Friday, April 25, 2008

JPMorgan Chase Involved in Illegal and Fraudulent Loan Advice to Lenders- Robert Paisola Reports

If you’ve been following the reports on the Cay Clubs con, you’ve probably met Carisa and Craig Urban — two investors who got burned by Cay Clubs and one of its property managers, Phil Graham.

On Thursday, March 27, The Oregonian ran an article entitled “Chase mortgage memo pushes ‘Cheats & Tricks’,” in which reporter Jeff Manning exposes an incriminating memo that was being circulated amongst loan officers at JPMorgan Chase. The memo, called “ZiPPY Cheats & Tricks,” encourages loan officers to fudge facts and figures on loan applications, if necessary, to gain approval for loan applications that otherwise would be rejected by the bank’s automated underwriting system, ZiPPY.

(click above to see memo)

The main problem with this practice–in addition to being illegal–is that it deceived loan applicants into believing that they could easily afford payments on the loans for which they were applying. After all, most borrowers assume, “the bank certainly wouldn’t approve a loan if I couldn’t make the payments.” This is exactly what happened to Cay Clubs investors Carisa and Craig Urban, as they relate in their own words:

We are approaching the one year anniversary of our investment in a Las Vegas Cay Club condo, but there’s not much to celebrate. We have sunk into the real estate and mortgage fraud abyss like so many others. It has been a long and grueling process to find someone who will listen to our story, believe what we have said, and assist us in seeking justice.

We purchased our first investment property during the era of the “mortgage meltdown,” when mortgage fraud was on the rise. Recently, we came across a disturbing memo that has been linked to a former Chase Account Representative, Tammy Lish. According to JPMorgan Chase, this is not an official company memo, they do not condone the practices recommended in the memo, and they fired the Account Representative as soon as they discovered who was responsible for it. We don’t doubt any of these claims. From our experience with Chase, however, we do believe that the recommendation in this memo were common practice.

The memo provides detailed information on how to work around the company’s automated underwriting system – a system designed to function as a gatekeeper, rejecting loan applications when borrower do not meet the minimum requirements. Here are the recommendations that the memo contains:

Always select “ALTERNATE DOCS” in the documentation drop down.
Borrower(s) MUST have a mid credit score of 700.
First time homebuyers require a 720 credit score.
NO! BK’s OR Foreclosures, EVER!! Regardless of time!
Salaried borrowers must have 2 years time on job with current employer.
Self employed must be in existence for 2 years. (verified with biz license)
NO non-occupant co borrowers.
Max LTV/CLTV is 100%

The memo also provides step-by step instructions on how to gain favorable SISA (Stated Income, Stated Assets) findings; in other words, how to make an applicant’s income and assets look good on paper:

In the income section of your 1003, make sure you input all income in base income. DO NOT break it down by overtime, commissions or bonus.
NO GIFT FUNDS! If your borrower is getting a gift, add it to a bank account along with the rest of the assets. Be sure to remove any mention of gift funds on the rest of your 1003.
If you do not get Stated/Stated, try resubmitting with slightly higher income. Inch it up $500 to see if you can get the findings you want. Do the same for assets.
We find it interesting that there were so many similarities between what the memo stated and what our loan officer from Chase Bank, Ross Pickard, actually did to us and numerous other investors who purchased Cay Club properties. Ross Pickard simply followed the #3 recommendation and plugged in inflated numbers for our income and assets to get the loan approved. That’s mortgage fraud, plain and simple.

He also labeled our purchase as a second home instead of an investment property. When we questioned him about it he said, “We can label it as a second home because with the Cay Clubs lease back agreement you would have possession of the property 2 weeks out of the year.”

In talking with other professionals, we have since come to question many aspects of this transaction. At the time, however, we believed we were working with a legitimate developer and a legitimate loan originator and lender. After all, JPMorgan Chase is no mom-and-pop operation. We approached the transaction believing we could trust these professionals. Cay Club Resorts also offered to waive our first year of HOA fees if we used their preferred vendor, Ross Pickard. I guess this shows our naivety and inexperience as first time investors.

As a result of this fraud, many of us are left struggling to pay mortgages we cannot afford–mortgages that no lender would have approved if it had been given accurate facts and figures. Moreover, we now owe mortgages on properties that are worth less than we owe on them. We can’t even refinance or sell our way out of trouble.

We know that an employee in the loss mitigation department from Chase Bank has been assigned to deal with Las Vegas Cay Club loans, but many owners do not qualify for deed in lieu of foreclosure or a short sale, which would enable us to get out from under these properties without losing any more money.

So where does that leave us? Stuck in the mortgage fraud abyss! The ZiPPY Cheats & Tricks memo is blatant proof that shady transactions were going on behind the scenes.

There is a task force currently looking into Ross Pickard’s bad practices, and it is only a matter of time before the truth comes out. Chase played a major role in the acts committed. Now it is time for Chase Bank to right its wrongs and the deceptive practices of its loan officers.

~ Carisa & Craig Urban

Fortunately, when fraud can be proven to have been committed on a loan application, the borrowers can file a RESPA (Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act) complaint and actually force the lender to renegotiate the terms of the loan. Carisa and Craig Urban have an open and shut case, proving that fraud was committed in approving and processing their mortgage loan.

Our fraud busting team is currently working with the Urbans’. We have carefully audited their loan application and highlighted the specific incidents of fraud that were committed and are in the process of filing a RESPA complaint on behalf of the Carisa and Craig. We fully expect justice to be served and the Urbans’ to receive some long awaited relief.

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