The name “Danielle Sterling” may not mean much to you. Frankly, it shouldn’t. Danielle Sterling was a receptionist for American Home Mortgage until 2005, when she was promoted to a “Collateral Reviewer,” a position she held until 2007, when American Home Mortgage went out of business. I don’t want to call her a “nobody,” but Danielle Sterling was just one step up from a receptionist at a mortgage company that’s been out of business for five years … clearly she was a bit player in the mortgage industry. So why am I talking about her?
Well, I defend foreclosure cases. In that role, I look closely at every promissory note and every indorsement on those notes that come across my desk. I’ve encountered the name “Danielle Sterling” a fair number of times as an indorser on Notes. Frankly, I didn’t think much of it at the time – it was just a scribbled signature on a Note. However, when I came to learn she was just one step up from a receptionist, and she hasn’t been in the industry since 2007, it made me wonder … “why is Danielle Sterling signing so many indorsements on promissory notes, transferring millions of dollars?” If you ran a business, can you imagine giving low-level staff members the authority to transfer millions of dollars in commercial paper with a swipe of the pen? What in the name of Wells Fargo is going on here?
With the help of my friend Matt Weidner, it seems I have an answer. According to this Affidavit, Danielle Sterling did not endorse a promissory note entered by Daniel and Christine Hunk. Ms. Sterling is very unequivocal about this – she never endorsed the Note. Yet the Note has an endorsement bearing her signature.
Let’s say that again …
Danielle Sterling did not endorse the Note, but the Note has an endorsement with her signature.
I may not be a rocket scientist, but it doesn’t take Sherlock Holmes to figure out what happened here. A bank (apparently Citimortgage, since it was the plaintiff) wanted to foreclose on the Note and Mortgage entered by Daniel and Christine Hunk, but needed an endorsement from American Home Mortgage. But American Home Mortgage was out of business. So Citimortgage took the endorsement stamp that had been used by Danielle Sterling (from when she worked at American Home Mortgage), stamped it on the Note, and forged her signature.
What’s the result? If you look at the endorsement, everything looks normal. It looks like the endorsements we all see on tens of thousands of notes in foreclosure cases throughout Florida. But there’s the rub …
the endorsement looks normal, but it’s a forgery.
For anyone who thinks this is “no big deal” or merely “sloppy paperwork, bear this in mind. Foreclosure cases turn on endorsements like this. Having a Note, endorsed in blank (or specially indorsed to the plaintiff) is almost always what a foreclosure plaintiff asserts as its standing to foreclose. In other words, endorsements like this are what gives the bank the right to foreclose on a homeowner. With an endorsement, the bank is probably going to win (and foreclose). Without it, they’re probably going to lose. Hence, if these endorsements are forged, as this one clearly seems to be, then banks are, quite literally, stealing homes that don’t belong to them.
Everyone needs to take a moment and reflect on the magnitude of this situation. As you do, bear in mind – most judges I know accept an original Note with an endorsement as gospel. If homeowners and foreclosure defense attorneys have a legitimate reason to question the authenticity of the endorsements that appear on Notes in foreclosure cases – as we clearly do in light of this affidavit – then where does that leave us? In my view, courts cannot take an endorsement at face value. They just can’t. There’s a legitimate reason to question the veracity of every endorsement, not just by Danielle Sterling, but every endorsement. After all, if we’ve proven Danielle Sterline endorsements are forged, do you really think that’s the only one? I sure don’t.
And what about the legislature? How on earth can anyone – ANYONE – justify new legislation to “push through” foreclosure cases quicker in light of evidence like this? Ahhh, I forgot. Florida is full of deadbeat homeowners, and even though we’re experiencing the biggest fraud in the history of mankind, we all need to sweep it under the rug to improve the economy. Because throwing homeowners on the streets for the benefit of banks that committed widespread fraud will help. Right.
If this isn’t a wake-up call for all of America, then nothing is. Foreclosures are littered with fraud … billions of dollars in wealth are changing hands in fraudulent ways … does anyone care?
Can you imagine if I posted on this blog some sort of proof that I had endorsed a check payable to Bank of America over to myself, then cashed it? I’d be in jail tomorrow and news stories would run about how a foreclosure defense attorney was arrested for theft. But when a bank does it, nobody cares.
By the way, compare Danielle Sterling’s signature on the affidavit to the signature on the endorsement. The two signatures aren’t even close. Frankly, that’s offensive. I mean, if you’re going to forge something, at least forge it well. Here, the banks were so callous about their fraud they didn’t even try to make it a good forgery – they just scribbled something on an endorsement and use that forged endorsement as a basis for standing. And like I said in the beginning of this post, I have many cases with endorsements by Danielle Sterling.
But the issue here isn’t Danielle Sterling. The issue here is that it’s time for everyone to stop treating an original note with an endorsement as gospel. Clearly, endorsement fraud is pervasive in the foreclosure industry, and it’s about time we all put a stop to it.