Think you’ve read the worst about foreclosures? Read this

Seal of Miami, Florida, United States

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McClatchy

MIAMI — 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 Blockbuster Video store in New York somehow used Hall’s home as collateral to secure a $230,000 loan from subprime lender Argent Mortgage.

_ Hall’s foreclosure was processed by the Florida Default Law Group, one of four Florida law firms being investigated by the state attorney general for using flawed documents to repossess homes from thousands of owners.

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