Published June 06, 2011
When Warren and Maureen Nyerges bought a piece of the American Dream in 2009 by purchasing a foreclosed home in Florida, the couple never knew it would turn into a nightmare.
The couple, originally from Cleveland, Ohio, targeted southwest Florida as the place for their home due, in part, to the high number of foreclosed homes in the area. And after buying the single-story, 2,700-square-foot home from Bank of America for $165,000, the Nyergeses never thought they'd hear from the bank again -- let alone to receive a foreclosure notice just one year later, in 2010.
"We purchased the house in full, no mortgage at all," Warren Nyerges, 46, told FoxNews.com on Monday. "Four months later, we got a knock on the door from a processor. We said there was no mortgage, but we were told, 'Sorry, get a lawyer.'"
Bank of America mistakenly filed a foreclosure claim against the couple despite the absence of a mortgage, prompting the Nyergeses to take the matter to court. The couple eventually won, but then asked Bank of America to pay for $2,534 in attorney fees. A Collier County judge ruled the bank should pay, but the bank never did.
On Friday, Maureen Nyerges and the couple's attorney, along with two sheriff's deputies and moving company employees, went to a local Bank of America branch to take possession of furniture inside the bank to settle the debt. An hour later, the bank wrote a check for $5,772.88 to satisfy the original debt plus other fees.
The Nyergeses, however, still have not received that money since, under Florida law, the Collier County Sheriff's Office has 30 days from time of collection to disperse funds to its rightful owner, a department spokeswoman told FoxNews.com.
"We still don't have it," Warren Nyerges said, adding that he expects to receive roughly $3,000 when associated fees are subtracted.
Attorney Todd Allen said the situation is a "symptom of a larger problem," particularly in Florida.
"Banks are not doing due diligence investigating foreclosures before they file," he told FoxNews.com. "But this is long overdue. It's sweet, sweet justice."
Nyerges, a retired police officer who suffers from a heart condition, said the entire ordeal has been physically and financially taxing.
"It's cost me a lot of time and effort and unnecessary grief," he said. "This is the last thing I wanted. I just want the bank to leave us alone. We sold our old house and just wanted to live in peace and quiet."
After months of fruitless calls to Bank of America and its local counsel at the David J. Stern law firm, Nyerges said he saw no other choice but to go directly to the bank on Friday to demand either $2,500 in attorney fees or furniture and cash.
In a statement to FoxNews.com, Bank of America officials apologized for the error.
"We apologize to Mr. Nyegres [sic] that there was a delay in receiving the funds," the statement read. "The original request went to an outside attorney who is no longer in business."
Meanwhile, Stern's law office told judges across Florida in March that it will end its involvement in 100,000 foreclosure cases.
The Florida attorney general's economic crimes division is investigating three law firms, including Stern's, over allegations that they created fraudulent legal documents, gouged homeowners with inflated fees, steered business to companies they owned and filed foreclosures without proving the bank actually had legal interest in the loans.
According to employee testimony filed with Florida authorities, Stern's employees churned out bogus mortgage assignments, faked signatures, falsified notarizations and foreclosed on people without verifying their identities, the amounts they owed or who owned their loans.
The attorney general is also looking at whether Stern paid kickbacks to big banks.
This isn't the first time that Bank of America has tried to foreclose on a property that was owned by a person without a mortgage. In 2009, a Fort Lauderdale man named Jason Grodensky bought a home in cash from Bank of America in a short sale. But in court, the foreclosure case continued and a judge ordered the property to be sold. Bank of America acknowledged the error and rescinded the foreclosure.
Nyerges, who still intends to keep his personal bank account with Bank of America, said he's not expecting a smooth ride with the bank moving forward. He also noted that bank officials even misspelled his name in statements to the media.
"I will not be surprised if something else pops up," he said. "Nothing surprises me with this bank. The entire apology is a lie from word one to the period at the end. I hope in the future Bank of America handles these matters better and tries to help people who are really in need or have an issue to no fault of their own. I can only imagine how they treat a real customer in need."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.