ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Months after Bank of America wrongly foreclosed on a house Warren and Maureen Nyerges had already paid for, they were still fighting to get reimbursed for the court battle.
So on Friday, their attorney showed up at a branch office in Naples with a moving truck and sheriff's deputies who had a judge's permission to seize the furniture if necessary. An hour later, the bank had written a check for $5,772.88.
"The branch manager was visibly shaken," attorney Todd Allen said Monday, recalling the visit to the bank last week. "At that point I was willing to take the desk and the chair he was sitting in."
After the moving company and sheriff's deputies get their share, the Nyerges should receive the rest of the money this week, ending a bizarre saga that started when they paid Bank of America $165,000 cash for a 2,700-square-foot foreclosed home in Naples in 2009.
About four months later, a process server knocked on their door and handed Warren Nyerges a notice of foreclosure.
"This is a big mistake," he recalled saying. "You must have the wrong house. We bought a foreclosure and don't have a mortgage."
That started 18 months of frustrating phone calls, paperwork and court hearings. Whenever Nyerges called the bank, representatives told him to "come up to date" with his payments. When he called 25 different law firms, no attorney would take the case. When he went to court, the lawyers for the bank filed incorrect motions and were woefully unprepared for the hearings.
"It was mind boggling," said Nyerges, a 46-year-old retired police officer. "To try to unscrew the screw up, it's not as easy as it sounds."
Eventually the Nyerges found Allen. They fought the foreclosure and won, proving that they owned the home outright.
During his research, Nyerges heard that his name got transposed from purchase agreements onto the prior foreclosure.
"I don't know if that is a fact, because no one really had the facts," he said.
In September 2010, a Collier county judge ordered Bank of America to pay the couple's $2,534 attorney fees. But by last week, the bank hadn't paid up, so Allen got a judge's permission to seize assets.
In an email to the Associated Press on Monday, Bank of America spokeswoman Jumana Bauwens apologized to the couple about the "delay in receiving the funds."
"The original request went to an outside attorney who is no longer in business," she wrote.
The law office of David J. Stern, which handled the Nyerges' case for Bank of America, 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.
Allen sees the Nyerges case as symbolic of the foreclosure crisis. Courts are backlogged, and banks and their attorneys aren't scrutinizing foreclosure paperwork.
And Nyerges said he's still upset with Bank of America.
"They couldn't even spell our name right in the apology," he said.
Tamara Lush can be followed at: www.twitter.com/tamaralush