I read a piece yesterday that has been rattling around in my brain ever since. Remember recently the NV AG, Masto, indicted a couple of wheeler dealers on fraud charges for the robo signing scandal in the foreclosure mess? Well, apparently a large part of her case, and the information she used to investigate the charges, came from one woman at the lower end of the totem pole. She gave up information in exchange for a reduced sentence in a plea agreement. She didn’t show up Monday for sentencing and when investigators were sent to her home they found her dead. Here’s a link to the piece in Naked Capitalism describing some of the events surrounding this interesting and tragic case.
Las Vegas police say it could be weeks before investigators know how 43-year-old Tracy Lawrence died.
Her body was found about 11:30 a.m. Monday at her Las Vegas apartment.
Police Sgt. Matt Sanford says there’s no apparent sign of foul play, and coroner toxicology tests could take up to eight weeks.
Lawrence would have faced up to a year in jail and a $2,000 fine earlier Monday for her guilty plea Nov. 17 to one criminal charge of notarizing the signature of a person not in her presence.
KSNV-TV reports ( http://bit.ly/vWSDtv) that Lawrence admitted notarizing tens of thousands of fraudulent documents as part of a wider foreclosure fraud scheme.
Lawrence had earlier admitted to notarizing “tens of thousands of fraudulent documents” as part of a wider foreclosure fraud scheme involving employees of Lender Processing Services (LPS). It was Lawrence who turned Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto on to two mid level LPS employees who face up to 30 years in jail each if found guilty.
Lawrence came forward earlier this month and blew the whistle on the operation, in which title officers Gary Trafford, 49, of Irvine, Calif., and Geraldine Sheppard, 62, of Santa Ana, Calif. — who worked for a Florida processing company used by most major banks to process repossessions — allegedly forged signatures on tens of thousands of default notices from 2005 to 2008.
Trafford and Sheppard were charged two weeks ago with 606 counts of offering false instruments for recording, false certification on certain instruments and notarization of the signature of a person not in the presence of a notary public.
Here’s another sort of whistle blower speaking with regret and admitting at least a guilty conscience if not fraud. This guy was a Regional Vice President for Chase Home Financial in Florida.
“If you had some old bag lady walking down the street and she had a decent credit score, she got a loan,” he added.
Theckston says that borrowers made harebrained decisions and exaggerated their resources but that bankers were far more culpable — and that all this was driven by pressure from the top.
“You’ve got somebody making $20,000 buying a $500,000 home, thinking that she’d flip it,” he said. “That was crazy, but the banks put programs together to make those kinds of loans.”
Especially when mortgages were securitized and sold off to investors, he said, senior bankers turned a blind eye to shortcuts.
“The bigwigs of the corporations knew this, but they figured we’re going to make billions out of it, so who cares? The government is going to bail us out. And the problem loans will be out of here, maybe even overseas.”
One memory particularly troubles Theckston. He says that some account executives earned a commission seven times higher from subprime loans, rather than prime mortgages. So they looked for less savvy borrowers — those with less education, without previous mortgage experience, or without fluent English — and nudged them toward subprime loans.
These less savvy borrowers were disproportionately blacks and Latinos, he said, and they ended up paying a higher rate so that they were more likely to lose their homes. Senior executives seemed aware of this racial mismatch, he recalled, and frantically tried to cover it up.
I think it’s important to remember how and why we got into this financial mess. Obviously, government has over spent and over promised, from entitlements to government pensions, but if we’re going to be discussing fairness here we should also understand that a lot of people continue to suffer from a dose of unfairness in this economic shit storm (excuse my french). Obviously life’s not always fair.