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Mich. lawmakers, activists troubled by robo-signing allegations against major firm

Image has not been found. URL: http://images.americanindependent.com/2010/07/Mahurinhousing-crisis_Thumb.jpgAllegations that an attorney working for Troy-based Orlans Associates foreclosure giant is allegedly involved in robo-signing drew immediate concerns from lawmakers and activists.

“This ‘robo-signing’ practice is degrading our communities and undercutting the integrity of our justice system,” said Congressman Hansen Clarke (D-Detroit), responding to a Michigan Messenger report. “I’m working right now on federal legislation to help struggling homeowners gain additional time to negotiate settlements with their lenders. Part of this legislation will aim to help overcome the issue of fraud in foreclosure cases by setting clearer standards as to who can legally call proceedings against homeowners.”

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.

Clarke has been a long time advocate for restraining the foreclosure crisis and examining foreclosure practices. While in the state Senate he authored a bill that would institute a moratorium for two years on foreclosure.

Ari Adler, spokesman for Michigan Speaker of the House Jase Bolger (R-Marshall) released the following statement upon learning of the allegations:

The Speaker has respect for and demands compliance with all statutory requirements. It’s not just about following the law, but also providing confidence in legal proceedings and the judicial branch as a whole. No one wants anyone to lose their house and every effort should be made to require compliance with all laws. Beyond that, however, there is a much larger issue here. We need to improve Michigan’s economic climate for people to continue paying on their homes and avoiding a foreclosure in the first place. The lack of the right signature does not necessarily mean the property is not in foreclosure or that people no longer need to make good on their mortgage. We continually say that the number one issue facing Michigan is jobs, and these cases prove that yet again. If we could make Michigan more competitive for job providers we would have more Michiganders working, the economy would improve and the constant headlines about home foreclosures would finally subside.

In an interview with Michigan Messenger, Sen. Steve Bieda (D-Warren) said the revelations were “shocking.”

“This is shocking news, and the citizens of this state deserve a thorough investigation of this matter,” Bieda said. He says that Attorney General Bill Schuette, a Republican, Oakland County Prosecutor Jessica Cooper, a Democrat, and Secretary of State Ruth Johnson, also a Republican, should hold separate investigations.

Michigan Messenger’s story on Friday revealed that Orlans attorney Marshall Isaacs has been placed on a robo-signers registry with the South Essex County Clerk’s Office in Massachusetts. Steve Harvey, first assistant clerk for the office, told Messenger that the decision was made after an independent fraud investigator concluded foreclosure documents filed in that county were likely robo-signed. Harvey says the investigation was initiated based on information provided by Steve Dibert, owner of MFI-Miami a foreclosure investigation company with offices in Michigan and Florida.

In addition to robo-signing allegations against Isaacs, Dibert alleges that at least six notaries working for the company may also be implicated in robo-signing.

Friday afternoon, Messenger was contacted by Orlans Associates who denied any wrong doing.

The story also lead David Holtz, executive director of Progress Michigan, to write on his group’s blog:

Will Secretary of State Ruth Johnson and Attorney General Bill Schuette do the right thing and call for an independent investigation of possible illegal mortgage foreclosure operations by a Republican campaign contributor?

Orlans Corporation Counsel Terry Cramer says the company would “cooperate” in any investigation. He would not say if the company supported or encouraged such investigations.

The National Institute on Money in State Politics shows that in the 2010 cycle, Linda Orlans who owns Orlans Associates with daughter Alison, gave tens of thousands of dollars to Republicans. She donated $25,000 to the state party, as well as maxing out in donations to Secretary of State Ruth Johnson with a $3,400 donation. She gave Gov. Rick Snyder’s campaign $2,600 and Attorney General Bill Schuette’s campaign $2,100.

Also of interest, in 2006 Linda donated $2,000 to the failed bid of Christian Coalition wunderkid Ralph Reed as he shot for the Georgia Lt. Governor’s post.

The group’s records also show that between 2006 and 2010, officials with the company, including both Orlans, gave tens of thousands of dollars to Republican candidates.

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