Evictions back on in Cook County
BY MIKE NOLAN SouthtownStar
Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart halted evictions for five weeks because of sloppy foreclosure paperwork.
Evictions of Cook County homeowners whose mortgages have been foreclosed could resume next week after a legal opinion ended Sheriff Tom Dart's five-week moratorium.
Still, Dart said his department found a "pattern of irregularities" in documents supporting many foreclosures, and said his financial crimes unit will investigate.
He's getting help from staff and students at Loyola University's law school, who will pore over the 2,200 eviction orders that have piled up since the moratorium began Oct. 13.
Dart had stopped carrying out court-approved evictions in light of news reports highlighting flaws in the verification of thousands of foreclosures around the country. Some employees of major lenders have acknowledged signing off on thousands of foreclosure documents without reading them.
Regulators and attorneys general in all 50 states are investigating whether companies violated their own procedures when foreclosing on mortgage loans. Under the microscope are big-name lenders such as Bank of America Corp., JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Ally Financial Inc.'s GMAC Mortgage.
Dart on Friday said his department had found some foreclosure files that were "horribly deficient" in required documents, and "clear evidence" of what's been termed "robo-signing," or the bulk, rapid signing of foreclosure file documents.
Dart said his eviction moratorium was torpedoed by a legal opinion this week from Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez, who told Dart he's bound to try to enforce eviction orders signed by a judge, regardless of whether the paperwork supporting the foreclosure might be suspect.
"It was basically 'If a judge's signature is on it, you have to carry it out,' " Dart said Friday.
Dart said his office will provide homeowners facing foreclosure with additional documentation and contact information for free legal help. In the meantime, deputies will begin plowing through the backlog of evictions that accrued during the short-lived moratorium.
"The numbers are increasing dramatically," the sheriff said. "We're overwhelmed, and seeing no light at the end of the tunnel."