Alleged mortgage fraudster found working at another home loan business
(FOX25 / MyFoxBoston) Mike Beaudet
(FOX25 / MyFoxBoston) Kevin Rothstein, Producer
The aftermath of the foreclosure crisis is still being felt here in Massachusetts, years after it first hit.
While Attorney General Martha Coakley's office has recovered hundreds of millions of dollars for homeowners and investors, those efforts have not erased the impact for everyone, including a Raynham couple who say they're the victims of a home sweet scam.
Tammy and Ed Griffin of Raynham almost lost their home to foreclosure back in 2006.
After falling behind on their mortgage payments, they answered an ad in the newspaper which offered to help people pay their bills.
That's how the Griffins met Mark Palmer.
"He told us that he could definitely help us because we have so much equity in our house," said Tammy Griffin. "It sounded awesome. It sounded too good to be true actually."
According to a lawsuit filed by the Griffins against Palmer, they were "...tricked... into unknowingly signing a set of bogus agreements..."
They thought they were refinancing their mortgage, but instead "...conveyed title to their home to a total stranger..."
The Griffins say they unknowingly sold their house for $360,000, but they "...did not receive a single cent from the supposed ‘sale' of their home..."
However Palmer cashed in, according to the lawsuit, receiving "...more than $80,000..."
The Griffins stayed in the home and made what they thought were mortgage payments into a joint bank account with their names and Palmer's.
But the lawsuit says Palmer "...stole these monthly payments from the Griffins..." instead of actually paying the mortgage.
"This is an example of what's called a deed theft scheme. It was a common form of fraud that existed during the real estate bubble and the subprime lending bubble of the 2000s," said Max Weinstein, the Griffins' lawyer. "The Griffins didn't get a new mortgage at all. Their deed was stolen, conveyed to a stranger they never heard of and that stranger took out a new mortgage on their house and didn't pay that mortgage so all of a sudden the Griffins were facing foreclosure on their home without even knowing that nobody had been paying the mortgage."
Despite the ordeal, the Griffins were able to get their home back and get a new mortgage.
Meanwhile, Palmer filed for bankruptcy and last year ended up settling the civil suit filed against him by the Griffins, agreeing to pay them $10,000.
Palmer was never charged with any crime.
"The sad thing is that sometimes that kind of mom and pop fraud was too small to get noticed by the authorities and you don't see any prosecutions but it doesn't mean that people weren't swindled and didn't have their homes stolen," said Weinstein.
FOX Undercover found Palmer working as a loan officer in Methuen much to the surprise of the Griffins.
"Excuse my language, but what the hell are you doing working here?" asked FOX Undercover's Mike Beaudet.
"Why's that?" responded Palmer.
"Should you be a loan officer given your history? Remember the Griffins? You tricked them into signing over their house," said Beaudet.
"I didn't trick them," said Palmer.
"Well you settled the case with them, sir, and you haven't been making payments. Care to explain? Any explanation?" asked Beaudet.
Over the phone, Palmer later denied doing anything wrong insisting the Griffins knew they were signing over their home. He says he settled the case because he didn't have the resources to fight it.
The Griffins credit Attorney General Martha Coakley's office with helping them keep their home, but wish she had taken against Palmer.
"The family is disturbed that this guy is still working as a loan officer," said Beaudet to Attorney General Coakley.
"I can understand that frustration and I'm glad you brought this to our attention," said Coakley.
"Should your office have done more to either press charges or do some other action against him?" asked Beaudet.
"I certainly know that at the height of this when this complaint came in '07, '08, we were besieged," responded Coakley. "Our first focus was on really making sure we could save people, keep them in their homes."
"Do you think someone like this should still be working in the mortgage business?" asked Beaudet.
"I think we are willing to look at what the behavior was, if that behavior occurred and it is criminal that is something we can look at," said Coakley.
The Griffins hope something can be done.
They say they've never fully recovered, something they blame on Mark Palmer.
Once again they're on the verge of losing their home to foreclosure.
"This has been the most horrific thing we have ever been through," said Tammy Griffin.
The bank is set to foreclose on the Griffins home early next month because they haven't been able to keep up with their payments.
Palmer is no longer working as a loan officer after the company fired him last week.
"While all our new hires are subject to a rigorous professional background check, the type of private matter you described is not part of that review," said Home Loan Investment Bank President & CEO Brian Murphy in a statement to FOX Undercover. "However, after an internal review, we have determined that it would be in the best interests of all parties if we terminated the employee in question."
The Griffins say they haven't received any settlement payments from Palmer since October, but Palmer tells us he made a payment to bring him up to date after we asked him about it.