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The eyes of 24-year old dance instructor and Army vet Rufina Pérez flash, even more than usual. “We may lose this battle, my family and I, but we are going to win the war, all of us!”
Rufina has started to realize that, as grotesquely unjust and illegal as the specific foreclosure on her family is, it’s also just one of the 180 foreclosures in her Anaheim zip code 92801 this month alone, most of them unjust, many of them illegal, all in need of investigation for fraudulent loan practices by the banks. And she knows that the nonstop wave of foreclosures is only one of many fronts in the war of the banks, corporations, and wealthy against the vast majority of the rest of us.
The Pérez family doesn’t want anybody’s sympathy. They don’t want anybody’s charity. They don’t want any special treatment. They’re as perfectly capable of paying their own bills as they have been for the 24 years they’ve lived at their Romneya-neighborhood home. They just want to know whose side you’re on.
Because it’s easy for all of us to say that during the American Revolution we would have been patriots and not Tories, but are we really sure? And it’s easy for all of us to say that 150 years ago we would have opposed slavery and fought against it, but how can we be certain of that? What are we doing right now about the class war that the very rich, the corporations, and the banks are waging against the majority of us? Will you be able to tell your grandkids you were on the right side?
Oh right, the specifics. Of the Pérez case.
The Pérez Family
Emiliano Pérez and Eleuteria Gutierrez came up to the US in the 80′s – not together! – but they ran into each other soon enough, since they were both from the state of Guerrero, and folks from each Mexican state tend to fraternize. By 1989 the mechanic and the cosmetologist had saved up enough to purchase a house on the corner of Romneya and Ralston in central Anaheim, and never missed a payment. Of their ten kids (now aged 34 to 10) three have served in the Army; their eldest daughter, in her sixteenth year of service, just returned from Afghanistan. These days, predictably, their front yard frequently swarms with darling grandchildren.
One little wrinkle in their history was a 2003 house fire which caused $80,000 in damage, and made them have to re-finance. I only mention this because of the haters who will otherwise come on and say, “How could they still owe so much on a house they bought in 1989? They must have kept borrowing on the house to live large.” No, cabron, it was a house fire, and they still kept making all their payments faithfully and on time.
Until 2008, when Eleuteria’s father fell ill and died back in Guerrero and she went back for a month to first care for and then bury him, missing exactly ONE payment. When she got back it was 35 days late so she sent TWO MONTHS’ WORTH, in a cashier’s check, to the bank she had been paying for nearly thirty years, Avalon Financial Services. A couple of weeks later Avalon returned the cashier’s check to them, saying they couldn’t accept the payment because they were no longer the servicers of the loan, having sold it to a Litton Financial.
And so, Eleuteria went and got ANOTHER cashier’s check for two months’ payment, and sent it to Litton. Litton returned the check, claiming the family was now “too far behind,” and demanded over $10,000 including interest and fees. This they did not have, and Litton recorded their loan as in default. They did this illegally, without notifying her. And she was also supposed to be notified by Avalon that there was a new bank to pay, and she was not.
Panning Out For a Moment
Most people don’t realize this, and it really doesn’t make sense, but the way things are set up now, banks and lending institutions profit more from putting people into foreclosure, evicting them, and letting the property stand empty, than they do by continuing to receive payments from the homeowners. The banksters get insurance payments, government money, profits off resale, people get commissions. This is a system that we have to change somehow.
And the effects of this behavior on communities and cities is catastrophic. Property values in the neighborhoods plummet. The economy suffers as local workers are displaced. Crime and blight develop as houses are left standing empty. Children are uprooted and their education is disrupted. Suicide rates skyrocket in the affected areas. These unnecessary and frequently fraudulent foreclosures are sociopathic acts, and the institutions that engage in them for profit are sociopaths.
Remember, there are 180 foreclosures this month in Anaheim zip code 92801 alone, and 715 properties in default. And, while some irresponsible borrowers certainly exist, the anecdotal experience of Occupy Fights Foreclosure activists suggests about 60% of these cases involve fraudulent practices by the lenders. Stopping this SHOULD be a top priority of any city government, if we can assume the people’s government is not in league with the banks; and voters need to know if that’s the case or not before they check off any council candidate or Mayor.
Back to the Pérez Homestead
It’s still unclear what-all happened with the defaulted Pérez loan between 2009 and this year; Occupy is still poring through the documents. Maybe I can explain all the convoluted details in a separate story when I understand them better, but they make anybody’s brain hurt, as they are supposed to. The loan passed from institution to institution, from Litton to Bank of America to Ocwen Loan Servicing and US Bank, each one making a big chunk of change off it in a typical, Kafkaesque, financial labyrinth.
Meanwhile the non-English speaking Eleuteria, proud and secretive around her bright bilingual children, was easy prey for scam artists, such as one outfit that falsely promised to “put her house in a trust,” and then took $1500 a month from her for years starting in 2009 – which she thought was going to her loan but was going only to them. Enter the shyster lawyer who took her for another $20K and did nothing she had promised. I’ll be naming them shortly, and they will be sued.
But for now we are focusing mostly on US Bank, who pulled the trigger of eviction on the family late last month, after winning a summary judgment against the family represented by the no-show lawyer. August 29, Eleuteria received five days’ notice that she would be evicted Sept 2; she didn’t know what it was till Rufina came home and read it to her.
That’s when they went to Occupy Los Angeles / Occupy Fights Foreclosures, who have developed real expertise in the area, and rushed to their aid. They work tirelessly in their spare time, for free, and there are very few of them, but they appear to be the only resource out there that actually approaches the banks adversarially, the banks that so frequently bend the rules, quietly commit fraud, maximize their profits, and devastate our communities. I think a proud city like Anaheim should have an office that does what Occupy does, paying some staffers a reasonable rate to research these cases and help good Anaheim citizens fight to stay in their homes. Which councilmembers and candidates agree? And which ones are you and I going to support?
To be continued at the next Anaheim Council meeting, Tue. Sept 25!
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