Our dream home

Our dream home
This is what the house looks like from the street, it is only when you get closer that you see how incomplete it is.

I have been told by many people I should write a book about my experience with SunTrust, but for now I will share my story through this blog.


My apologies to all my friends and family, and especially to all the brave deployed heroes that I used to support, for dropping off the face of the earth for the past year. This nightmare has consumed my life and has become a battle to protect my childen's future. I guess the easiest way to do this is to tell my story...


SunTrust Mortgage: Fraud, Lies and Deception…

...And How SunTrust Harmed Our Family


We lived the American dream. We decided to become entrepreneurs and with a lot of hard work and sacrifice, became extremely successful. Our business was acquired after five years in operation by a public company. As a reward to ourselves, we decided to build our dream home.


We signed a construction to permanent loan with SunTrust in May of 2005. SunTrust had our lot and plans appraised, subject to completion, for $2.5 million. We only borrowed $1.6 million. We owned the lot free and clear. We had zero debt, perfect credit scores, and $900,000 in equity. The construction loan was supposed to be for 12 months. The bank had us sign a builder direct disbursement agreement which allowed them to pay the builder directly, thus taking us out of the loan disbursement loop.


It is now almost 5 years later, the house is sitting vacant only 60 – 65% complete, there are over $60,000 in mechanics liens, and all but a few thousand dollars of the construction loan has been given to the builder, Premier Construction, by SunTrust’s loan administrator. When the builder realized there was no more money left in the construction loan, he walked off the project. We have since found out that the bank gave our money freely to this crooked builder and never made him accountable for it.


Our contract with SunTrust stated it would only disperse funds to the builder for completed work. The bank would charge us a fee to send an inspector to verify the completed work. Our original contract allowed for 10 draws to be paid to the builder. The bank funded 26 draws to this builder, often funding draws without an inspection. In addition, we have since found out that the inspector was never given our plans and specs, thus he had no idea of what to inspect, nor was it possible for him to determine if anything was “complete”. There are many items that the inspector reported a 100% completion percentage on, but unfortunately do not match the approved plans and specs. In spite of the inflated completion percentages in the inspection reports, the loan administrator chose to fund even a higher percentage of our construction loan than was warranted. At times the construction loan funds disbursed were nearly 20% higher than the percentage the inspection reports claimed was complete. This “gap” between percentage of work complete and construction loan funds dispersed was present during the entire construction period and the percentage of funds dispersed was always higher than percentage of work complete.


Florida lien laws state that when a lender receives a Notice to Owner from a subcontractor or vendor and the lender pays the contractor directly, the lender is responsible for getting lien releases. We asked our loan administrator many times about this and asked if we could see the lien releases. She told us that she could not fund draws without lien releases, that she was keeping track of them, and for us not to worry about them. We now know she never did this. Most of the time she got partial lien waivers stating the subs got partial payment, but she would pay the builder the full completion amount. This enabled our builder to use our money for other projects, including his own home. If the inspector verified that the work was complete, then the loan administrator should have demanded full lien releases before funding a draw. Instead, she would accept partial lien releases and continue to fund draws for other items and the damage just snowballed.


By not following standard lender procedures concerning the handling of liens, SunTrust set our construction project up for failure from the very beginning. For example: Our contracted allowance for foundation work with the builder was for $120,000. SunTrust funded the builder $140,000 and did not get a full lien release for another 14 months after they paid him. We verified the subcontractor was not paid for over a year after he finished the foundation. SunTrust’s negligence allowed the builder to walk around with our money in his pocket, comingle our funds with his other projects, and ultimately rob us and his other clients blind. During the 14 month period the builder had our $140k and had not been forced to provide a full lien release, SunTrust funded another 7 draws totaling almost $400,000 on our project. With this kind of negligence from the very beginning, the builder was almost encouraged to steal from us. Sadly, even after SunTrust overfunded the foundation by $20k, the foundation is still incomplete to this day! We are missing walls that are clearly evident on our plans that SunTrust has in its possession. See how important it is for the inspector to have plans and specs?


We have shown the bank clear evidence of negligent disbursements including:

  • Multiple instances of funding for deposits—our contract with SunTrust clearly states there will be no funding for deposits, only completed work.

  • Funding a draw based on a letter from the builder that stated our contract price had increased. The letter, on our builder’s letterhead addressed only to the loan administrator, did not have our signature on it and was completely false. This can only be described as blatant fraud, and was described as such by our attorneys in a mediation complaint to SunTrust
  • Funding based on invoices for someone else’s home
  • Funding draws where the builder had let the builder’s risk insurance policy lapse for over a year.
  • Funding draws when the builder had let the building permits expire
  • Funding draws WAY over the completion percentages
  • Funding draws for WAY over our contracted amount with the builder
  • Funding 16 more draws than our contract allowed for
  • Funding draws without getting proper lien releases
  • Funding draws without getting an inspection
  • ETC., ETC., ETC…

We kept asking SunTrust’s loan administrator for help when she would send us a letter informing us, after the fact, that she had given our builder large sums of money. We would tell her that we had signed zero change orders and our builder kept asking for more and more money. In fact our bank contract specifically states that we had to get bank permission if we wanted to make any changes to our original contract. We made NO changes! We went in personally to the branch and discussed our problems with the administration of our loan proceeds with a supervisor and were assured that we would get a new loan administrator. This did not happen. This loan administrator was eventually “let go” and the branch was closed. We started dealing with the main office of SunTrust and a new loan administrator. She sent us our entire loan file, giving us access to the paperwork that we had never seen before. In this paperwork we found out how badly our loan was mishandled and how we ended up in such a terrible predicament. Our money is gone and our home is sitting fallow. Our new loan administrator stated that she would have been fired had she handled our loan in a similar fashion.

We have had sympathetic SunTrust employees tell us that they would get a lawyer to go after SunTrust.

We contacted SunTrust corporate with our evidence almost a year ago. They have done nothing to help us and even requested we get an estimate of how much it would take to finish the home. We had to pay $1,000 to a SunTrust approved builder to furnish the estimate and it was $853,000. Almost a year later that figure will have to be adjusted higher because of the damage that is occurring to the home while it sits vacant. We continued to make our construction loan payments on time, as we always did, up until SunTrust told us to “get a lawyer”. That was the last payment of our construction loan and they have now sent us a bill for the entire amount of the loan due in full. We cannot get a permanent loan because the house is barely over 60% complete.

This whole ordeal has caused us grievous harm. We have gone into serious debt during this whole sordid mess. We have had to incur the extra expense of renting a home for an extra four years while continuing to make our construction loan payments. We have paid about $200,000 in interest on the construction loan without having the benefit of having a home to live in, and we paid interest on items and work we do not have. The builder extorted money from us by threatening us with liens if we did not pay him for “cost overruns”. We demanded invoices from the builder to prove his claims but they were not forthcoming. We could not fire the builder knowing he was already paid large sums of money for incomplete work. We have incurred over $30,000 dollars in attorney’s fees. Our attorneys appeared to be confident that after sending SunTrust a mediation demand outlining our complaint, SunTrust would have to make things right. At one point, SunTrust offered to mediate, but then withdrew their offer. Numerous attorneys have advised us that we have an excellent case against SunTrust, but to litigate would require in excess of $100,000 and would likely take two years at minimum. We are no longer using these attorney's and are currently representing ourselves. Since SunTrust has deeper pockets than my family does, especially since our tax dollars bailed them out, we can only conclude that SunTrust wants to test our resolve, resources and patience and hope we come up short.

SunTrust knows that the longer they drag this out, the more financially devastated we become. We have tried to be reasonable and work with them privately without making this a public matter. We know of at least two other families conned by SunTrust and Premier Construction with almost identical circumstances, all with the same SunTrust loan administrator. In fact, one of the other families provided us with a copy of a letter their attorney sent to SunTrust stating their displeasure with the same loan administrator as us and that Premier Construction had misappropriated their construction funds. They went on to say they no longer wanted SunTrust to fund draws to Premier. This letter was received by SunTrust a year before we found out our funds had been misappropriated as well. So even after being warned that this loan administrator and this builder were not conducting themselves properly, SunTrust continued to fund our project to our detriment. The builder had his operating account with SunTrust so I assume this would have been an easy matter to investigate if they were so inclined.

Another interesting fact to our case is that SunTrust loaned the owner of Premier Construction over $600,000 for a construction loan to build his own personal house and it still shows in the public records as being unsatisfied. The interesting part is that the loan was made in May of 2007 and not one bit of construction has occurred on that lot. The builder owned two lots and proceeded to build himself an 8,000 square foot home on the other lot and got mortgages from other mortgage lenders using cosigners to qualify. It appears in the public record that the builder would probably not qualify on his own given his poor credit history.

If the above mentioned paragraph is not suspicious enough, it gets even better. Our project manager and Premier’s operating manager was a man named Greg Campion. We had no idea as we dealt with Campion that he was a disgraced DEA agent caught stealing confiscated drug money up in Atlanta and was indicted on 17 counts of embezzlement. As he was awaiting sentencing, he worked closely with our SunTrust loan administrator. They both stated they were “dear personal friends” on many occasions. We learned that Campion often met with our loan administrator. Campion was the notary on almost all of our Builder’s Lien Releases documents required each time SunTrust funded a draw. Campion continued functioning as a notary even after pleading guilty to felonies and awaiting incarceration. As best we can determine, Florida does not allow convicted felons to be notaries. Here’s where it gets really interesting: When Campion moved into his home that he purchased with the stolen drug money, the Department of Justice filed a lien for forfeiture on that same property. It was in the public records showing his indictment and the lien for almost a month before SunTrust gave Campion a mortgage on that same home. We will let you decide, but many public officials and attorneys have stated to us that there appears to be collusion between SunTrust’s loan administrator and the builder.

I wrote a letter to SunTrust construction loan vp’s and senior construction loan administrators across the country. These SunTrust employees were soliciting construction loan business on the web. In the letter I outlined just some of the facts of our case. I did not identify the lender that had perpetrated these offenses in order to get truthful answers. The responses I got were unanimous in their overwhelming belief that our lender had harmed us. I even had one loan officer ask me “Who was your lender, scams r us?”

SunTrust has made many changes to their construction-permanent loan program in the last couple of years. These changes are commendable if they were made to prevent the kind of problems that we have endured. I know that when we started this in 2005 SunTrust and their competitors were working very hard to increase their footprint in the Florida market. Perhaps they grew too quickly and did not have the proper resources in place. If that is the case, then SunTrust should continue to make changes, but SunTrust should fix the problems that were already created! They are ruining people’s lives, and in my case, putting my young children’s future financial stability at risk. This I cannot tolerate! SunTrust’s highly paid attorney suggested that we give the house back without receiving any reimbursement for all the money we have already invested in it. When SunTrust stands to gain all of our equity I might call that EQUITY STRIPPING and is the most egregious form of predatory lending I have ever heard of.

Now, in retrospect, I can only draw conclusions as to why this happened to us:

  • The bank was not aware of this errant employee that blatantly disregarded bank protocol. Now that they have become aware of it, they do not want to own up to it because of vicarious liability.

  • This practice was more widespread than just my family and the couple of others that I already know about and the implications of a public scandal would not bode well for investor confidence in this volatile market.

  • The bank knew that in lending to a “golden” customer with impeccable credit, that when the borrower found out that the money was all gone they would just modify their loan for a much higher amount (talk about a low credit risk, the borrower has already been qualified and has a perfect payment history. This borrower would have a huge financial and emotional investment in the property and would willingly increase their loan amount to finish the home incurring additional closing costs as well as hundreds of thousands of dollars in additional interest to the bank). We know of a couple of people that did just that. In fact we had to modify the loan once already for an additional $150,000. If the customer is not willing or able to modify the loan, the bank could take the house back with a tremendous amount of equity. I believe this is called “asset based lending” or “equity stripping”, just on a VERY large scale

My dream home has become an absolute nightmare because of this bank. This is a story that the media has not reported on as of yet. It is a very different side of the housing and economic crisis and one that many might find interesting.


Monday, March 1, 2010

Response to "communication" comment from SunTrust

Mr. Brooks Responds to SunTrust



SunTrust’s idea of communicating is for David Rapson, SVP to tell us to “do what you have to do, and here is the contact info for our attorneys” when we pointed out blatant fraud committed by their loan administrator backed up by documents. Rapson then tried to lecture me about “responsibility”. I guess entering into a loan with almost a million in equity and making every payment on time for 4 years, even though I didn’t get the house I was promised makes ME irresponsible? This arrogant, condescending little man thought it was his job to communicate to me that it was somehow my fault that our house was not complete. Great customer service begins at the top. No wonder my family and others find ourselves in such dire circumstances when people like Rapson set the tone for the company.



SunTrust’s idea of “privacy” is for their loan administrator to share our private financial information with our builder. This is proof that SunTrust did not have their real customer’s best interests in mind, the borrower. Rather, as stated by former SunTrust employees from the office SunTrust closed down in Maitland, FL, SunTrust management told the loan administrators to give the builders whatever they wanted in the form of construction draws, or lose their jobs. Just in case someone reading this might think it sounds like sour grapes from the Brooks family, we know of other families that used the same builder, the same bank, and the same loan administrator where the money disappeared and the house was not complete. If SunTrust had done this only to us, we could chalk it up as incompetency, lack of oversight of its loan administrators, or poor internal controls. But when you start seeing other SunTrust borrowers experiencing the exact same circumstances, it begins to look like a malicious intent to harm the borrowers. Isn’t it funny that all of the SunTrust managers of our loan administrator no longer work for SunTrust? I wonder how much the SunTrust managers got paid in bonuses when the builders brought them awesomely qualified buyers like us to build multi-million dollar homes? Hmmm…

14 comments:

  1. Who insures #SunTrust? Wonder what their insurance company would say? Wonder if this TARP recipient also in Cahoots with AIG the bailout kings?

    Wonder how #SunTrust sleeps at night.

    I just wish they would look into Community Development Grants. Your unfinished home would provide jobs, and a beautiful addition to the neighborhood. It could be accompanied with a sign telling community it was completed by SunTrust.

    I just pray they would do right by you Cat, and would always rather see success that hear rumors about bad institutions gone worse (SunTrust)

    So #SunTrust if you are reading this, please remember it is one good deed (right thing) to correct an error, but a bad deed will give you more than 120 negative views. Think about it. You have more to gain by doing right by Cat and her family than you stand to loose when you are considered nothing more than an unscrupulous Banker that got his TARP bailout and kept it for himself.

    Twitter: Patriot101

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  2. Cat,
    How terribly unfortunate for you and your family. I have a grasp on what has transpired because I was a builder until the collapse of the housing market in the early 90's. I have very little to offer in the way of advice based on how far along everything is on the project.

    When I built, our structure was as tight as a drum. The lending institution was never a part of direct payout to the subs, and nothing was ever paid out without my seal of approval, and everything was handled through a title company. So either things have changed, or the structure was far too loose. I know, not what you wanted to hear.

    If SunTrust and/or the builder wish to continue to remain on good terms with the community, I would go after them in the most conspicuous ways via public embarrassment like picketing, newspaper articles and ads, local talk radio, etc. I find it puzzling that a local attorney would not take something like this on pro bono.

    Unfortunately, I think the only way I can offer any help is by retweeting, but if you think of something let me know.
    Ron

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  3. Hi Cat,

    Compelling story and I would like to offer what little help that I may.

    If you would like to get your story read by far more people here is my advice as a profession blogger and marketer and you are marketing your story. You need people to ready it.

    Get rid of the centered text. Left justify it. It is terribly hard to read.

    You should also get rid of the dark background. Got with dark text on a light background and people will hang around long enough to read it.

    Because of this, I almost didn't.

    Do this and you could get at least double the amount of people reading the whole story. What I told you has been well proved thousands and thousands of times. You are shooting yourself in the foot here an there is no need to do so.

    About your story, unfortunately, incompetency is the norm these days.

    You mean the banking regulators did not step in to help. I thought the government was there to help us all.

    But, we know this is not true. Hopefully you will get enough publicity to get something done.

    I wish you luck.

    Andrew

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  4. Sorry for the typo's but you get the gist. :)

    ReplyDelete
  5. Sorry for the typos, but you get the gist.

    Best of luck.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Cat -

    Thanks for sharing your story w/ me and certainly I'll tweet it and do whatever I can to get it out. One thing you and your husband must realize, you need an attorney. You cannot represent yourself. I spent years helping to defend white collar crminals and know, you need help.

    1st - contact others who have been harmed and try to put together a group that migh orm a class action. (see 2nd)

    2nd - look for an atty that will help charging a contingengy fee - if he wins, he gets a % of damages you receive. If he loses he gets nothing except expenses (which must be agreed upon & approved by you in advance.)

    3rd - ask if anyone will take the case pro bono

    4th - look into creating a fund to help pay for an atty

    5th - Advertise! Advertise! Advertise! & ask for an atty to help (I'll tweet that you need an atty).

    6th - bite the bullet & find some way to pay an atty if there's no other choice. You need an atty.

    You've been defrauded but you can't hope to win unless you have a competent atty to represent you. That must come first. Because you do not know the law, you will end up harming yourselves even more. Get an atty!

    I'll also keep you in my prayers.

    Drusilla

    http://heirsinhope.blogspot.com/

    Twitter: heirsinhope

    ReplyDelete
  7. Okay, why haven't you sued SunTrust AND the builder?

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  8. Be careful of your attorney. I fought a white collar criminal in a town full of landlords/developers and lawyers who knew where the money was coming from. "My" lawyer took my case on contingency and threw it. I was idealistic, naive, and ultimately homeless, with a child and we'd been recently widowed/orphaned. It was hard.
    Incidentally, Atlanta is seemingly filled with bank failures, mortgage fraud, prostitution, trafficking, and criminals such as the one you mentioned (ex-dea/crooked builder) and mine slumlord extraordinaire in AL, TN, and GA (Atlanta, with his own thug notary.)
    Suntrust bank is the official bank of Walmart, around there. I think Walmart credit card bills come from GE money bank (with offices, rather, PO Boxes) in TX and FL. GE Money bank also does "Care Credit" for medical.
    GE Money Bank is the crookedest credit company going. They do everything possible to screw you up, including sending bills late to make you late. See "Rip-off Reports" for horror stories, and 'Pissed off Consumer.'
    Walmart still uses virtual slave labor, according to one of their managers, but now they subcontract it. I know of a person who picks up illegal immigrants in Texas and drives them into TN, and she gets paid 'well.'I don't know her name so nobody ask, please.
    I don't know if the entire South has gone 'Dixie Mafia,' or if businesses just do not care and nobody is forcing anyone to follow the rules of law. I've experienced a lack of enforcement and it was to my detriment. Everywhere I turned, every agency supposedly there to help us, citizens and taxpayers, they all passed the buck even though I was 100 percent right with all the proof I needed.
    This is taxation without representation.
    If you are in Florida, from what I have read, it's the worst there. People have no rights at all. Everything is in favor of the corporations, and banks.
    What I was getting at is that maybe Suntrust is corrupt, like IBS was. You should dig into them and then try to get your money back in a class action. If there are three of you there must be more.
    You can get a book on Private investigating and you can also get a Public Records guide filled with the url's for everything, every state. find the other victims and stand together, and don't forget: Check out your lawyer first!! That was the biggest mistake I made, trusting my own lawyer. Silly me.
    Good luck.

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  9. First of all I am sorry to read this is happening to you guys - my prayers are with you - second - this blog makes a lot of sense to me. Before I reached the part about the builder and your bank adminstrator I had decided there is a collusion factor here - between your builder and the bank adminstrator - I am sure you have found a connection between the two - I am also sure you have filed a criminal complaint against the banker personally as she totally ripped you off - knowing, willing, wanton blatant disregard while under the spell of the builder - she may have been a victim herself - it would be interesting to see where she is today - are they a couple - I am also sure you have notified the people pressiong charges in georgia they may have something to add to this which further builds your case. I know this is going to work in your favor the trick is to ride out the resources of the banks - you can do this and cat you will do this and win.
    db

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  10. This is horrific, this is what I want you to do.
    Email your Congress and Senators give them this information and list what you want them to do.
    I want a congressional investigation into Sun Trust and your situation.
    The fact you emailed them gives you a paper trail.
    After 4 weeks, go to the press with your story and your Congressional responses.

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  11. I am so sorry to hear about this injustice!!!!! There are so many of us right now just trying to make ends meet and can't. This is your American Dream and Suntrust is the evil that takes the dream away!!!! I will warn anyone I come in contact with, not to deal with Suntrust and tweet this also. I am praying for you and your family and know that this will be resolved for you soooooooooon!!!!!! Hang in there!!!! Americans Unite!!!!!!

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  12. I'm also sad for you. Indeed, there are reputable companies nowadays that have very poor customer service and like you, I also had an insurance company before with very poor customer service also. So I transferred to this better insurance firm and the staff and the call center
    people gave me excellent customer service that I've been dreaming of and that I truly deserve.

    I truly hope that your problem will be solve. Best luck to you.

    ReplyDelete
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