'Foreclosure Mill' Employees Got Gifts For Altering Documents, Witness Says

At a large Florida "foreclosure mill," a manager signed up to 1,000 documents a day without reading them and employees were given gifts to speed up foreclosure paperwork, according to depositions released today by the Florida Attorney General's Office.

The news, also reported by Tampa Bay Online, comes as Bank of America, the nation's largest bank by assets, announcement that it would resume more than 100,000 foreclosures in 23 states after an internal investigation of its practices.

Florida authorities are investigating the law offices of David J. Stern over how it handled foreclosure paperwork. As the AP notes, Cheryl Salmons, an office manager at the law offices of David Stern, "would sign 500 files in the morning and another 500 files in the afternoon without reviewing them and with no witnesses," according to Kelly Scott, a former assistant at the firm.

The perks for good performance were considerable, according to Scott's statement. Tampa Bay Online notes office employees were lavished with gifts:

"As a perk of Samons' [sic.] job, Stern's office would routinely pay her personal mortgage, a car payment, her electric bills and her cell phone bill, according to Scott, who told investigators Stern also bought Samons [sic.] a new BMW sport utility vehicle every year and gave her and other employees jewelry. Additionally, Stern purchased employee David Vargas a house, a car and a cell phone, Scott claims in her statement."

According to Kelly Scott's statement, Cheryl Ramos's marathon document signing sessions took place in an office conference room and would leave her wearied. From Scott's deposition:

They would [be] stacked amongst each other, side by side, and Cheryl would come twice a day, in the morning and mid-afternoon, around two or three o'clock and she would sign all of them, every single one of them...

Cheryl would give certain paralegals rights to sign her name, because most of the time she was very tired exhausted from signing her name numerous times per day. You had to understand it was more than five hundred files that she's signing morning and afternoon.

David Stern had an especially close relationship with the mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, Scott said in her statement. The lenders were "considered his babies," Scott said and employees would change codes to hide files when their representatives visited the office.

View PDF's of the new statements here.

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