By Mark Wachtler
August 2, 2013. New York. (ONN) The practice of multi-national banks hiring local thugs to break into US homes, rob them, vandalize them, change the locks, and basically steal the structure and all its contents, is still rampant across the US. Repeatedly robbing and ruining the wrong homeowners, a recent government settlement reimburses victimized homeowners with almost nothing.
FED's Ben Bernanke and OCC's Thomas Curry sided with banks over theft victims. Image courtesy of Ecreditdaily.com.
RT’s Abby Martin and her show Breaking The Set confirmed this week that Americans are still mistakenly having their homes robbed, ransacked and stolen, along with all their possessions and credit worthiness. They’re also still finding out that there is little or no justice or recourse available to them.
One victim’s story
Abby Martin, America’s fiercest independent grassroots news anchor, began a recent show this week relaying the story of Ohio homeowner Katie Barnett. “After going on vacation for two weeks, Katie returned to find that her home had been ransacked and most of her belongings stolen,” Martin explained, “And much to her dismay, the Ohio resident found out that it wasn’t burglars or random vandals. It was a bank.”
How and why did a bank rob and vandalize an innocent homeowner? Describing an episode that has played out across America to thousands of other innocent victims, the RT America anchor goes on to tell Barnett’s horrifying story. “First National Bank planned to repossess the foreclosed home across the street from Barnett,” Martin reveals, “But instead of actually bothering to check the house numbers on the mailbox, the hired thugs broke into Barnett’s home, took all of her things and changed all of the locks.”
Responding to accusations of home invasion, robbery, vandalism and a list of other criminal charges, the bankers who ordered the break-in insisted they weren’t criminally liable. “After all was said and done,” the show reported, “the bank’s excuse for repossessing her home instead of the actual foreclosed home was, the GPS pointed them in the wrong direction.”
No charges, no compensation, no justice
Revealing what kind of justice and compensation the victims of these all-to-common house robberies are entitled to, and the thousands of additional victims, Breaking The Set aired an interview with this particular victim. Katie Barnett had created a modest list of stolen valuables that she wanted the bank to replace or reimburse her for. But as she found out, the home invaders don’t have to return her belongings or compensate her for having stolen all of her family’s possessions and physically vandalizing her home.
The total Barnett came up with, which is obviously sincere and a low estimate considering she lost almost everything including the family’s furniture, clothes, food, electronics and all the other items a home contains – was $18,000. That’s the amount Katie Barnett demanded the bank reimburse her for. But the bank won’t do it. Why? Because they don’t have to.
First National Bank released a statement to local Ohio media outlets in response to the outrage of area residents. It read in part, ‘We communicated to the homeowner our desire to compensate her fairly and equitably for her inconvenience and loss. However, the written list of items she provided to us – and the value she assigned to those items – is inconsistent with the list and description of items removed that was prepared by employees who did the work.’
The statement also goes on to argue that the bank is exempt from reimbursing Barnett because the list of stolen items she provided in writing doesn’t match exactly to an alleged list frantically written down by a bank employee during one of the victim’s initial phone complaints to the Bank’s management.
Receiving no justice from the government or the bank, Katie Barnett told her story to the press. “They demanded that I have receipts for all of my stuff that they threw away,” she told reporters, “And I said, well, first of all, I don’t have receipts for all my stuff. I wasn’t expecting a bank to come and accidentally repossess my house and throw it all away.”
House robbing rampant across US
Illustrating that Katie Barnett’s story is not unique, Breaking The Set finishes the segment by reminding viewers that more than 50 lawsuits have been filed by homeowners who have also been the victims of similar traumatic home invasions. Some of the complaints document not just stolen household furnishings, but stolen family heirlooms and even stolen pets. Legally, banks can only physically repossess homes if they’re empty and vacant.
The show goes on to give an additional example in the form of Michigan homeowner Nancy Cox. “She came home from work one day surprised to find her personal possessions out on her front yard smashed to bits with a sledgehammer,” Abby Martin recounted, “Her garage had also been vandalized with the giant drawing of a clown and a tagline that read, ‘another job well done’.”
Bank of America, Wells Fargo, JP Morgan Chase, Citigroup
Another example is the case of homeowners Warren and Maureen Nyerges. Only four months after paying $165,000 cash for their Naples, Florida home, Bank of America foreclosed on it for absolutely no justifiable reason. For 18 months, the Nyerges fought with the bank, whose employees repeatedly insisted that the only way to stop the foreclosure was for the family to bring their mortgage payments up to date. Warren and Maureen were stupefied, having bought their house with a 100% cash payment and no loan.
They also recall how for two years, Bank of America lawyers repeatedly showed up in court with incorrect paperwork, faulty legal filings and absolutely no idea what they were even talking about. Finally in a rare instance of justice, a local judge decided enough was enough. The judge issued an award to the Nyerges family and an order to the Sheriff for the confiscation of all the bank’s furniture, desks, chairs and everything else movers could remove to compensate the family for the wrongful theft of their property. Within two hours, the bank instead issued a check to Warren and Maureen Nyerges for $5,772.88.
Can’t fight Uncle Sam, or his banks
Showing how impossible it is to fight the banks in court, Nyerges warned other victims that he had contacted 25 attorneys in an attempt to find a lawyer to help him sue Bank of America. Not one single law firm would take his case. He was left on his own, homeless and without any possessions, to fight one of the biggest banks in the world.
Another tragic instance was perpetrated by Well Fargo. As detailed by Slate.com earlier this year, California homeowner Larry Delassus died while fighting the bank over a wrongful foreclosure and eviction. The publication writes, ‘The alt-weekly reconstructed the series of events that led to Delassus losing his home from court documents, and the whole thing would read like a farce if it weren't so sad.’
Working together, the government and the multi-national bank targeted Delassus for collection of back taxes owed by one of his neighbors. The bank went so far as to double the Delassus’ monthly mortgage payment in an attempt to collect for the government. When he couldn’t afford to pay the doubled amount, Wells Fargo foreclosed on his home. Delassus eventually died in court while fighting with the bank’s lawyers who insist the nation’s largest home lender was not liable for its own mistake, which they admit was the result of a typo by a bank employee.
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Homeowners to receive an average of $300 - $800 each
The house-robbing and home invasions by America’s banks is so widespread and has gone on for so many years, a class action lawsuit was undertaken by the US government against the nation’s largest banks. Government lawyers represented 4,000,000 victims of mistaken foreclosures or other bank errors that led to homeowners wrongfully losing their homes or businesses. Refusing to file criminal charges, the Justice Department wasn’t involved and the prosecution was instead handled by the Federal Reserve and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.
In April of this year, the Obama administration’s FED and OCC settled with the handful of banks being sued on behalf of the 4 million victims. The settlement was announced as a victory for the falsely foreclosed on homeowners, but was in reality, a $200 billion dollar win for the globe’s largest and most guilty financial institutions (4 million victims times an average $50,000 loss). The banks being protected in this massive case by the FED and OCC include Bank of America, Wells Fargo, JP Morgan Chase, Citigroup and a handful of smaller institutions.
On the surface, the $3.6 billion settlement on behalf of the 4 million wronged homeowners sounds like a win for the victims. But as the Wall Street Journal found out when it began interviewing some of the individuals who lost everything because of the banks’ fraud, incompetence or greed, this settlement is anything but a victory. They’re calling it a betrayal of the American people by the US government.
The WSJ report starts by detailing how the federal government isn’t above taking care of its own. 1,082 of the 4 million victims were members of the US military at the time. Unlike the other victims who won’t even see $1,000 – the victims who were members of the military will each be reimbursed $125,000. According to the Federal Reserve and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, 80% of the victims will receive as little as $300 as part of the settlement negotiated on their behalf.
Curiously, the FED and OCC ordered federal regulators to stop compiling the cost of damages to victims, so nobody really knows how much each homeowner lost financially or how many more victims there are who are being denied justice. Government officials confirmed earlier this year just before the settlement was announced that after two years of compiling lists of banking victims and the amounts stolen or lost, they were stopping because there were so many victims, the process would have gone on indefinitely.
In a separate report, the Wall Street Journal reported only weeks before the government halted its collection of victims that independent bank audits showed there were many more wrongful foreclosure victims than the FED and OCC’s lawsuit was arguing. And even though the perpetrators admitted there were more victims and larger financial losses, in effect offering to pay more money to more victims, the FED and OCC refused to accept the information and instead did the opposite by halting the inclusion of any more victims or damages to the suit.
The millions of victims who will receive the $300 - $800 compensation amount are heart-broken over the seeming injustice of the government settlement. Many of them lost homes and businesses valued at over $100,000 each. One victim interviewed in the above-linked Wall Street Journal report lamented, “If the bulk of people get $500 or $800 after losing their houses, is that making good on things?”
This particular homeowner thought he would receive $62,500 as his part of the settlement because that’s what the government’s own ‘compensation schedule’ reflected. Instead, he won’t even receive enough to pay his own legal bills. Also part of the settlement is the agreement that banks admit no wrongdoing, no bank employees will be charged individually, and they don’t even have to fix the victims’ credit reports, which were wrongly devastated by each of the accidental foreclosures. According to President Obama and FED Chairman Ben Bernanke, that’s a victory. But a victory for who?
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