Fighting on Two Home Fronts: Unlawful Foreclosures Against Military Families. Is this the American Way?

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One of the greatest assets that this country has is the multitude of brave men and women who fight to defend its freedoms at home and abroad.  To help protect these soldiers who put their lives on the line, laws such as the The Servicemember's Civil Relief Act (SCRA) expanded and improved the former Soldiers' and Sailors' Civil Relief Act (SSCRA) provide a wide range of protections for men or woman called to active duty in the military.

It is intended to postpone or suspend certain civil obligations to enable servicemen and woman to devote their full attention to duty, and relieve stress on the family members of those deployed.  Among other things, the SCRA grants active-duty troops and their family some protection from foreclosure and caps their mortgage interest rates at 6 percent. Unfortunately, as an earlier lawsuit against Chase Bank points out, this doesn't always stop unlawful mortgage servicing practices or illegal foreclosures from happening.

A federal class-action lawsuit against CitiMortgage, a brand of the CitiGroup family of banks and lending institutions, alleges that the lender has violated the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act by pursuing foreclosure on the homes of deployed active duty members of the military. To make matters worse, it's not just a few servicemen and women who have faced illegal foreclosure while deployed; the lawsuit alleges that thousands of soldiers have been issued similar notices of foreclosure while on active duty since 2003.

Sgt. Jorge Rodriguez is the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit.  He filed suit after CitiMortgage issued an affidavit stating that he was not on active duty and that they were going to initiate a foreclosure on his home in Del Valle, Texas.  Sgt. Rodriguez had been called to active duty for training at Fort Hood prior to deployment as support personnel for Operation Iraqi Freedom and was unable to respond to the notice due to a communications lock down during his training and deployment.  CitiMortgage completed the foreclosure and sold his home before his deployment ended, leaving him without a home to return to after completing his training and regaining contact with the outside world. If you aren't sufficiently outraged, read on.

It's worth noting in Sgt. Rodriguez' case that the foreclosure wasn't ordered by any court as is required for a lender to proceed with a foreclosure against active-duty military.  The only court action involved from the beginning of the foreclosure lies with CitiMortgage when they filed its Affidavit falsely claiming that Sgt. Rodriguez wasn't on active duty.  And, another side note; the home they took from Sgt. Rodriguez eventually sold for $13,000 more than the amount that he owed on his mortgage, and of course,  they made no attempt to hand-over the excess to difference to the American soldier they had illegally and what appears without remorse, taken the home from.

The fact that this happened to Sgt. Rodriguez is deplorable.  The fact that it has happened to thousands of deployed and active duty servicemembers, who offer up their lives in defense of their country -is just inexcusable--and should outrage all Americans.  Perhaps the worst part of this story is the fact that the lawsuit had to be filed at all.  If CitiMortgage's actions were truly some sort of "mistake" --then it would be logical for one to assume that they would do everything in its power to make it right.  Instead, this lawsuit will likely drag on for years resulting in already battle fatigued military families being forced to fight for justice and accountability on their very own home-front.  Is this the American way?  

It's been an uphill battle for borrowers to find just a smidgen of assistance or corporate accountability from an unregulated mortgage servicing industry.  Shame on them for continuing to target the families who are least able to fight back -because they are too busy fighting to keep their country safe.  Instead of continuing to operate as bullies who appear to play by their own rules, if they put even half as much energy into figuring out what's best for the homeowner (and our country) as they do into thinking up ways to defend their "mistakes"  we just might find our way out of the courtrooms and out of this recession - a little bit quicker. 

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