Originally published: April 21, 2010 8:09 AM
By ELLEN YAN AND CARRIE MASON-DRAFFEN
By ELLEN YAN AND CARRIE MASON-DRAFFEN
A state judge accused a mortgage company of premeditated attempts to destroy an East Northport couple's chances of keeping their home.
Photo credit: Kevin P. Coughlin | Jane and Anthony Corcione appear outside their East Northport home. A state judge has ordered their lender to pay the borrowers $100,000 in damages and scrapped as much as $119,330 in questionable late charges. (April 20, 2010)
A state judge accused Emigrant Mortgage Co. of premeditated attempts to destroy an East Northport couple's chances of keeping their home, ordering the lender to pay the borrowers $100,000 in damages and scrapping as much as $119,330 in questionable late charges.
Borrower Jane Corcione could scarcely believe what she heard when a reporter broke the news by phone late Tuesday afternoon on the decision from State Supreme Court Justice Jeffrey Arlen Spinner.
"Shut up. Shut up," she said jokingly. She said she and her husband, Anthony, were ecstatic. "We have been fighting for this for almost two years."
After a job loss, the Corciones defaulted May 1, 2008, on a $302,500 loan they got the preceding year. The mortgage had an 11.625 percent interest rate that would reset at least 6.375 percentage points higher every August from 2012 to its maturity in 2037, said Spinner's decision on Friday on Emigrant's request to move ahead on foreclosure.
But Emigrant waited 14 months before starting a foreclosure case, apparently to rack up penalty fees, the judge concluded. Then, two months ago, on Feb. 23, the lender offered a loan modification plan and 10 days to accept or reject a proposal whose "deplorable particulars" insulated Emigrant from any liability by violating Corciones' state and federal rights, Spinner wrote.
"This court is driven to the inescapable conclusion that plaintiff has, by way of calculation and premeditation . . . created a scenario whereby it is a virtual certainty that defendants will ultimately be irreparably damaged," he wrote. "In short, the conduct of plaintiff in this matter has been overreaching, shocking, willful and unconscionable."
A spokesman for the New York-based lender said the decision was based on inaccuracies and that the lender has made many modifications: "Emigrant believes that the court's decision in this matter is based upon an incomplete understanding of the underlying facts and certain factual inaccuracies, which Emigrant intends to address with the court as part of a motion to renew and reargue and, if necessary, through an appeal of the court's decision."
Spinner is the same judge who gave Greg Horoski and wife,Diana Yano-Horoski, of East Patchogue a Thanksgiving surprise last year by voiding their $292,500 mortgage. He had accused IndyMac Mortgage Services of failing to negotiate a loan modification in good faith. The lender's appeal is pending.
This time, the judge set the Corciones' debt at $301,721.58, the remaining principal, and "forever barred" Emigrant from "demanding, collecting or attempting to collect" any interest, default interest, legal fees, advances and other charges that may have accrued from May 1, 2008 to the date of his ruling.
That's because Spinner did not believe the lender on several fronts, especially its list of charges. That included the lender's claim of advancing $10,000 to pay the couple's property taxes, despite contradictory records from Huntington Town and evidence from Emigrant's own assistant treasurer cited in the decision.
Under Emigrant's modification proposal, the Corciones would pay about $84,000 of the $119,000-plus arrears at 6 percent interest and have $30,000 forgiven after a year, the decision said.
But what the judge ripped into were the parts that called for the Corciones to "unconditionally" agree not to raise any challenges to Emigrant's foreclosure actions, including filing for bankruptcy, if the couple defaults again. The agreement also seems to release Emigrant from federal truth in lending laws, the judge said.
"This court has never been presented with such a waiver, especially when accompanied by absurd representations [drafted by the lender] that amount to what could best be described as an express warranty that defendants presently are and will forever be insolvent," the ruling read.
In the past year, almost 62,000 borrowers in the New York metro area, which includes Long Island, have gotten trial or loan modifications under the federal homeowner rescue program.
Corciones' attorney, Sean C. Serpe of Manhattan, said any modification of their existing loan has yet to be agreed upon. But for more than a year, Serpe said, his clients had asked for a lower, fixed rate, and when Emigrant did propose a modification, it came with a threat: "If we didn't respond, we lost any chance of a modification."