By Ted Cox
While being compelled to resume evictions, Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart is turning up the heat on the practice of “robo-signing” foreclosure documents.
Dart’s office announced Friday it is referring several cases to the his office’s financial-crimes unit to see whether lenders filing foreclosures were engaging in fraudulent or deceptive practices. The Loyola University School of Law also committed to looking through 2,200 cases “for any signs of irregularities.”
Dart halted evictions Oct. 13 after stories broke nationwide about lenders failing to verify all documents in foreclosures. He claimed to have found evidence of “robo-signing,” in which lenders assign staff to hurriedly sign foreclosure documents “sometimes hundreds a day,” according to the sheriff’s office falsely claiming they’ve verified all the information in a foreclosure file.
In halting evictions, Dart challenged bank attorneys to sign sworn affidavits verifying that foreclosures were valid. “None would,” he said.
The Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office has since advised the sheriff to enforce all foreclosure evictions signed by a judge, and evictions could resume next week.
Yet the new investigation could throw a wrench in that process. According to Dart’s office, a “careful analysis” of recent foreclosure filings turned up evidence that “70 percent appear to have been ‘robo-signed.’”
In the meantime, sheriff’s police officers will include contact information for pro-bono legal help and the help desk at the circuit court’s chancery division with all deliveries of foreclosure notices.