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One of Michigan’s largest foreclosure firms cited for robo-signing

MahurinEcon_Thumb1_1713.jpg
MahurinEcon_Thumb1_1713.jpg

A Massachusetts county clerk says a forensic examination of documents filed by Troy-based Orlans Associates, one of the largest foreclosure firms in Michigan, shows that the company has engaged in illegal robo-signing.

Robo-signing is when a bank, mortgage company or foreclosure company has multiple people sign documents with the name of the person who is supposed to sign those documents and then has them notarized as having been signed by that person. In the case of Orlans, the signer was supposed to be attorney Marshall Isaacs, but he has now been implicated in two states for having had others sign his name and notarize that he did so.

Kevin Harvey, first assistant clerk for the Southern Essex District Register of Deeds in Massachusetts, says a private mortgage fraud investigator brought the robo-signing to the attention of his boss, John O’Brien. That investigator, Steve Dibert, runs MFI-Miami which has offices in Florida as well as Traverse City.

“Steve [Diberts]’s work on Marshall Isaacs was confirmed by our certified mortgage fraud examiner Marie McDonnell here in Massachusetts and his name is on our registry’s robo-signers list,” Harvey told the Michigan Messenger.

Dibert spent 18 years in the mortgage industry before starting MFI-Miami, which has investigated over 700 questionable mortgage documents in 11 states and Washington, D.C. He was the primary source in providing Ingham County Register of Deeds Curtis Hertel Jr. with the information that led to a major lawsuit against banks, mortgage companies and mortgage foreclosure firms for “tens of millions” in tax payments allegedly improperly withheld from the state and county.

Dibert alleges that robo-signing by Isaacs is not the only problem with documents filed by Orlans. He says that he has identified at least six notaries public whose signature do not appear to match their official signatures on file with the county clerks where they are registered.

“Basically we found improprieties on six notaries over at Orlans,” Dibert says. “The Notary Statute says the signatures of the notary must be exactly identical with the one on file in Lansing.”

The notary public is also required to actually witness the signatures being affixed to a notarized document. Failing to do so could result in misdemeanor charges against the notary, according to Michigan law.

Hertel says he has confidence in the evidence provided by Dibert. “We are taking this very seriously, Steve has provided us with information in the past that has been very fruitful. I trust his judgement.”

Isaacs is not an unknown quantity with county officials handling real estate transactions, says Hertel. But he said while Isaacs was a regular signature appearing in county foreclosure documents in 2010, his name suddenly dropped off in late 2010 — just as law enforcement officials began looking into robo-signing allegations across the country.

“There was a severe decrease in the number of documents signed by Marshall Isaacs,” says Hertel. “It used to be very common.”

Hertel said the allegations raised concerns, but declined to say if his office, or any other office in the state was engaged in a criminal investigation of Isaacs.

Michigan Messenger has been carefully following the allegations against Isaacs since early May, following revelations Hertel had found robo-signed documents involving DocX, a Georgia company profiled on 60 Minutes. Hertel’s discovery led to investigations by both the Michigan Attorney General’s office and the FBI.

When Messenger originally contact Orlans Asociates about the claims against Isaacs, Terry Cramer, corporate counsel for Orlans, issued the following email statement:

“At any rate, Mr. Isaacs identified the 4 specific examples you sent earlier as his signature in each case. As I indicated to you, variations of signatures does not mean they are not his. The signature on his personal residence documents are his as well.”

Messenger has requested comment from Cramer related to the findings in Massachusetts and the allegations here in Michigan. However, Cramer did not immediately return emails.

Dibert responded to Cramer’s statement by dismissing it.

“Of course, that’s what they said. That’s common. Lawyers with their hands caught in the cookie jar deny, deny, deny until they can’t deny anymore — then they beg for forgiveness,” Dibert said.

Shortly after Michigan Messenger inquired about his signatures with Orlans, Isaacs filed a criminal complaint with the Farmington Hills Police. He alleged that Dibert was using a computer device to harass and intimidate him. In early June, Oakland County Prosecutor Jessica Cooper dismissed the complaint, saying it “lacked merit.” Isaacs made the claim because Dibert had retrieved the lawyer’s mortgage on file with the county and published it online. The document contained Isaacs’ home address.

Dibert says he will be forwarding his findings to Attorney General Bill Schuette and Secretary of State Ruth Johnson.

“The problem is both have political ties to Linda Orlans (the managing partner of Orlans),” says Dibert. “I’m hoping Ruth Johnson does the right thing.”

Johnson has the capacity to revoke notary public assignments as well as seek criminal charges against those officials her office determines were likely to have violated the laws of the state. Johnson would refer those criminal charges to the Attorney General’s office for investigation.

Ultimately, however, this issue goes much deeper than a few signatures which are allegedly fraudulent. Dibert says that Isaacs signature problems could result in 10,000 to 15,000 Michigan foreclosures in the last 10 years being questioned and possibly overturned by courts.

“We have not even begun to investigate the signatures on file in Massachusetts and Rhode Island,” said Dibert. “If those irregularities are found in those states I will have to consider turning over my findings to the FBI.

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