All she wanted was $50,000 from the equity in her house to help pay the bills while looking for a job in nursing. What Imogene Hall got was a brutal lesson in the sometimes shady ways of the mortgage industry.
It's a lesson learned by untold numbers of homeowners in Florida, epicenter of the foreclosure crisis gripping the nation. "Everywhere I turn, someone else is scamming me,'' said Hall, a 49-year-old Jamaican immigrant who stands to lose her Miami Gardens home the Monday after Thanksgiving. "All I do is work hard, and I get surrounded by thieves.''
A review of court records found evidence of misconduct at nearly every stage of Hall's experience. Consider:
_ Johnson Cuffy, a former mortgage broker now serving an 11-year prison sentence for grand theft, handled Hall's refinancing in early 2006, using a strategy a state investigator described as ``outright mortgage fraud.'' He faces up to 30 more years in prison if convicted of 16 other mortgage fraud charges he's facing.
_ The title agent who signed the crucial deed transfers that Hall's fraud claim rests on operated an unlicensed title company that stole more than $1.5 million from South Florida home buyers during closing proceedings between 2005 and 2007, according to Florida Supreme Court records.
_ A man who listed his employer as a nonexistent