New billboard accuses mortgage company of fraud

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - A Wilmington resident and businessman has taken out a billboard on Eastwood Road accusing SunTrust Mortgage of dishonest business practices.

The billboard has a picture of a home on it, and says "bogus loans" and "#SunTrustScandal," directing people to a website which details allegations against the mortgage company.

Scott Griffin had three loans with SunTrust Mortgage when the real estate market crashed in 2007. At that point, SunTrust non-renewed the loan on one of his properties, and attempted to foreclose. Griffin began digging into the particulars of his mortgage, and says he later realized SunTrust had never held clear title or the note to his loan. It appears SunTrust sold it to a third party.

According to Griffin's understanding of the law, that meant SunTrust has no legal standing to foreclose on the property. He says it also has no legal standing to collect payment on the property, so he stopped paying. SunTrust has attempted to take Griffin to court several times since then to take back the property. Those attempts have been unsuccessful, and Griffin still owns it.

"Mr. Griffin's current relationship with SunTrust is involved in ongoing foreclosure litigation currently before a judge in New Hanover County court," SunTrust Spokesman Mike McCoy told WECT in a written statement. "We believe that is the appropriate forum for concerns, and will refrain from publicly discussing client matter or ongoing litigation."

During his research, Griffin also discovered that SunTrust had its certificate of authorization to do business in NC suspended on July 21, 2011, by the Secretary of State. During the time that certificate was suspended and reinstated, SunTrust Mortgage authorized dozens of new mortgages in New Hanover County alone, which appears to be a direct violation of the Secretary of State's orders.

Further, Griffin alleges that SunTrust "slip sheeted" paperwork on file with the New Hanover County Clerk of Courts and others. He found six examples in New Hanover County alone of the same expired document being used to open or authorize dozens of official proceedings between the bank and customers here.

Slip sheeting means using a Post-it note or something similar to cover up the information on a document that shows it is expired or not relevant to the business transaction at hand. Griffin says the documents included in the Clerk of Court's file involving the SunTrust transactions were photocopied to make it less obvious the documents are fraudulent. Without access to the original document that was slip sheeted, you can't see everything that's written.

This is not the first time SunTrust has been accused of criminal wrongdoing involving customers and their mortgages. In 2014, SunTrust Mortgage agreed to pay a $320 million settlement to the US Government following a criminal investigation of SunTrust's administration of the Home Affordable Modification Program.

"SunTrust misled numerous mortgage servicing customers who sought mortgage relief through HAMP," the US Department of Justice said in a news release about that settlement. "Specifically, SunTrust made material misrepresentations and omissions to borrowers in HAMP solicitations, and failed to process HAMP applications in a timely fashion. As a result of SunTrust's mismanagement of HAMP, thousands of homeowners who applied for a HAMP modification with SunTrust suffered serious financial harms."

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