Thursday, May 1, 2014

Updated: Fired former Cuyahoga County Sheriff Bob Reid, a candidate for county executive, stole foreclosed homes for JPMorgan Chase Bank, other banks, mortgage companies with help from common pleas judges such as judges Carolyn Friedland and John O'Donnell, former county prosecutor Bill Mason overlooked foreclosure theft for his now law firm of Bricker and Eckler, who represents JPMorgan Chase Bank, other banks, mortgage companies: Community activists want theft evidence presented to county grand jury for possible criminal indictments, activists also call for county inspector general Nailah Byrd to investigate, National Mortgage Settlement gave homeowners who lost their homes small part of $26 billion settlement for foreclosure impropriety by JPMorgan Chase Bank, Wells Fargo, others, NAACP took testimony around the alleged foreclosure fraud in Cuyahoga County, Reid is a Democrat for Cuyahgoga County executive pushing Chase Bank and Republicans and has said that Blacks do not need early voting

Fired former Cuyahoga County sheriff Bob Reid
By  Kathy Wray Coleman, Cleveland Urban News. Com and The Cleveland Urban News.Com Blog, Ohio's Most Read Online Black Newspaper and Newspaper Blog. Tel: 216-659-0473. (Kathy Wray Coleman is a 20-year investigative and political journalist and legal reporter who trained for 17 years at the Call and Post Newspaper, Ohio's Black press)
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CLEVELAND, Ohio-A four-year Cleveland Urban News.Com comprehensive investigation reveals that fired former Cuyahoga County sheriff Bob Reid, a candidate for the Democratic primary for county executive this year, stole foreclosed homes when he was sheriff by reducing the appraisal values in violation of state law and selling them back, through sheriffs sales, to mortgage companies under subsidiary names, and to banks and a host of others at a fraction of the value. The documented theft, the investigation shows, was allegedly assisted by JPMorgan Chase Bank attorneys such as Nelson Reid of Bricker and Eckler law firm, other bigwig law firm attorneys, and several judges of the 34-member Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas, including Judge Carolyn Friedland and Judge John O'Donnell. And former county prosecutor Bill Mason is now a partner with the Cleveland office of the law firm of Bricker and Eckler LLP, who represents Chase and other banks and mortgage companies in allegedly stealing the homes from Blacks and others through illegal foreclosures, along with the law firm of Lerner, Sampson and Rothfuss, among others. (Editor's note: Chief Cuyahoga County Foreclosure Magistrate Stephen Bucha has also stolen foreclosed homes with the help of his wife, who is an attorney at Lerner, Sampson and Rothfuss, data show, and he presides over foreclosure cases with the firm representing mortgage companies and banks to ensure that the unprecedented theft materializes).

In fact, Bricker and Eckler represents the county in assessing malfeasance by county employees, a hypocritical fiscal opportunity that suggest that county officials are in on the documented mortgage and foreclosure fraud and theft, the investigation also reveals.  

Cuyahoga County is the state's largest of 88 counties. It is roughly 29 percent Black and includes the majority Black cities of East Cleveland and Cleveland, and Cleveland's eastern suburbs.

Under state law (Ohio Revised Code 2329.17) foreclosed homes are to be sold for a third off  the appraised value with any remaining monies returned to the previous homeowner minus interest and what is owed on the mortgage loan to dateState law also mandates that the homes are appraised like other residential homes, and reducing their appraisal value is illegal. Also under state law the county sheriff hires and fires the appraisers, and data show that in Cuyahoga County the appraisers often do as they please and work at the pleasure of judges, and the sheriff, and even have their own arbitrary appraisals-of-foreclosed-homes chart, a chief deputy of Reid's told Cleveland Urban News.Com in 2011. And Reid had his own appraisal chart too, deputy James Bitterman, Reid's former assistant,  told Cleveland Urban News.Com. 

Much of the alleged fraud, data show, is being perpetuated by Bucha, who has been removed from some foreclosure cases for documented fraud and can no longer preside over cases where his wife or her colleagues are  the attorneys for the mortgage company or bank, Cuyahoga County Chief Judge John Russo's office told Cleveland Urban News.Com last month .

Reid, 61, was fired as sheriff early last year by County Executive Ed FitzGerald, a candidate for the Democratic nomination for governor this year. Under the current county governance structure, one approved by voters in 2009, the county executive hires and fires the county sheriff, clerk of courts, coroner, treasurer and fiscal officer,  and hands out county contracts, among other authorities, and  under the watch of an 11-member, policy-making Cuyahoga County Council.

Community activists want Reid's alleged malfeasance presented to a Cuyahoga County Grand Jury for a potential criminal indictment. They also want both a state and federal law where foreclosed homes are sold based upon the last legal county property tax appraisal. They say they want county sheriffs taken out of the puzzle altogether to minimize the theft of foreclosed homes that they say lowers property values in Cuyahoga County, in Ohio, and in other states across the nation that allow sheriffs to appraise foreclosed homes for sheriff sales.

Data further show that county inspector general Nailah Byrd has failed to act on the foreclosure theft, and complaints around it,  as have operatives of the Cleveland FBI, who asked Cleveland Urban News.Com some three years ago, "what is county prosecutor Bill Mason doing about it?" 

Mason was once a strong link in the Cuyahoga County Democratic Party, a still powerful political stronghold stung by a county public corruption probe that has netted more than 60 guilty pleas or convictions, including prison for two judges, both Democrats, and former county commissioner Jimmy Dimora and former county auditor Frank Russo, also Democrats and both serving lengthy federal prison terms in excess of 20 years. Most implicated in the ongoing probe were businessmen connected to the county Democratic party.

A Democrat out of Parma, Ohio, a Cleveland suburb, Mason escaped prosecution and jail in spite of data that show he allegedly had an unlawful interest in a public contract relative to a computer technician he hired to work in the prosecutor's office when he was county prosecutor.

Mason resigned as county prosecutor in 2012 toward the end of his second four year term after foregoing a re-election bid and took a job as a partner with Bricker and Eckler, a law firm that has profited by millions with rich clients like JPMorgan Chase Bank, Citibank and Wells Fargo, three of the Big Five that last year settled a National Mortgage Settlement. That settlement followed a loss of homes by foreclosure, some from Cuyahoga County during Reid's tenure as sheriff, a settlement at $26 billion for foreclosure impropriety. Homeowners, however, only got $1,480 each while the 49 states attorneys generals that participated, including Mike DeWine in Ohio,  got the bulk of the settlement.

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, a Cleveland Democrat, had said he disagreed with the National Mortgage Settlement because homeowners got ripped off, after losing their homes illegally. The national mortgage settlement, one of a handful in recent years, has no admission of guilt by the banks or mortgage companies that are parties to the settlement.

Tim McGinty, a former common pleas judge also accused of participating in the overwhelming foreclosure fraud when he was a judge, is Mason's successor. Also a Democrat, McGinty has not taken aggressive stances against foreclosure and mortgage fraud since taking office, though he has given more attention to rape and murder cases involving missing or raped women across the county. 

Also, the Cleveland Chapter NAACP ignored the foreclosure 
theft because some of its officials were profiting by purchasing the stolen foreclosed homes until the Rev. Hilton Smith, an associate minister at Greater Abyssinia Baptist Church in Cleveland and a communications vice president at Turner Construction Company, took over as chapter president last year. Upon the urging of community activists Smith  permitted a discussion around the issue via the housing committee of the Cleveland NAACP. That committee is led by the Rev David Hunter, senior pastor at Bright Star Missionary Baptist Church in East Cleveland and president of the Baptist Ministers Alliance. 

Earlier this year community activists and victims of the foreclosure fraud gave testimony before the NAACP housing committee and presented documentation of Reid's theft of foreclosed homes when he was sheriff between May of 2009 and January of 2013. He was replaced by now sheriff Frank Bova, a former Warrensville Heights police chief. 

Bold and arrogant, Reid, a former Bedford, Ohio police chief and city manager, now seeks to run the county as county executive and faces front- runner state Rep. Armond Budish (D-8), state Sen. Shirley Smith (D-21), former North Olmsted mayor Thomas O'Grady, Walter Allen Rogers Jr., and Tim Russo for the May 6 Democratic primary. The winner will face Republican Jack Schron, a Cuyahoga County Council member, in the Nov 4 general election. (Editor's note: Reid was allegedly put in the county executive race by Republicans, though he is a Democrat and his campaign has promoted JPMorgan Chase Bank and has sided with the Republicans on their efforts to stop early voting in Ohio. Specifically Reid has told reporters at Ideastream that if Blacks cannot vote during the time frame that Republican Ohio Secretary State Jon Husted has instituted, though Husted is being sued by the Ohio ACLU over the voter suppression issue, then they do not want to vote) 

Bedford has its problems too as pimp judge Harry Jacob, a Republican whom the Ohio Supreme Court has disqualified from the bench, was indicted late last year on charges of bribery, theft and that he knowingly ran a prostitution ring out of the court, among other charges. The Cleveland Urban News.Com investigation reveals that Jacob and Bedford Judge Brian Melling would harass maliciously prosecuted Black defendants brought before them that complained of Reid's documented foreclosure theft and cooperation in it by county officials, judges, and others.

Reid is also allegedly protected by the Cleveland Plain  Dealer, Ohio's largest newspaper, the investigation reveals, a newspaper 
with money problems that gets a break on county taxes, data indicate.

The testimony taken by video before the Cleveland NAACP this year on Reid's foreclosure malfeasance show examples of his theft of homes across the county from his time as sheriff. His predecessor, former sheriff Gerald McFaul, who resigned office in disgrace and amid misdemeanor convictions of crimes in office, also stole a wealth of foreclosed homes, data show.

For instance, when Reid was sheriff,  a Cleveland home valued by the county for property taxes at $47,400 in 2012 sold for $5,000 at a sheriff's sale following a deflated appraisal value by Reid and his appraisers. And likewise,  a Cleveland home was appraised by the county for taxes at $77, 800 in 2012 and sold for $8,000 by Reid, again after he deflated the value through his hired appraisers. Another foreclosed Cleveland home went for $11,000 after Reid, through an illegal appraisal, reduced the value, and was later reappraised for county property taxes by the county for $61,400 in 2012. These figures, which are public records, represent similar activity as to county foreclosures in various cities villages and townships, some 8,000 annual court filings in recent years, with the figure nearly up to 10,000 in 2010, and down slightly below $8,000 last year. 

In neighboring suburbs like Cleveland Heights/University Heights the theft was even greater. Data show that Reid, pushed by Bricker and Eckler Attorney Nelson Reid, who represents JPMorgan Chase Bank in the matter, and with help from Judges Friedland and O'Donnell, who sanctioned the theft, sold a Cleveland Heights/University Heights home that he thought he had cleverly stolen to sale to JPMorgan Chase Bank under a subsidiary name of Home Sales DBA Inc for $36,000. This was after he deflated the appraisal value of it in violation of state law.

A public  records search reveals that that Cleveland Heights/University Heights home, owned by a Black family, appraised at $123,000 in 2009 for county property tax purposes, was sold in 2011 for $36,000 by Reid at a sheriff's sale after he deflated the value with his appraisers, and then was re-appraised by the county for $116,000 months later for property tax purposes. Data also show that in 2011 Reid stole that Cleveland Heights/University Heights home to sale it after, earlier in 2011, Judge Friedland dismissed a foreclosure filed against the home by current mortgage holder JPMorgan Chase Bank. He virtually sold the home, he thought, after Friedland had dismissed the case. And Friendland's slickness applied when in her dismissal journal entry, she claimed that she was transferring her case to Judge O'Donnell, knowing full well that after she dismissed the case she could not transfer it and that under the rules of court or the rules of superintendence only the chief judge, Nancy Fuerst, can reassign cases, and with limited authority, authority she did not have either in that instance.

Specifically, after Friedland dismissed the case, Judge O'Donnell illegally re-ignited an old foreclosure on the same home but with a defunct mortgage company. Reid  then sold the home for $36,000  to the current mortgage company of JPMorgan Chase Bank under its subsidiary name of Home Sales DBA Inc. at a sheriff's sale. But the sheriff's sale at issue and O'Donnell's ruling sanctioning the malfeasance and deflated appraisal value and the sale of the home itself have no legal significance where Friedland's previous dismissal is the binding ruling.

Once a case is dismissed by a common pleas judge it can either be appealed to a state appellate court or re-filed within a year, the latter applicable only if the case were dismissed without prejudice. And Friedland dismissed that Cleveland Heights/University Heights foreclosure case that was filed by the current mortgage company JPMorgan Chase Bank without prejudice, data show.

Case law in Ohio, which is law made by state appellate courts and Ohio Supreme Court decisions, allows only the bank or mortgage company that  currently owns the promissory mortgage note to foreclose. Hence,  Judge Friedland and Judge O'Donnell's corruption, and the corruption of some of their judicial colleagues in hearing cases filed by Bricker and Eckler and other
attorneys representing defunct mortgage companies and banks to steal homes for cheap for the current mortgage companies and banks such as JPMorgan Chase Bank, and in the absence of the new mortgage company or banks like Chase even foreclosing, is illegal ( See the lawsuits of Wells Fargo vs Jordan, Cuyahoga App. 91675, 2009-Ohio-1092 (8th Dist) and  Fed Home Loan Mtge vs. Schwartzwald, 143 Ohio St. 3d 13, 2012-Ohio-5017)