On Friday July 15, 2016, Florida’s Second District Court of Appeals reversed a Final Judgment of Foreclosure that was entered against my client in the case, PennyMac v. Sanbria. The full opinion is here: Sanbria
The most important thing to know about this particular case is that throughout the trial, the most important fact we hammered on again and again was the fact that the alleged “original note” was in fact a fraud, a forgery. During trial, my client testified that the alleged blue ink signature of my client was not in fact her signature. Over and over, on and on, witnesses testified that the “original note” the bank was using at trial was a fraud, a forgery. In developments that are still most infuriating to me today, so many months later, the court completely ignored our testimony and our evidence of fraud and forgery….and allowed the bank to walk out of court with a judgment.
A judgement that was predicated on well developed facts and evidence asserting that the promissory note was forged. Just think about that for a moment and let that sink in. A court has good evidence to support the allegation that a fraud is being committed in the courtroom….and yet, the court rewards that fraud and enters a foreclosure judgment anyway.
The truly terrifying thing about this case is the outcome is not at all unique. We’ve got several cases involving documented fraud…fraud that is rewarded by courts….all in service of granting judgments to banks….like the case where the bank introduced a really bad photoshop of a document…*(we subsequently got that judgment vacated)
But the larger point is this….read through the court transcript and consider what kind of country we live in where these things are permissible.
Now, granted, the appellate court reversed…but the fact that it gets to the point where appellate judges are forced to confront this kind of blatant abuse…that really is the problem. How is it that we live in a state where judges…when faced with the kind of grotesque wrongdoing litigated in this case…feel compelled to reward the bank with a Final Judgment?
Just read through the transcript…and the motions…and ask those questions….
13 MR. WEIDNER: I would respectfully request
14 that the witness be provided what they allege is
15 an original document, and let’s elicit some
16 testimony from this witness about the alleged
17 original document and see whether she has any
18 ability to authenticate this forgery you’re
19 holding in your hand.
20 THE COURT: Okay. I have — I have what the
21 plaintiff has filed as the original promissory
22 note. Have you had an opportunity to look at it?
2 THE COURT: And it appears to have a
3 signature of Luz E. Sanabria. Are you claiming
4 that’s a forgery?
5 MR. WEIDNER: Absolutely, Your Honor.
6 THE COURT: Okay.
1 They’ve got a fake original note. I don’t use
2 those words lightly. I don’t come to a courtroom
3 and talk about fake and forgery and fraud, but
4 we’re on record and I’m very clear about that.
5 Now, to make the point clear, now I’m
6 holding in my hand the original note that the
7 witness just attempted to testify was an original
8 and authenticate, and she said it was the
9 signature, and all that.
10 I just want you to begin by looking at the
11 first page there of the copy, and I want you to
12 focus down at the very bottom. You’ll note that
13 the document that’s attached to the complaint,
14 down at the bottom it has 1 of 6 pages, and yet
15 the alleged original note that you have in you
16 hands is 1 of 5 pages. The irregularities don’t
17 stop there. You’ll note that the initial there
18 is quite different.
6 Q. When did you come to the Manatee County
7 Courthouse and physically examine the document that’s
8 before you?
9 A. Oh, about, I believe, two weeks ago.
10 Q. Okay.
11 A. I don’t recall, but it was around two weeks
12 ago, something like that.
13 Q. And you are now looking at what the
14 plaintiff alleges is an original note with your
15 signature on it. Is that your — well, beginning
16 with page 1, is that your initial?
17 A. No, it’s not.
18 Q. And I’m flipping through pages 2 through 5.
19 It looks like 2 through 4 have an initial down at the
20 bottom. None of those are your initials?
21 A. No.
22 Q. Turning lastly to the signature page which
23 is page 6 of 6, I want you to look very carefully at
24 that. Is that your signature?
25 A. That is not my signature.
6 Q. Okay. So is it your testimony that the
7 alleged original note that’s attached to the
8 complaint does not, in fact, bear your signature but
9 is a fabrication?
10 A. Correct.
11 Q. Just so we’re clear, looking at that last
12 page right there, that’s the signature page on the
13 note. Is that your signature?
14 A. Correct, that’s not my signature.
15 Q. Do you have any explanation as to why
16 there’s one document which you signed at closing
17 which you testify is your signature and the alleged
18 original that’s quite clearly different does not bear
19 your signature?
20 A. No, I was not understanding.
4 Q. Why do you think someone would forge your
6 A. Oh, I don’t know.
7 Q. So you have no reason to believe that
8 someone would do that? Other than seeing it today,
9 you have no reason to believe that someone would do
11 A. Well, that’s not my signature. That’s what
12 I’m saying is two notes, because one, it doesn’t
13 belong to me. The other one is the one that I did at
14 the closing.
8 Q. Is there any question in your mind but that
9 the signature on the alleged original is not, in
10 fact, an actual signature of Ms. Sanabria?
11 A. It’s my opinion that they were written by
12 two different people.
And Despite All of That Here’s What The Court Said:
16 THE COURT: Based on the evidence presented,
17 the Court finds that Plaintiff’s Exhibit 2 is the
18 original note and the signature is authentic and,
19 further, the defendant failed to raise the
20 authenticity of the signature as required in
21 Riggs/Aurora Loan Services, 36 So.3d 932, so the
22 judgment is for the plaintiff, standard sale
24 Do you have a judgment?
25 MS. JONES: I do, Your Honor.
So now we get to the appeal and the written opinion:
The homeowners’ case-in-chief focused squarely on their claim that Pennymac Trust’s note was not the one Ms. Sanabria signed. The homeowners called as a witness Michael Infanti, Esq., an attorney with the law firm that had performed their original mortgage closing when they purchased the home. The copy of the note produced by Mr. Infanti contained five pages, with Ms. Sanabria’s signature appearing on the fifth page. In contrast, the copy of the note produced by Pennymac Trust contained six pages, and Ms. Sanabria’s signature appeared on the sixth page. Ms. Sanabria then testified that the signature and initials appearing on Pennymac Trust’s copy of the note were not hers and that its note contained different language than what was in Mr. Infanti’s copy of the note. However, the homeowners proffered the substance of Ms. Berrie-Perrino’s testimony, which would have been that Ms. Sanabria’s signature on Pennymac Trust’s copy of the note and the signature of Ms. Sanabria on Mr. Infanti’s copy of the note from the closing were not executed by the same person.
Read the full trial transcript here: