Bankster robberies: Bank of America and friends wrongfully foreclose on customers, steal all their belongings

The NYT reports on a growing phenomenon of wrongful foreclosure by US banks on homeowners who are caught up on their mortgage payments -- and on homeowners who have no mortgage at all. In some cases, homeowners return from vacation to discover their locks changed and their every earthly possession sent to the dump (one woman lost her dead husband's ashes when her bank burgled her ski chalet). Prominent in the list of banksters who rob innocent people of their homes and all their belongings? Those upright guardians of morality at Bank of America, who have decided that their customers can't choose to contribute to Wikileaks's defense fund.
When Mimi Ash arrived at her mountain chalet here for a weekend ski trip, she discovered that someone had broken into the home and changed the locks.

When she finally got into the house, it was empty. All of her possessions were gone: furniture, her son's ski medals, winter clothes and family photos. Also missing was a wooden box, its top inscribed with the words "Together Forever," that contained the ashes of her late husband, Robert.

The culprit, Ms. Ash soon learned, was not a burglar but her bank. According to a federal lawsuit filed in October by Ms. Ash, Bank of America had wrongfully foreclosed on her house and thrown out her belongings, without alerting Ms. Ash beforehand.

In a Sign of Foreclosure Flaws, Suits Claim Break-Ins by Banks (via Reddit)

(Image: G20-social-justice-and-state-security-demonstrations-20100626T145553.0257.JPG, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from tim_and_selena's photostream)


  1. The banks are in charge now, not governments. Check out Ireland for the new rules. Anyone care to gamble on Wikileaks’ survival now the money men are their target?

    1. “the money men” became the target a couple days before Cablegate – but of course there is NO connection there. No way no how, of course there isn’t.

      All this stink is clearly JUST about diplomatic cables and gunship videos.

      Yep, Swiss banks were about the first ones to cut WikiLeaks off, publicly. We all know how eager the Swiss Banks are to help find suspected rapists and those who anger the US, and make sure they have no money, and how happy they are to tell the world about their account holders. (mind you, that was done without being requested by anyone, the Swiss Banks just outed WikiLeaks and cut them off. Something they won’t even do to murderous dictators without intense international pressure).

      But yeah, this is all about a bunch of embarrassing diplomatic cables. Sure.

    2. Anyone care to gamble on Wikileaks’ survival now the money men are their target?

      Survival? Wikileaks-style entities and individuals are spreading and swarming around the corporatists as we speak. The alternative to Wikileaks could make Wikileaks look tame in comparison if a hornets nest gets stirred up by further tyrannical moves by the American government. At least Wikileaks gets the leaks vetted out and redacted… it doesn’t always have to be that way if you piss off enough people.

      It’s time for the corporatists to back the fuck off. They’ve gone too far for too long.

      We don’t die, we multiply

  2. When I was working on my masters in finance it really struck me, we live in a world where if you can acquire the right connections the system allows you to counterfeit money. Those cute country banks are just as bad when they lend to you money they are allowed to create out of thin air as Goldman. Now with foreclosure scandals the imbalance of power is just more out in public view, before most of the fraud was done on private accounting ledgers.
    Fractional reserve or modern banking started in the renaissance with fraudulent over-issuance of gold and silver deposit receipts by goldsmiths. The goldsmiths gave a cut to the king once found out and it has been legal fraud ever since, this is why bank runs could destroy banks before digidollars became available for instant inflation. There used to be a 40-1 deposit to lending requirement. The 2008 crisis eliminated even that outrageous ratio of free money creation on the banks ledgers.

  3. I am convinced these contractors that “secure” properties are mainly thieves no mater what the case they can just say we made a mistake and no one goes to jail an abandoned home does not have laptops nice rugs jewelery left in it and they know that

  4. It’ll be interesting to see if Wikileaks is perceived by more people as a journalistic organization after this. Digging up dirt on a bank is the job of an investigative journalist. Digging up dirt on a government is the job of a terrorist, at least according to many of the journalists who aren’t doing their jobs.

    1. Why does everything have to be about wikileaks? Aren’t we done with that by now? I clicked this article hoping to read about something different. :-)

      1. Because the next big thing WiLi is bringing to the fore is a large trove of material regarding a bank, which in a strange co-incidence is the same one we are discussing here. So, the mention of it is relevant.

      2. Given the weight of some of the revelations, I’d say there’s been bizarrely little news coverage given to Wikileaks.

        I bet a few weeks after Watergate people were saying “enough with Watergate already! And I hate Bob Woodward!”

  5. Ah yea. Just a couple days ago, Real News Network covered the overlapping subject of servicer driven foreclosures. My favorite point was that it’s not in the interest of the people who actually own the debt to foreclose on these homes, that the foreclosures are really only in the interest of the middlemen, which would be why so many of these cases involve fabrications.

  6. This is tied in with what’s known as “robo-signing” – Google for it – where bank employees routinely sign off on documents asserting the bank’s ownership of a mortgage (and thus their right to foreclose on a property) without checking them. Naturally, this makes it easier for “accidents” of the kind described in this article to occur.

    These are actual legal documents, and signing them is a legal declaration that the signer has read and verified the contents of the document.

    When a corporation commits perjury followed by burglary, what is the appropriate penalty?

    1. The supreme court has decided a few times in the last century that corporations have rights like individuals. The catch is that they are not held liable like real people. If a company commits a crime they may get fined, they VERY rarely are shut down (I can’t even think of more than a couple of exmaples) and just as rarely are the bosses and investors ever held personally responsible. If companies want to pretend to be people then the investors should be help personally liable for, say, covering the outstanding pay for employees if the company tanks, bosses should be held criminally responsible for company actions, etc.

    2. “what is the appropriate penalty?”
      Well, I’ll tell you what would happen if I was at home and some thug from a bank tried to fuck with my house. He or she would be carried off my property in a body bag. The end.
      I have a Belgian made Browning 16 gauge for just such a situation.

  7. Break and Enter, Theft etc. If nothing else there is a massive class action brewing over this. The government bailed them out of the financial crisis and they repay the government by ticking off the voters. Game over man! Game over.

  8. There’s been a anti-BoA movement for years. (due to different reasons, but hey, the logo fits)

    Important to close any unused accounts, as they are potential money pits if the account numbers get in the wrong hands..

    When I closed my account, the clerk asked me why.. I cited security concerns.

    Especially since I had just closed the account and withdrew all the money armed with just a bank statement. Not even ID.

    1. I was on to BoA’s skeezy banking tactics back in the late ’90s when I quit them, and searching for another decent bank seemed futile for years until I joined WaMu…which promptly failed.

  9. If corporations have legal rights like people do (see recent “Citizens United” ruling), then they should be liable to go to jail just like people. I’d like to see BOA doing 5 to 10 hard time for B&E.

  10. I saw a news interview a few months ago where some guy said the creator of BoA (Amadeo Giannini) would be proud of BoA as it is today.

    I say he is probably spinning in his grave. From wikipedia:

    “Bank of America’s history dates to 1904, when Amadeo Giannini founded the Bank of Italy in San Francisco to cater to immigrants who were denied service from other banks. Amadeo was raised by the Fava/Stanghellini family when his father was shot while trying to collect on a $10.00 debt. When the 1906 San Francisco earthquake struck, Giannini was able to get all deposits out of the bank building and away from the fires. Because San Francisco’s banks were in smoldering ruins and unable to open their vaults, Giannini was able to use the rescued funds to start lending within a few days of the disaster. From a makeshift desk of a few planks over two barrels, he loaned money to anyone who was willing to rebuild. Later in life, he took great pride that all of these loans were repaid.”

    1. BofA isn’t the bank he started. It was gutted by some East Coast bank back in the mid-90s, which kept the name, but threw out everything else.

  11. You know what actually might help with the fraudulent foreclosures and these burglaries? Holding people at the bank criminally responsible. Hey Mr. DA if I ‘stole’ a house or burgled it you’d hold me responsible why not the banks?

  12. Time to pull out an old favorite:

    Corporation, n.

    An ingenious device for obtaining individual profit without individual responsibility.

    — Ambrose Bierce

    It was true in the 1911, and its true in 2011.

    Its a shame we don’t have riots in the streets over what is going on. I blame television.

  13. @rebdav

    You’re against fractional reserve banking? Really? And you have your Master’s in Finance?

    Here are the broad steps of how a deposit taking bank works.
    1) A depositer places money in the bank, earning an interest rate for doing so.
    2) The bank lends the money to a borrower, earning a higher interest rate for doing so.

    At this point, the bank has both an asset (the loan) and a liability (the deposit) on its books. They cancel each other out and the bank’s true income comes from the difference in interest rates.

    When you speak to ‘free money creation’ I presume you refer to the money-multiplier effect:(

    I think it is important to note that no new wealth is being created – the money supply is simply being expanded beyond the constraints of currency, allowing for more economic activity. This is a good thing. The money-multiplier does not effect the banks balance sheets since the banks stock of assets (cash reserves and loans) and liabilities (deposits) remain in equilibrium.

    On a more substantive note, the abolition of fractional reserve banking would be terrible. It would lead to the following conditions:

    -> Banks would be able to lend only out of their profits, since they would have to maintain enough cash on hand to cover all their liabilities. This would dramatically reduce the financial sectors ability to lend money.

    -> Ignoring the catastrophic effects on industry (especially for small businesses which can’t issue bonds) this would dramatically raise the cost of borrowing money for consumers. Starting a business or buying a house becomes much more expensive, in the unlikely event that you can find someone to lend you money.

    [marxist analysis] This entrenches class divides [/marxist analysis]

    -> Banks would not be able to pay interest rates on deposits, since deposits are no longer income generating. This reduces any incentive towards saving.

    These are just a few of the consequences of the abolition of fractional reserve banking. I’m positive that a wiser man could come up with many more.

    The only theoretical downside of fractional banking is the possibility that the bank will not be able to repay you the money you’ve deposited. Fortunately a balanced regulatory approach, which balances reserve levels with the risk of investments minimizes that chance. Federal Deposit Insurance means that even in the event of a bank bust, depositors will still recieve their savings.

    For what it is worth, I agree that what happened in this specific case is outrageous. I would hesitate to suggest criminal prosecutions, since arresting a filing clerk is probably not going to fix anything.

  14. Ernunnos, you beat me to it.

    I will vote in 2012 for anyone who makes it clear that no one associated with the Wall Street vampire banks will ever have a policy making position in the administration.

    If that’s Ralph Nader, fine. If it’s Ron Paul, that’s fine too. If it’s Sarah Palin, that’s fine as well.

    Clearly the only potential candidate who is barred from making that commitment is George W. Obama.

      1. Yeah well, the Dubya worshipers on the right wing blog I frequent don’t like “George W. Obama” much either. Sauce for the goose…

          1. The day I see anyone from

            Merrill Lynch
            Bear Stearns
            or AIG
            wearing orange

            will be the last day the phrase “George W. Obama” is used by me.

      2. I’d say his credibility evaporated the moment he said he’d vote for Sarah Palin. The “George W. Obama” quip was a really nice clincher though.

        But hey, I guess statistically we’re bound to have a few Fox News devotees here on BoingBoing.

  15. And yet at the end of the article, you find out that the house was actually in default, Mrs. Ash had stopped making payments on it, and that the foreclosure notices went to the “wrong address.” It all hinges on why the bank had the wrong address. Did they have the wrong address due to a mistake on their part, or did Mrs. Ash fail to provide the bank with her current address when she moved? It’s a sad story, but I’m wondering what B of A did wrong in that case.

    I also lack sympathy for someone who can’t pay the mortgage on their luxurious second home, even though it is stuffed full of valuables such as Persian rugs.

  16. Since property title is one of the cornerstones of modern social organization I guess this means the modern world is pretty much over.

    1. property title was reinvented by the banks over the last couple decades. They have their own system and bypass municipalities regularly. It’s called MERS, and it is a real problem for exactly the reason you name, they’re trying to replace a cornerstone without taking responsibility for it.

  17. It doesn’t sound like Ms. Ash made many payments since 2007, and there’s a history of failed communications. And now she plans to let the house be foreclosed on anyway. The lesson there is that if you don’t want your ski chalet foreclosed on, you should hire a lawyer to handle correspondence with the bank.

    In fact, that’s probably the lesson for everyone facing foreclosure on any level. And to pay for the lawyer, you’ll probably have to steal. No sense taking the high road; none of the other players will.

  18. So i have a question, once they illegally reposes a house, does it get reversed and they have to give house back and pay for damaged or destroyed belongings or do they just go ooooops and they keep the house….

  19. I’m a fan of this paragraph:
    “Many of the incidents that have become public appear to have been caused by confusion over whether a house is abandoned, in which case a bank may have the right to break in and make sure the property is secure.”

    Ummm…if you need to break into it in the first place, it was probably already secure.

  20. the real answer – ending corporate “personhood” forever. Officers of the corporation become legally responsible for its actions.

    What are the odds? (Note: Rhetorical)

    1. I don’t think we need to go that far to be honest- just hold the CEO personally responsible for any criminal wrongdoing that the corporation is found guilty of, no matter at what level of management. If you made people who want a vastly inflated salary at least carry some risk you would very soon see an end to criminal negligence and opaque corporate hierarchies.

      1. @Cynical: Nice theory, but unfortunately you’re not being nearly cynical enough. If you make the CEO personally responsible for criminal wrongdoing at any level, you would soon see a reduction in top-level criminal negligence – and a massive increase in deliberate criminal activity by a new batch of professional middle-management criminals who move endlessly between companies, passing the buck up. In a large company the board can’t oversee everything personally.

        The problem now is that nobody is ever held responsible.

  21. Could you please keep us posted to the development of this story? I guess she will sue the bank?

    ‘The land of the free’ is slowly but surely becoming the land of the helpless and frightened. And don’t get me wrong… frightened are on both sides – common people on one and state employees on other (afraid of loosing their jobs or high positions and wealth).

  22. This is why I’m moving my money into smaller banks and investment firms. The big guys are criminals.

    I forget who said this, but I love the quote:

    If banks are too big to fail, let’s make them smaller.

  23. I know it’s probably bad taste to joke about it, but, I find kinda funny that (if Ms. Ash got her last name from her late husband) Robert Ash was turned to… ashes.

  24. Matt Taibbi’s been writing about this stuff for Rolling Stone for months now, channeling the same rage expressed in the comments here to great authorial effect. Check out his blog at RS too. Oh yeah, and his book, Griftopia.

  25. Whether or not some people never should have been given mortgage loans; and whether or not homeowners realize any legal basis to challenge foreclosures, it is urgently important to look white collar foreclosure activities. Also, illegal, fraudulent foreclosure causes useless deeds for property sales; title insurance denials, blight –and more.

    Some PREDATORY mortgage loans are issued for the very purpose of default so that properties can become flipped, repeatedly (hence blight); and lenders gain tax credits, mortgage-default insurance, and more! Additionally, too often, not only has the lender NOT filed foreclosure, certain homes wound up being flipped by the foreclosure mill lawyers who execute simulated auctions whereby “straw buyers” fraudulently “credit bid”!

    White collar foreclosure fraud entails intentionally fraudulent foreclosures naming defunct mortgage companies, or having no ownership of notes; unfair fees beyond “Acceleration Clauses” that impairs borrowers’ ability to repay arrears; falsified Bankruptcy Court motions to “Lift Stay” for accomplishing”simulated” foreclosure auctions via “straw buyers.” And lawsuits against foreclosure lawyers for fraud and “Unfair Debt Collection Practices,” generates more lawyer fees.

    Scores of homeowners do not contest foreclosures because of: not having knowledge of the law in order to recognize legally challengeable foreclosures or fraud; lack funds to pay for attorneys to represent them; homeowners are told to come to foreclosure auctions with money that they do not have, so they stay away from foreclosure auctions. It is extremely troubling that there are families living outdoors whose homes have been confiscated via real estate racketeering!

    Foreclosure lawyers are officers of the court; knowledge of applicable laws and civil procedure is not required from mortgage lenders, nor loan servicers. In states that require judicial foreclosures, FORECLOSURE LAWYERS are the ones who file lawsuits to seize and sell property; and lawyers are responsible for filing and recording foreclosure property deeds. *Request for Congressional Foreclosure Panel to Examine Foreclosure Lawyers @

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