of over 30,000 allegedly fraudulent documents, which had been recorded into the Salem, Massachusetts Registry, to Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley, US Attorney General Eric Holder, and US Attorney Carmen Ortiz. He calls on the officials to organize a Grand Jury panel to look into the documents, which he believes are fraudulent and contain the forged signatures of well-known "robo-signers."

The Sunshine State Law Group fully supports O'Brien. The allegedly criminal nature of these documents warrants a nationwide federal investigation into the ongoing and fraudulent practices of the banking industry. The Sunshine State Law Group attests to O'Brien's claims that these fraudulent practices and forged documents are intentionally and knowingly being used by banks and their lawyers to illegally remove Americans from their homes. In addition to commending O'Brien for his activism, the Sunshine State Law Group suggests that O'Brien reiterate that his office is a "crime scene" by inviting the public to witness a ceremony in which he and the victims of "robo-signing" in his district will section off his office and the original 30,000 documents with yellow police tape.

"I am confident that these documents will show a pattern of fraud, uttering and forgery. These documents are signed by known robo or surrogate signers, whose signatures were supposedly witnessed by notary publics," O'Brien said in a press release last month, adding "I believe that a criminal investigation is the next step to hold the perpetrators responsible."

O'Brien wants a Grand Jury to subpoena "both the past and present" CEOs of the Mortgage Electronic Recording Systems, Inc. (MERS), Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, Citibank, Wells Fargo, Countrywide, Washington Mutual, and others. Obrien asks that a Grand Jury subpoena officials from lending processors DOCX, Nationwide Title Clearing, Inc, and LPS.

"These companies have been retained by MERS and its member-banks to produce the documents that I am alleging contain fraudulent information. It is one thing to go after these institutions with a civil action, but the only way to let them know that you are serious is to call them before a Grand Jury," O'Brien said in a press release.

"There is no question in my mind that the officers of these banks and loan processing servicers made a conscious decision to commit fraud and participate in a scheme to deprive the public from knowing the true holder of their mortgage while at the same time avoiding paying billions of dollars in recording fees, O'Brien said. "It is my opinion that they acted as a criminal enterprise," he added.

To back up his claims, O'Brien cites "forensic evidence" from famed property document investigator Marie McDonnell. After auditing a group of 565 assignments of mortgage from O'Brien's registry, McDonnell concluded that 16% of the assignments of mortgage are valid, 75% invalid, and 9% are "questionable." McDonnell also found that over a quarter of the invalid assignments are fraudulent, more than a third are "robo-signed," and one in ten violates the Massachusetts Mortgage Fraud Statute.

According to McDonnell's website, her firm, McDonnell Property Analytics, provides "title and securitization reports" and services to "attorneys, consumers, registries of deeds, and other governmental agencies around the country." McDonnell has been auditing the integrity of mortgage-related documents for over two decades, and has served as a key authority on "robo-signing" as a result of the on-going foreclosure crisis.

McDonnell's firm audits the integrity of registered documents using "forensic tools and methods" that are "typically unavailable to the general public and registry staff," which helps clients determine the origin, ownership, and legal standing of various mortgage claims.

Using data from McDonnell's investigation and other tools, O'Brien determined an additional 30,000 documents to be fraudulent. He organized his findings into an online registry, and hopes that homeowners in his district will use it check and see they have been victims of bank forgeries. He encourages other districts to organize similar registries for homeowners.

O'Brien joins a quickly growing groundswell of consumer advocates, civil servants, and high-ranking public officials from across the country, including North Carolina Register of Deeds Jeff Thigpen, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, Florida lawyers Lynn Szymoniak, Rory Rohan and many others, who are fighting to expose the criminal, pervasive, and on-going nature of the banking industry's use of "foreclosure mills" to fraudulently certify documents needed in order to foreclose on homeowners.

Their efforts, along with the painful struggles from homeowners, have resulted in the formation of a Residential Mortgage-Backed Securities Working Group under President Obama's Financial Fraud Task Force. The Working Group, which consists of Attorney General Eric Holder, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan, Securities and Exchange Commission Director of Enforcement Robert Khuzami, New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, and a number of other public officials, pledges to "hold accountable any institutions that violated the law; to compensate victims and help provide relief for homeowners struggling from the collapse of the housing market, caused in part by this wrongdoing; and to help Americans finally turn the page on this destructive period in our nation's history."

Full Disclosure: Rory Rohan is an attorney in the Sunshine State Law Group.

Contact Delaney Rohan at