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Wells Fargo Has Blood on Its Hands: Desperate Man Commits Suicide After Shocking Foreclosure Mistreatment

This is the story of what happens when an average couple is up against a giant, wealthy, powerful bank.
 
 
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Norman and Oriane Rousseau were one more couple pushed by a huge, greedy bank to the brink of homelessness. On Sunday, desperate and with nowhere to go, Norman Rousseau shot himself. 

This is the story of what happens when an average couple is up against a giant, wealthy, powerful bank. Unfortunately the result is what the result always is when people are on their own against the wealthy and powerful: the bank ends up with all of their money, takes their house to sell and throws them out onto the street. In this case the bank is Wells Fargo.

The quick version of this terrible story is that Norman and Oriane Rousseau of Newbury Park, California were scammed into a predatory mortgage. But they made their payments anyway, always paying with a cashier’s check in person at the same branch. Then one day the bank misapplied their payment and said they still owed the money. This started a long, nasty process that led to the bank evicting the Rousseaus from their home. 

Here’s the shocker: right at the start the Rousseaus came up with proof that the bank had received the payment and had cashed the check. But the bank continued to claim it had missed the payment, gave the Rousseaus the runaround, started applying fees, and used it as an excuse to foreclose on the house anyway. 

The Rousseaus fought back, the bank dragged it out for so long and pulled so many tricks, getting its way every step of the process, until this last Sunday Norman Rousseau finally gave up and shot himself in despair – two days before the scheduled eviction, Tuesday, May 15. (The Rousseau’s lawyer just said he was able to win a 2-week delay.)

 

It is a tragic story, but when you dig into the details it becomes much worse. 

See for yourself. The court case filed by the Rousseaus puts on the record the facts as they state them. The complaint reads as one more story like so many others that we have been hearing about the abuses by banks and banksters and the tricks they pulled on people. Never mind the big “National Mortgage Settlement” – this story shows that the abuses are still going on, with the same tragic consequences. 

The following describes the facts in the lawsuit filed in Norman Rousseau and Oriane Rousseau vs. Wells Fargo Bank in the Superior Court of California, County of Ventura. 

In March 2000, Norman and Oriane Rousseau put 30 percent down to buy a house at 580 Wilshire Place, Newbury Park, CA. In the following years they were solicited to refinance their loan. In October 2007 they met with the loan officer and “stated that they were only interested in obtaining a conventional 30-year, fixed-rate loan, and explained their desire to have consistent payments over the life of the loan.”                                                                                                            

They were “assured … that they could significantly reduce their monthly payments, by more than $600 per month, with a lower interest refinance loan.” The bank assured them that the Payment Option ARM was “the new industry standard” that had “historically low rates that were continuing to decrease” and in “the worst case scenario [they were] assured that historical data for the index indicated that changes in interest rate were slight, and if an increase should occur it would have a negligible effect on their monthly payments of no more than a few dollars.” 

They should “expect to refinance within the next two years to take advantage of even more favorable interest rates and as the steadily rising housing values increased the amount their equity in the property.” 

There were lots of assurances, smiles, don’t worry, we’re taking care of you, etc.

In May 2009 the bank claimed the couple had missed their April payment. They proved they had made a payment in person at the bank, using a cashier’s check and that the check had been cashed by the bank. The bank then claimed they had ordered a stop payment on the check, even though a cashier’s check payment cannot be stopped. 

The runaround began. The bank began harassing them for payment, sometimes as many as six-eight calls per day, sometimes even late at night. On August 3, 2009 the bank claimed the Rousseaus hadn’t paid June or July’s payments either, demanding $3,406.50. But then on August 8 the bank assured them they were current on payments. Then the bank again claimed it had not been paid and that the bank had been trying to contact them without success, and that they now owed $3,478,25. 

The Rousseaus hired a lawyer. From the lawyer the Rousseaus learned that the loan they received was not the loan they were promised, including, “the 7.2% interest rate for the … loan was actually higher than the 2006 loan and greater than the 6.8% quoted,” had enormous fees, and the bank had increased the income the Rousseau had stated, from $76,000 to $136,800.

In other words, the lender had scammed them to get those fees, which was a widespread practice at the time.

This continues, with the bank scamming, lying, obfuscating, ignoring, contradicting, even producing signatures it claimed were the Rousseau’s but were not, every step of the way. And, of course, adding late fees to the amount it claimed was due.

In September the bank stopped accepting payments at the branch, saying checks had to be mailed. About the same time the Rousseaus applied for a loan modification. They were told they were accepted for review in the loan modification program, were told the “pre-foreclosure” notices were “routine” and not to worry about them. Their lawyers were handling getting documents to the bank, the bank kept claiming it never received them, etc. 

On and on this went, with the bank telling them they were in the loan modification program while demanding money then refusing to accept money and demanding documents while saying it had received them, and all the while proceeding with foreclosure notices. Then they were told they were denied their loan modification, went through a process to reinstate the loan, back and forth, late fees, loan fees, unspecified additional fees, more fees, then some fees, then some non-payment fees, and then given ONE HOUR to send payments to TEXAS and it goes on and on.

Read the court case the Rousseaus filed. It’s all there, and is even worse than this summary.

This is a story of what happens when, as Senator Dick Durbin said of the Senate during the effort to pass legislation to get the banks under control, “Frankly they own the place.”

This last Sunday the bankers claimed one more victim. Norman Rousseau shot himself at 10 in the morning. Oriane Rousseau doesn’t even have the money to bury her husband, she is looking to the VA for help. If you want to help, please contact their attorney, Chris Gardas: chrisgardas@comcast.net

Martin Mandelman broke this story yesterday at Mandelmann Matters: Husband’s Suicide Yesterday, Wells Fargo to Evict Wife Tomorrow Anyway.

 

Dave Johnson is a fellow at Campaign for America's Future and a senior fellow at Renew California.
 
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