Attorney general's ouster of 2 top investigators raises troubling questions

Article Courtesy of The Orlando Sentinel

By Scott Maxwell

Published July 22, 2011

  

A few months ago, two of Florida's assistant attorneys general were blowing the lid off foreclosure fraud in this state.

They were turning up evidence of bogus paperwork, exposing the law firms and lenders at fault and making them pay.
If the world of investigatory accounting had rock stars, Theresa Edwards and June Clarkson were Beyonce and Lady Gaga.

Right up until they were ousted, anyway.

At the height of their popularity, when Edwards and Clarkson were generating national headlines and making profiteers nervous Attorney General Pam Bondi's office asked them to leave.

So said Edwards, who recalled: "Our director called us in at 3:30 one Friday afternoon and said: 'You can either resign today, or you're going to be fired.'"

The news came on the heels of a performance review filled with praise.

"Obviously we did our job too well," Edwards said. "We were making too much noise."

Bondi's office won't say why the two were ousted or even confirm that they were. Instead, the office stresses that the two attorneys "resigned."

Spokeswoman Jennifer Meale said her office is as committed as ever to rooting out financial fraud. "The resignations of these two individuals will not impede these investigations," Meale said. "In fact, we are more aggressively pursuing these investigations."

Edwards found that claim interesting since neither she nor Clarkson were even allowed to brief anyone else in the office on the year's worth of work. "I couldn't even write a memo," she recalled.

This duo attracted acclaim for exposing "foreclosure mills," which are involved in ousting massive numbers of families from their homes, sometimes without following all the rules.

They discovered fraudulent signatures and bogus names. (Literally: "Bogus" was the first name in the blanks of some documents.)

Some documents contained dates that were off by a few years. One was off by 8,000.

In other instances, financial powerhouses claimed to have "lost" paperwork.

"Fraudulent Practices come in all shapes and sizes," the women concluded in their report. "Robo-signers. Fake witnesses. Fake notaries. Fake documents. False affidavits."

And keep in mind: All of this had to do with companies attempting to foreclose upon people's homes.

The duo's work attracted widespread attention from the Los Angeles Times to the Washington Post. "60 Minutes" was particularly intrigued with their disclosure that "Linda Green" had signed thousands of mortgage documents and supposedly served as a vice president of more than 20 banks.

The firms began feeling the pressure. One agreed to pay $2 million in a settlement.


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