Deutsche Bank AG sued to seize Lynn Szymoniak’s Palm Beach Gardens, Florida home in July 2008, setting in motion a foreclosure process that still hasn’t ended. But when the bank couldn’t prove it owned her home, claimed it had lost her mortgage note, then admitted that it acquired her mortgage three months after it originally sued, Szymoniak began investigating the bank’s paperwork.
Szymoniak, an insurance fraud investigator, not only found out that the paperwork to her mortgage was fraudulent, she uncovered thousands of other fraudulent bank documents that had been processed using robo-signers. In 2010, she filed multiple whistleblower claims against banks in federal court, and now she’ll pocket $18 million for her work, Bloomberg reports:
Szymoniak, 63, is among six whistle-blowers who will pocket $46.5 million as part of a $25 billion national foreclosure settlement that state and federal officials reached in February with five banks, including Bank of America Corp. and JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM), according to the U.S. Justice Department.
Fraudulent foreclosures have reached near-pandemic levels since the collapse of the housing market. At banks like Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase, and Bank of America, fraudulent practices like robo-signing were approved by upper-level management, and employees with no banking experience were given vice-president level titles so they could sign foreclosure documents (one Wells Fargo “Vice President” came to the bank from a pizza restaurant). When the practice was originally uncovered, banks were enveloped in scandal — and kept robo-signing anyway.
Szymoniak’s case still isn’t resolved. Deutsche Bank is proceeding with foreclosure action against her home, and she told Bloomberg that she isn’t sure what she’ll do with the money. But unlike many victims of the foreclosure crisis, Szymoniak was a homeowner who was capable of fighting back. “When they did this to her, they picked the wrong person at the wrong time in the wrong place,” Richard Harpootlian, Szymoniak’s attorney, told Bloomberg. “They stuck their hand into the beehive.”