Cases & Deals

Los Angeles associates head to court to clear title to clients' homes

Clients Chacon, Cesar and Adelaida; Giron-Vasquez, Mariano and Adeleda; Gallo, Felicia; Granados, Nelson and Roxana; Godoy, Carlos and Leslie; Guzman, Jose de Jesus and Maria Guadalupe; Lago-Coss, Gustavo; Olaguez, Martha; Ornelas, Juan and Teresa

During the recent financial crisis, the economic vulnerability of many lower income homeowners made them easy targets for loan modification and home equity fraud. Jones Day took a number of cases referred to us by Public Counsel arising from a widespread criminal conspiracy throughout Southern California that, eventually, landed its masterminds in jail. But left in the wake were countless homeowners whose title to their homes was clouded with one or more fraudulent deeds, sometimes preventing them from refinancing or modifying their loans.

The criminal enterprise was masterminded by two brothers, David and John Zepeda. The Zepeda brothers created a number of shell companies, through which their recruits committed real estate fraud, rent skimming and predatory mortgage relief practices, impacting hundreds of homeowners throughout Southern California. The Zepeda brothers have since been convicted, incarcerated and ordered to pay millions of dollars in restitution. Our clients were promised relief in the form of loan modifications, yet the payments many of them made were pocketed, and title to their homes clouded with improperly recorded deeds. While all of our clients eventually worked out arrangements with their mortgage lenders and were able to stay in their homes, they all needed to clear title to their properties.

Under the supervision of Phil Cook (Los Angeles), a team of associates, including Craig Hirsch, Jessica Sawyer, Jessica Hawk, and Doug Lawson, successfully secured judgments cancelling the fraudulent deeds and reestablishing our clients' record ownership of their homes. In clearing title, the Los Angeles County Superior Court held a trial on each of our client's claims, at which our clients were represented by the associates, and uniformly provided the relief we sought. One case remains pending and is expected to be resolved in the summer of 2014. These grateful clients remind us of the good work that we can do, and the value of pro bono assistance to those who need it most.