Article Courtesy of The Tampa Bay
By Susan Taylor Martin
Published April 24, 2018
Tampa Bay foreclosure defense lawyer Mark Stopa has
violated numerous rules of professional conduct and caused two clients
to nearly lose their homes because he failed to tell them about
settlement offers from their banks.
Those were among
the preliminary findings of fact released late Thursday
by Pinellas County Circuit Judge Linda Allan. She found
that the Florida Bar had proved five of the six
misconduct counts against Stopa during a week-long
hearing in March.
In an unusual move, Stopa, 41, has posted a message on
his Facebook page asking that clients happy with his
services attend a hearing Monday that will help
determine what punishment he should face. Penalties
range from a reprimand to permanent disbarment.
Stopa said today that he expects the courtroom to be
full of supporters, including several judges and
" I think that the banks want to be able to take me out
because Iíve lost them millions of dollars," said Stopa,
who has represented thousands of homeowners. Saying
there is a common belief that delinquent borrowers have
no rights, he added: "I am proud to have worked
tirelessly to help such people throughout the most
difficult times in their lives when so few others are
willing to do so."
But Allan, serving as referee in the Barís case against
Stopa, found that he acted against the interests of at
least two of his clients
In a case involving homeowner Rosalie Coyne of St.
Petersburg, the judge said Stopa violated several Bar
rules including one that prohibits conduct involving
"dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation."
Foreclosure attorney Mark Stopa, left, sits with
defense attorney Donald Smith while attending a hearing in March
before Pinellas Judge Linda Allan at the Pinellas County
Courthouse. Allan has found that Stopa violated numerous rules
of professional conduct and caused two clients to nearly lose
their homes because he failed to tell them about settlement
offers from their banks.
According to the Bar, Coyne paid Stopa a total of $2,675 although he
never met with her, spoke with her or attempted to negotiate a
modification. Coyne told his firm she wanted to keep her house but
unbeknownst to her, Stopa and an associate worked out a settlement with
Wells Fargo that included a cash-for-keys payment of $1,500.
The associate told the bank that the payment should go to Stopaís firm,
not to Coyne. Stopa falsely claimed that Coyne couldnít sign the
settlement paperwork but had agreed to the terms, the Bar said.
On Feb. 13, 2015, the case went to trial: Coyne learned of the trial
only because an acquaintance had spotted it on the court docket and
called her. Stopa was not present when Wells Fargoís attorney told the
judge ó with Coyne listening ó that the parties had reached an
Only then did "Ms. Coyne discover that (Stopa) had settled her case
without her authorization and that she had 60 days to vacate her home,"
the complaint says.
Coyne fired Stopa, rejected the agreement and negotiated a modification
on her own.
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According to the Bar, Maria Said of Orange County also nearly lost her
house because Stopa didnít tell her that Bank of America had approved
her for a trial loan modification plan. Instead, Stopa pressured her
into accepting cash for keys and falsely told her the bank had offered
$11,000. In fact, the offer was for $15,000 ó Stopa wanted to keep
$4,000 for his fees, according to the complaint.
Only after the house was set for a foreclosure auction did Said learn
about the modification plan. The sale was canceled, Stopa withdrew from
her case and she negotiated a modification on her own.
Stopa also was found to have violated Bar rules in his conduct before
three judges, two of whom testified last month that he was so "rude" and
"belligerent" that they threw him out of their courtrooms.
In another instance, Stopa said he did not know where a client was even
though he knew she was in the Hillsborough County Courthouse and that
Circuit Judge Gregory P. Holder had ordered her to appear before him.
Stopa "engaged in conduct contrary to honesty and justice by knowingly
misstating his clientís whereabouts and disobeying a tribunalís orders
and directives," Allan found.