• 2 investigates: Veterans fighting against foreclosure


    ATLANTA - Over the past few months, Channel 2 Action News has heard from dozens of veterans who are fighting to save their homes from foreclosure.

    A local attorney says the veterans are being targeted, and he calls it the most revolting thing he's ever seen. Channel 2's Craig Lucie has learned taxpayer money is involved.

    A handful of big banks are offering settlements to some veterans who were foreclosed on, but it's not much and it only applies to certain cases.

    Army veteran John and his wife, Lydia, said their hell started after they applied for a home loan modification.

    "I was not in foreclosure. I wasn't behind in my mortgage," Smith said. "They were the ones who insisted I apply for a loan modification."

    Smith said Chase Bank told him the modification would take 45 days, but instead it took two years. He said during the process, Chase told him not to pay on the mortgage.

    "And one day, all of a sudden, I started getting papers in the mail that it was $1,600 for three months, and then $20,000 for the next," Smith said.

    Chase wouldn't comment to Channel 2 Action News on Smith's case, and Citi Mortgage said they would not discuss specifics about customer accounts, including one involving Air Force veteran Richard Leder.

    "I was told to go delinquent by Citi Mortgage over the phone," Leder said. "They didn't put it in writing."

    Leder said he knew he'd have to pay eventually, so he set the money aside. Still, the bank foreclosed on his home five months later.

    "I had the money to bring my house current in cash, $100 bills," Leder said. "They wouldn't take it. They weren't interested."

    Atlanta attorney Robert Thompson hasn't represented the Smiths or Leder, but said he has seen hundreds of cases like theirs.

    "It's the most revolting thing I've ever seen," Thompson said.

    Thompson believes banks are targeting some veterans, like the Smiths, who have a mortgage loan from the U.S. Veterans Administration. Thompson said VA loans are insured, and because of that, banks often sell the loan to another mortgage company, but they still get to keep the insurance money.

    "So they sold the loan, so they're not owed any money. They will collect the money from reselling the house, and they'll collect the insurance from the face value on the house to start with. So that's doubling and tripling their money off the veterans and the government and the taxpayer," Thompson said.

    John Smith said since he first talked to Channel 2 Action News in January, Chase Bank has tried to settle with him.

    "They wanted to know what kind of compensation that we wanted for putting us through this stress and aggravation," Smith said.

    "There's not enough money to compensate me both emotionally and physically for what I went through," said Smith's wife, Lydia.

    The Smiths have hired an attorney, who traced the actions of the bank.

    "I just know they submitted a claim, and the VA paid it, and that's all we were told," said Latrice Latin. "The claim for the house would be the amount that they sold the mortgage for."

    Latin confirmed the bank could be collecting more than $100,000 off fees from the VA loan.

    The Smiths still are fighting to keep their house.

    "I wrote a blank check for up to and including my life for my country," Leder said. "And the banks and the government have screwed me out of everything."

    Citi Bank issued the following statement to WSB-TV via email:

    “We will decline to discuss specifics about customer accounts.  We work very hard with distressed borrowers to identify solutions to help them avoid foreclosure and remain in their homes.  Set guidelines must be followed, and it is very important that borrowers be responsive to us and provide required documents within specified deadlines.  If the information is not provided in time, viable options for the borrower may expire.  We strongly encourage borrowers to remain engaged and in contact with us from the receipt of the first letter or contact regarding the status of their account.  Timing is a critical component of our ability to provide assistance.”

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