"You know what I'd really like to see?" Pinellas County, Fla., Circuit Judge Anthony Rondolino told plaintiffs' lawyers during a foreclosure hearing in April. "I'd like to see in one of these cases where a defense lawyer cross-examines, takes a deposition of these people [so] we can see whether they ought to be charged with perjury for all of these affidavits."
At that hearing, the judge vacated a summary judgment he granted in January in favor of GMAC Mortgage. Rondolino reconsidered his decision after a defense lawyer requested a rehearing to challenge GMAC's affidavit, which did not include any sworn or certified documents.
Chris Immel, a lawyer with Florida-based Ice Legal, who represents homeowners who claim Ally unfairly foreclosed on them, said he believes the company is not alone in the questionable practices.
He said the problem is exacerbated by the large number of homeowners who don't challenge their foreclosures or who represent themselves in court.
"There's been a system that has been put in place by the various servicing companies to basically push these cases along as quickly as possible, so they're signing documents without really reviewing them," he said. "Ally just got caught."
It was in a deposition before Immel last December that Stephan stated that when he put his signature on case files, he did not know what information the file contained other than the borrower's name, that he did not inspect the exhibits he was supposed to and that the notary who supposedly witnessed his signings was not in the room.
"When they're signing these affidavits en masse they have zero responsibility, zero knowledge, zero accountability," Weidner said. "The real issue is that we have allowed our court system and the entire process to become desecrated. It is a continued manifestation of the faulty practices that got us into this mess and brought the country to the brink of financial Armageddon."
Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum has launched an investigation of three law firms that represent loan servicers in foreclosures and allegedly submitted fraudulent documents to the courts, McCollum said in a statement last month. The firms handled about 80 percent of foreclosure cases in the state.
"The Attorney General's economic crimes division is investigating whether improper documentation may have been created and filed with Florida courts to speed up foreclosure processes, potentially without the knowledge or consent of the homeowners," McCollum said.
Fitzgerald said he and his 65-year-old wife were forced to leave their home, without most of their belongings, in early April.
"The sheriffs came like German storm troopers," he said.
Since then, they have lived in a studio at an Orlando hotel. He has consulted Immel about trying to get the house back.
"I have hope this can be turned around," he said.