The firm’s latest Miami Herald column was authored by Awilda Esteras and appears in today’s edition of the newspaper. The article, which is titled “Real Estate Counselor: Widow, Age 75, Loses Home. Be on the Watch for Foreclosure Rescue Scams,” focuses on a recent news report by ABC Action News in Tampa Bay (www.ABCActionNews.com) that documented what appears to be a case of a horrific foreclosure rescue scam. Her article reads:
. . . The report begins with Elvira Zicari, who is 75 years old and a widow, walking by her former Port Richey home where she intended to live the rest of her life. In it now resides the tenant of its new owner, who purchased the property from David Litt of Illinois. According to Zicari and the allegations in her lawsuit against Litt, he conned her out of her home by purporting to offer a government-sponsored foreclosure relief program for seniors like her. After she had fallen ill and gotten behind on her monthly mortgage and HOA payments in February 2022, Litt allegedly contacted her via telephone and told her he and his company would be able work with her lender and association to forgive her remaining balances and enable her to avoid foreclosure.
In the interview, Zicari says Litt reached out to her “like he was my best friend,” and he said he was going to help her. Her lawsuit alleges Litt would eventually contact her, purportedly to have her sign customary documents to warranty the condition of her home that were needed to negotiate and resolve the foreclosure. It states Litt expressed an urgency in having documents signed, and he had a notary standing by for an online video notarization. According to Zicari, she signed the documents in a hurry and relied on Litt’s representation because her daughter was getting home from the hospital that same day.
Unwittingly, what she actually signed was the warranty deed to her home as well as a document granting power of attorney to Litt. According to her lawsuit, Litt would then enter into a contract for the sale of the property less than two months later. At the time of the undisclosed sale, Zicari was in New York visiting her daughter, who was receiving cancer treatments, and also providing care for her daughter’s family. Litt called her indicating he needed her urgent signature for another document warrantying the condition of her home, and he sent a notary to meet with her in New York to execute what was actually a corrective deed for the property. In her suit, Zicari claims she asked the notary what the document was, but the notary stated she did not know.
The very next day, Litt closed on the sale for $239,000, and the day after that, the new owner listed the home for sale in the Multiple Listing Service, the suit alleges. Upon returning from New York, Zicari found people living in her home stating they had a valid lease from the new owner. All her furniture, clothing and personal belongings remained in the home, but they now legally belonged to its new owner and her vehicle had been towed away.
From the allegations in her lawsuit and the station’s detailed report, this case appears to be a truly abhorrent foreclosure rescue scam targeting a vulnerable senior citizen. Elvira Zicari, a retired 75-year-old widow, was allegedly conned into unwittingly signing away the deed to her home to a total stranger, who had gained her trust by offering to be able to provide her with government- sponsored foreclosure relief.
We should all hope to see justice prevail in her case, and it should also remind all of us to do our part to help prevent such schemes that have been going on for generations. For example, those in the mortgage and association industries filing foreclosure actions should share with their borrowers/owners authoritative sources for information on such rescue scams, including those found at www.fdic.gov as well as the websites for the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the Federal Trade Commission. . .
Awilda concludes her column by noting that all of us can help to prevent such cons from prevailing by looking out for those who are experiencing financial difficulties, informing them about such scams and steering them in the right direction for authoritative information.
Our firm salutes Awilda for sharing her thoughts and recommendations from this case with the readers of the Miami Herald.