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More Law in the Hands of Banks: Breaking and Entering Homes in Florida

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We’ve discussed the fact the fact that banks have become so powerful in Florida that they have managed to get what amount to kangaroo foreclosure courts created. Not surprisingly, the assembly line imitation of justice railroads borrowers, and prevents legitimate grievances from being heard.

It turns out that banks in that state are so confident of their above the law status that they’ve also taken to casually changing the locks on and entering homes they don’t own, meaning haven’t foreclosed upon. This has become sufficiently common that the local press has taken notice. From the Sarasota Herald Tribune:

Two Canadian tourists returning to their rental home from a day at the beach found evidence burglars had struck — or so it seemed.

Their laptop computer and MP3 player were missing, as were six bottles of wine. A half-empty beer opened by the intruders was still cold and sitting on the kitchen counter.

But why, then, had the locks on the front door been changed?

It turns out that a Sarasota company working for a lender trying to retake the property through foreclosure sent two men to the Punta Gorda home to break in and change the locks, even though the home was obviously occupied.

It is illegal for any bank representative to enter a property if they have not yet retaken it at a foreclosure sale, especially if there is any sign the home is occupied, foreclosure experts say.

The process of banks hiring people to break into homes, even when occupied, is just the latest oddity of the messy foreclosure crisis in Florida.

Some property owners are reporting the break-ins to law enforcement as burglaries. Yet investigators consider the disputes a civil matter because the contractors do not display criminal intent.

That essentially leaves the property owners without recourse…

“It is vastly underreported; it is happening in counties all across the state,” said St. Petersburg foreclosure defense attorney Matt Weidner. “The more this occurs, the more prevalent it’s going to become.”

Breaking the law (destroying private property, namely the locks, to prevent consumer access to their property) isn’t criminal intent? What about “harassment”and “extortion” don’t these investigators understand? This looks to be more a matter of local law enforcement officials being unwilling to deploy resources.

Consider this example from Sarasota, of a JP Morgan contractor breaking into an Orlando home:

Further note that a later report on MSNBC by Dylan Ratigan corrected an error in this account: Jacobini’s home is not in foreclosure.

Alan Grayson issued a statement on these abuses:

First we see systemic fraud in the foreclosure process. Now we’re literally seeing banks breaking into people’s homes and terrifying homeowners. The big banks claim these confrontations are a result of innocent errors. Come on! How many times are we going to force a woman to cower in her bathroom for fifteen minutes and dial 911 while a man breaks into a home, before we do something about it?

Breaking and entering does not become legal just because a big bank does it. The rule of law must apply equally to everyone. It’s long past time to halt this blatantly illegal activity. We need investigation and law enforcement, not coddling of failed institutions. We need justice for all.

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37 comments

  1. carping demon

    Interesting times. 37 years ago POTUS couldn’t get away with this. Now a Florida bank can.

  2. jumpjet

    Does Florida have a Castle Law? This could get pretty nasty if they break into the ‘wrong’ person’s home.

    1. DCS

      FWIW, I *am* armed and anyone who breaks into my property *would* be met w/ the working-end of a Beretta or Glock — and shot center mass if they display any threatening behavior…I don’t give a sh*t who they supposedly work for!

      1. funkinthetrunk

        It’s too bad you’d only be shooting a low-level contractor and not one of the bank executives who green-lit these actions …

      2. Rhonda

        Well, if you sit back and don’t pay your mortgage payment for months on end why would you expect somebody not to come in and take your house. Remember this free country ain’t really FREE. Pay your mortgage payment or get out of it. Pretty obvious since people sit in those house 6 to 8 months paying no payment you should have some kind of money stocked up. If they were renting their home would they have been there that long. I don’t think so, they have been out a long time ago.

  3. tobire

    This whole foreclosure and securitized mortgages model does not make any sense.

    First Person A buys new home and gets a mortgage from Bank B (Wells Fargo).

    Wells Fargo packages this mortgage in to an MBS and sells the bond to Bank C (Citibank). Citibank is now the owner of that mortgage and Wells Fargo the servicer. Citibank hedges this investment by buying credit default swaps with AIG.

    Now Homeowner A after paying his mortgage for 12 months, loses his job and starts defaulting on his payments.

    Since many of the other mortgages in the MBS have a similar fate, it goes into default and triggers the CDS to be paid in full. However AIG is bankrupt because it sold too many CDS’s on MBS’s.
    The government steps in and bails out AIG to the tune of $80 billion.

    Citibank gets paid in full for its MBS.

    Homeowner A has been foreclosed on and is evicted from his home which is now returned to Citibank, who carry the market value of the house on their books.

    Citibank has been paid twice for its investment.
    The government (i.e the tax payer) already paid for the house by bailing out AIG – the insurer.

    This is America and the new math in the 21st century where for mortgages at least 1 + 1 = 4.

    1. Glen

      Don’t forget that the person getting broken into or kicked out is most probably also the “loan owner” as a tax payer.

    2. RueTheDay

      “Citibank has been paid twice for its investment.”

      Theoretically, what SHOULD have happened is that Citibank should have turned over the bond to AIG as a condition of the credit event that triggered the CDS.

      CDS need to be regulated as insurance contracts, not financial derivatives. Any argument in favor of the market-based approach was shot in the head when the government bailed AIG out at full value.

  4. Psychoanalystus

    As far as I know, in Florida a homeowner may shoot an intruder without much risk of prosecution.

    “Go ahead, punk, make my day”…

    Psychoanalystus

  5. Josh

    This is an absolute outrage. I agree with DCS when I say if anyone is caught in the home I rightfully rent, I will find a weapon and I will personally exact justice if anyone displays threatening behavior. What are they going to say? “Careful when defending your home, they might be a representative of a bank!” I’m not stopping to ask questions, anyone who enters my home without consent will at the very LEAST be immobilized until a law enforcement officer arrives. There is nothing innocent about breaking and entering.

    As a resident of Florida, I’m not going to be playing any games, I will not TOLERATE this behavior. Something needs to be done, or this will spiral out of control and something awful will happen. Loss of life will be an issue as people defend their homes, or someone does something unsafe.

  6. mezcal

    So if this is a civil matter then I presume the officers would be similarly uninterested in someone kicking in the door at a local JPM branch tonight and changing the locks?

    We need a volunteer to verify.
    I’d do it myself of course but, um, I have a pot roast on.

  7. Eagle

    This is disgusting, how is there no criminal intent when you start rifling items inside the home? I hope at a minimum these people do follow up and sue these banks.

    Situations like this truly are why we need strong gun control laws. Too bad this isn’t happening in Texas.

  8. Doug Terpstra

    Wow. I trust the banksters’ henchmen are well paid for the risks; expect them to be well-armed and armored as this regresses. Congress will now undoubtedly pass retroactive legislation in special session to legitimize this new form of pillage, despite Grayson’s election-eve protests, and perhaps contract with Blackwater in problem areas such as Las Vegas.

    The Mad Max tipping point, breakdown to anarchy, approaches faster than expected. Expect a run on arms and ammo.

    Oh, and just in time, for your bunker, Costco is offering a “1-year Supply Dehydrated & Freeze-Dried Food” for $799.99 after $200 OFF, Shelf Reliance THRIVE™” There is also a premium 4-person package available for only $3499.00, with freeze-dried chocolate milk and various desserts. (Only while supplies last, limit ten per customer; okay, I made up the last bit, but the rest is for real.)

    http://www.costco.com/Common/Search.aspx?whse=BC&topnav=&search=year%20supply&N=0&Ntt=year%20supply&cm_re=1_en-_-Top_Left_Nav-_-Top_search&lang=en-US

    1. Psychoanalystus

      That year’s dried food supply sounds like a good thing, assuming one plans to stick around here when all hell breaks loose.

      Yet, at this point in the game, it may be wise to just start making escape plans. A home, a car, and a source of income outside this country, plus dual citizenship may come in handy when the shit hits the fan here.

      Personally, I’m getting my family and booking out at the first signs of civil unrest.

      Psychoanalystus

      1. anne

        oh .. I already did the “rat deserting a sinking ship” thing. Glad I did – life is so much more relaxed, national health and I can study and the govt. will pay me to do so. Now that is living!!

  9. Suave

    An organization coordinating this sort of criminal activity should be subject to a RICO prosecution, should it not?

    1. Just a thought

      I’ve jibed a few people about overstating the illegality of certain bank actions in the discussion boards on this site but seriously…

      If banks are hiring people to break into houses, at a minimum, that would qualify as conspiracy and possibly, as stated by Suave, we could be looking at RICO violations. Organized criminal activities have a special circle in the hell that is the U.S. Justice system.

      So instead of hearings and investigations to decide if these are special circumstances, or civil disputes as the article stated, maybe we need to use the rules already in place and put the offenders in jail first then sort out the special circumstances after. This would at least take the ‘contractors’ off the streets as well as the bank personnel who hired them.

      On a side note, I’d like to see the contractor’s resume. 1992 – 1997 Independent Acquirer
      1998 – 2009 License plate press operator
      2010 – current JP Morgan Chase

      1. alex

        “Organized criminal activities have a special circle in the hell that is the U.S. Justice system.”

        Not if you’re a bank. The Mafia’s problem is that it spread cash to some of the little people instead of making generous campaign contributions.

        1. Just a thought

          All it takes is one enterprising federal prosecutor with political aspirations. Sounds like a Grisham novel.

  10. Dale

    Wonder what would happen is someone started throwing bricks or burning objects through the windows of these banks?

    1. Rhonda

      You would go to prison. Just make it simple move out of the house you are not paying for and let the bank have it.

  11. Mad Max

    Step right up folks and buy your “Bushmaster” AR-15 today. All your friends and neighbors have one. So simple to fire even your teenage daughters can have one of their own for their purse. On special for only $1049 today, hardly more than the annual cost of a pink cell phone.

    “The Bushmaster 16in M4 Type Carbine is designed for situations requiring a lightweight, rugged firearm. The 16″ barrel makes it legal. Flash suppressors, silencers, and night vision scopes available for tactical work.” We have operators standing by to take your credit card order right now.

    The Bushmaster will prevent foreclosures and put food on your family’s table while ridding the neighborhood of all forms of undesirable trash. Make the Bushmaster your universal American insurance policy today!

  12. alealee

    This reminds me of the plot of “Repo Men”, not “Repo Man”. Instead of homes being repo’d, it’s artificial organs being repo’d.

    Far off, no way that could happen future, right? Who would have said, back in 2000, that banks would hire people to legally break into a foreclosed on home….and get away with it?
    It’s only getting worse and scarier.

  13. Fraud Guy

    Went through this in Illinois in 2008, via Wells Fargo. When brought to the attention of the foreclosure attorney for Wells, they helped us get back in. Until we got a letter from him stating that we had the “right” to go onto our own property, the police told us that we could be arrested for trespassing on our own (still) property.

    Apparently the property management company got a little impatient and went ahead without permission.

    Still could file charges.

  14. Nyquil

    This is unbelievable!! I can’t believe the police would say that this is a civil matter! This is outrageous! What the heck is going on in our country! I thought things like this happened only in CUBA! It’s time to fire these politicians. They are the ultimate management company! At this point, every citizen should arm themselves immediately in or to protect themselves. Good luck to all!

  15. giggity

    The new paradigm. Total corporate capture of the state.

    This is why I own an AR-15. I just heard .223 is reduced price at Wal-Mart the other day. I need to stock up again, I’ve only got about 320 rounds left. I may need more to fend off the banker scum.

  16. El Snarko

    It is now clear that we work on the plantation and that our ownership is conditional. Of anything. The reason we have assets is so others can take them from us. That is called profit.

    Welcome to the 1890′s.

  17. sglasheen

    Regarding intent, although I don’t know about Florida specifically, generally burglary requires (1) entry into a dwelling with (2)intent to commit a crime which is separate from the entry. So its possible that the police are refusing to follow up on a burglary charge because of the absence of (2). Of course in the example given, taking personal property obviously qualifies as an offence. Moreover, there should still be applicable violations such as criminal trespass or, where there is property damage, criminal mishchief.

  18. F. Beard

    Well well well. Despite Austrian assurances that any reasonable size money supply is sufficient and that the economy will adjust to it, we see that adjustment in the direction of deflation is fraught with difficulties.

    A massive bailout of the population (with new, debt-free legal tender fiat )would fix most all of these problems, would it not? And if combined with leverage restrictions on the banks could not price inflation be precluded too?

    Our problems seem to result from an elastic money supply wherein money is created as banks lend and is destroyed as the loans are repaid. So why not gradually replace that temporary money (credit) with permanent legal tender fiat?

  19. Charlie

    All this rightous indignation sounds good but you all know what will happen…As long as we have a banker loving president in the white house the DOJ will not bother or prosecute these criminals and they will block the states from effective prosecution. America is toast!

  20. ep3

    And we see Oblama withdrawing all financial support from Grayson while Grayson is in a heated campaign battle.

  21. Dr Paul

    Yves. Just read that the congress and senate passed a bill only waiting for Obama to sign that would provide legal protection for the banks in regards to the foreclosure crisis. Another words- do they get away scott free again if Obama signs it? Also: how did it pass so quickly without news coverage- certainly not mainstream. Does this absolutely prove that the banking lobby controls the congress and senate. I think so.

  22. KnotRP

    Later, I think we’ll look back on this moment as a big turning point….where someone either steps into the breach to save civilized society from the current crop of sociopaths, or where the non-sociopaths start responding in kind. I suspect the
    sociopaths confuse civil restraint with an inability to respond,
    because I cannot imagine how they would calculate that this
    type of behavior would go without a response.
    This is going to get out of hand fast, if someone doesn’t
    stomp this fire out decisively. Man…this could get ugly.

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