‘This Isn’t The Lotto’: Sheriff Halting All Foreclosures Until Banks Prove Evictions Are Legal And Legitimate

As of last week, all 50 state attorneys general had opened investigations into the mortgage practices of some of the nation’s largest financial institutions, following the revelations that many of these banks had foreclosure documents approved by “robo signers” — employees who were signing thousands of foreclosure documents a day, without verifying basic information. Additionally, the banks’ incompetence and malfeasance extends to basing evictions on “lost and forged documents and, as Reuters’ Felix Salmon reported, knowingly selling investors mortgage bonds they knew were toxic.”

Responding to pressure from the media and progressive politicians, a handful of large banks, like JP Morgan Chase, have self-imposed moratoria on foreclosures. Bank of America amd GMAC Mortgage also self-imposed moratoria, but then lifted them shortly after.

Yet, one sheriff is not waiting for the big banks to correct their own behavior or for the government to step in and set things right. Cook County, Illinois Sheriff Tom Dart recently assembled a team to investigate the foreclosures in his area. His team found that out of 350 cases reviewed, “only 17 of them had the proper paperwork.” Following the investigation, Dart announced Monday that he would be halting all evictions of homeowners — a step he took two years ago at the height of the financial crisis — and would not take part in any foreclosures unless the banks could provide the documentation to prove that the evictions were legitimate and legal:

Beginning Monday, and for the second time in two years, Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart is refusing to carry out evictions. The latest moratorium will apply to those people living in homes whose lenders aren’t able to provide documentation that the eviction is legitimate and legal. “All I am looking from them is an affidavit saying, ‘The cases you have in your system are all reviewed. All the documents were done correctly. They were all legally done. And you are not enforcing illegal orders,'” Dart said Tuesday.

He said his team recently reviewed 350 cases and found that only 17 of them had the proper paperwork. The banks involved included Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, GMAC/Ally Financial and their subsidiaries.” This is so outrageous. These poor people are being put through this day in and day out, by people who don’t do their jobs,” he said. “It’s so hard for me to stomach these people. This isn’t just we are taking their bike away, or their car away. This is their house.”

Dart held a press conference Monday to announce his decision. He told reporters, “This is not the lotto. This isn’t something where we roll the dice and say, ‘You know what? Possibly this has been done legally. Maybe it hasn’t, but in the meantime you and your children go find some place to live. There’s plenty of homeless shelters out there.’ We can’t do that.” Watch it:

The Obama administration has thus far resisted calls for a national moratorium on foreclosures. Leading progressive politicians and economists continue to argue in favor of a moratorium. Meanwhile, individual states are taking their own measures to try to stop fraudulent foreclosures, with New York leading the way by requiring lawyers bringing foreclosure claims “to file an affirmation that they themselves have taken reasonable steps to verify the accuracy of documents filed in support of residential foreclosures.” (HT: Michael Moore)