• Suburban Exodus Regions Now Among Hardest Hit By Housing Downturn

    While property values in Chicago have suffered, the housing market is also suffering in the distant suburban markets that were once among the fastest-growing in the United States. An August 22, 2011, article from the Chicago News Cooperative reported that in 2009 and 2010, Kendall County was among the top foreclosure rates in Illinois after seeing a growth of “some 110 percent” between 2000 and 2010 and being the fastest-growing county in the country, according to the Census Bureau.

    Erik Doersching, vice president of the Schaumburg-based real estate analysis firm, Tracy Cross & Associates, told the CNC that the “sudden halt to building in the far suburbs has changed the way people define the contours of the Chicago region.” He added that “places that were verging on becoming part of the Chicago area … have reverted to rural status and are likely to stay that way for at least another generation.”

    The CNC article noted that while the downturn has meant a good bargain for some recent buyers, it’s been much harder on people losing homes-voluntarily or by foreclosure -where people in smaller towns “tend to know other people’s business.” As Diane Hammon, the president of the DeKalb Area Association of Realtors, told the CNC about what she tells the people “absolutely crushed with embarrassment” at closings she sits with them at, “Look, this isn’t your fault. You got sick. Or you went through a divorce. Or you lost your job. You’re not alone.”

    People all over Illinois are dealing with these issues, and if a bank is unwilling to cooperate and accept a loan modification that will keep you in your home, our lawyers can help you in filing for Chapter 13 bankruptcy in order to halt foreclosure proceedings and any other collection activities.

    Benjamin Brand Services – Chicago bankruptcy lawyers


  • Austin Seeks Inclusion In Emanuel Foreclosure Program

    The chairman of the Westside Ministers Coalition and spokesman for the Community Reinvestment Organizing Project (COP) has demanded that Chicago’s Austin community be included as a targeted area to benefit from the $15 million Foreclosure Recovery Program announced by Mayor Rahm Emanuel on August 17, 2011.

    According to ChicagoNow.com, Rev. Dr. Lewis Flowers and other Westside Ministers Coalition leaders and clergy immediately began to contact local aldermen to find out why the Austin community is being “left-out.” The Woodstock Institute, a nonprofit research and policy organization, reported that 887 Austin properties went into foreclosure in 2010, second-most in Chicago. The organization also reported in January 2011 that Austin had the fourth-most number of “red flag” properties of Chicago communities, which are “troubled vacant properties where a foreclosure has been filed, but no outcome has been reached.”

    The Institute’s report showed that foreclosure problems were largely concentrated on the South and West Sides of Chicago, and foreclosures were much more common in predominantly African-American communities.

    If a bank is trying to foreclose on your home , our attorneys will make that bank prove that they actually have the right to do so. Again, we can make it difficult for the banks to prove that they are the right party to be foreclosing on your property, thus helping you and your family stay in your home.

    Benjamin Brand Services – Chicago bankruptcy attorneys

  • Man Sentenced To More Than 17 Years In Mortgage Fraud Scheme

    A former South Holland man will spend more than 17 years in federal prison after directing a mortgage fraud scheme that cost lenders about $16 million for properties on the South Side, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. A release from the U.S. Attorney’s office said the sentence is one of the longest ever given to a mortgage fraud defendant in Chicago.

    Kenneth Steward, 45, was sentenced on August 17, 2011, to 17 1/2 years in prison for his part  in a $35 million mortgage fraud scheme involving more than 120 residences, the Sun-Times said. The scheme caused lenders and financial institutions to lose about $16 million in mortgage loans that were not repaid by borrowers or recovered through foreclosure sales .

    Court records showed Steward pocketed undisclosed payments and kickbacks from about 109 fraudulent transactions, also controlling about $3.1 million in post-closing funds over the course of the scheme. Between 2004 and 2008, he orchestrated the fraudulent purchase and resale of dozens of residences, causing lenders to issue almost $27.8 million in loans and lose more than $14.5 million. He was also part of a larger scheme that involved 122 residences, and at least 74 of the 109 residences on the South Side fell into foreclosure, according to the Sun-Times.

    Steward was arrested and charged in July 2010 before pleading guilty in June 2011 to nine counts of wire fraud, four counts of bank fraud and three counts of mail fraud, according to the Sun-Times. Charges against six co-defendants in the case are pending.

    Benjamin Brand Services – Chicago bankruptcy lawyers

  • Foreclosure Fraud in California Shut Down

    The California Department of Justice and the State Bar of California recently sued a group of California lawyers for taking millions of dollars from homeowners by promising them relief on home loans and foreclosures. The lawyers attempted to defraud homeowners by marketing “mass joinder” lawsuits to homeowners across the country, which made participants pay up to $10,000 in retainer fees for bad legal advice.

    The victims of the fraud believed that the lawsuits were the only way they could receive justice, but they were unable to get answers to even simple questions about pending foreclosures. The law firms involved are based in Calabasas, Costa Mesa, Walnut Creek, Agoura Hills and Encino, California, but they sent over two million pieces of mail soliciting homeowners across the country. The state plans to seek tens of millions of dollars of fines, penalties and restitution for the swindled homeowners.

    If you plan to seek foreclosure help to rebuild your life, you should go to a firm who will assist you through each step of the process. In addition, you should look to one that has experience, that knows the laws, and that will provide these services without taking advantage of you.

    Benjamin Brand Services– Chicago bankruptcy attorney

  • Emanuel Hopes $20 Million Loan Program Can Help Hardest-Hit

    Mayor Rahm Emanuel unveiled a $20 million loan pool on August 17, 2011, with a goal of bringing new ownership to 2,500 foreclosed homes in “small sub-sections” of nine Chicago neighborhoods. With a 20 percent increase in foreclosures in 2010, the Chicago Sun-Times reported that the $20 million in loans provided by the John T. and Catherine D. MacArthur Foundation is planned to leverage private capital to grow the loan pool to $50 million.

    Emanuel told WBEZ that the “Micro-Market Recovery Program” should get about 2,000 homes stabilized within three to five years. “This program will move Chicago from a house-by-house approach to a community-focused strategy, which will do a better job of protecting residents from the devastating impact of foreclosures,” the mayor said in a statement.

    The Sun-Times reported that about 95 percent of the 10,500 properties are currently vacant and the city plans to enforce a City Council ordinance agreed to last month which would hold banks responsible for maintaining and securing foreclosed properties. Banks would be asked to fund the renovations or relinquish the properties to the city for remodeling.

    Benjamin Brand Services – Chicago bankruptcy lawyers

  • General Growth Says It Didn’t Default

    A lawyer for General Growth Properties Inc said the No. 2 mall owner in the United States is planning to fight two court rulings ordering the company to pay about $100 million in additional interest relating to loans it made prior to its bankruptcy two years ago, Reuters reported on August 16.

    Court documents showed Chicago-based General Growth was ordered to pay $11 million to the State of New York’s Common Retirement Fund and about $89 million to a group of lenders that constituted a 2006 bank credit line. Chicago-based General Growth said that in both payments it did not have to pay the higher default rate plus legal and agency fees, and that the missed payments did not constitute a default, according to Reuters. The payments relate to higher interest payments triggered after General Growth missed loan payments prior to filing for bankruptcy protection.

    The company became the biggest U.S. real estate bankruptcy case after it filed for protection from its creditors in April 2009. General Growth emerged from bankruptcy in November 2010, funded by investments from Brookfield Asset Management, William Ackman’s Pershing Square Capital LLC and others.

    While the company repaid its creditors in full, Reuters reported General Growth repaid the New York pension fund and the 2006 credit facility lenders based on non-default interest rates.

    General Growth is asking the U.S. Court of Appeals Second Circuit to take its appeal of Judge Allan Gropper’s order that the company to pay the difference between the two rates.

    Benjamin Brand Services – Chicago bankruptcy lawyers

  • Illinois Home Foreclosures Down In July

    There were 46 percent fewer foreclosure filings in July than there were last year, a report from Irvine, Calif.-based RealtyTrac showed. Released on August 11, 2011, the report showed Illinois with 10,627 foreclosure actions-including default notices, auctions and bank repossessions-last month, according to the Associated Press.

    The Daily Herald also reported suburban counties with large drops included DuPage County with 64 percent, Kane County with 57 percent, Will County with 50 percent, McHenry with 44 percent and Lake County with 40 percent. However, Illinois ranked No. 9 nationwide in foreclosures. RealtyTrac also reported 212,764 nationwide, or a 35 percent drop.

    However, the report also showed that for the second straight month the bank-owned, or repossession, of homes increased about 20 percent in Illinois.

    Experts told the Daily Herald that the foreclosure process has slowed due to the robo-signing controversy started in October 2010 when some major lenders were accused of trying to process foreclosures quickly by signing documents without thoroughly reading them. The matter is still under investigation by the state attorneys general.

    Benjamin Brand Services – Chicago bankruptcy lawyers

  • Giordano’s Owner Alleges Plot Against Business

    The owner of the Giordano’s pizza chain filed a lawsuit of more than $100 million against several franchisees, his bankers and his former lawyers on August 4, 2011, claiming that they had a long-running plot to put him out of business, according to the Chicago Tribune. The pizza chain filed for bankruptcy protection in February.

    Owner John Apostolou filed a 72-page lawsuit on in Cook County Circuit Court, alleging breach of fiduciary duty, fraud, defamation and conspiracy to defraud, among other things, according to the Tribune. The chain’s operations were turned over to a bankruptcy trustee in May after Apostolou fired his attorney and worries arose about whether the company’s assets were being protected. Apostolou no longer runs the chain and is banned from the premises.

    The lawsuit claims that Allen Aynessazian, chief financial officer for Giordano’s, and James Roche, a lawyer for both the company and Apostolou, enlisted Fifth Third Bank, Giordano’s chief lender, as well as Chicago lawyer Michael Gesas  and several  Giordano’s franchisees “to participate in the scheme” in which they’d push the Apostolous out and take over the company.

    In 2009, Apostolou had expanded the business to 48 locations with annual sales of $168 million after originally buying the chain in 1988.

    Benjamin Brand Services – Chicago bankruptcy lawyers

  • Trustee for Lehman Bankruptcy Hopes to Pay Customers in Full

    The bankruptcy trustee winding down Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc’s brokerage wants to repay customers what they’re owed in full. However, he is expecting a shortfall in paying back $47.5 billion owed to creditors.

    The bulk of brokerage Lehman Brothers Inc’s $20.6 billion in assets will probably go to customers, James Kobak, a lawyer for trustee James Giddens said.

    Customers have asserted a $12 billion in allowed claims and another $43 billion in unresolved claims, Kobak said at the trustee’s “State of the Estate” address in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Manhattan. Giddens has said he believes the bulk of the unresolved amount will be found invalid.

    A majority of the unresolved claims come from Lehman affiliates, including $17 billion from broker-dealer Lehman Brothers International Europe and $8 billion from the parent Lehman company.

    Giddens told the court he hoped to make at least partial payouts to net equity customers by March or April, adding that key customer claims disputes will be hashed out in court soon. Judge James Peck feels a dispute with the European portion of Lehman could hamper the estate’s ability to pay creditors.

    The dispute is over Lehman Brothers International Europe’s $8.3 billion “house” claim over money the brokerage holds. The issue concerns whether money held on behalf of foreign affiliates can be considered customer money. If the claim is allowed, it could eat up a large portion of the brokerage’s resources for repaying customers.

    Benjamin Brand Services – Chicago bankruptcy lawyer

  • Jackson Hewitt Wins Approval from Court to Exit Bankruptcy

    Jackson Hewitt Tax Service Inc. received court approval for their reorganization plan on August 8, 2011, which the company hopes will allow for its exit from bankruptcy before the week is over.

    U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Mary Walrath confirmed the Chapter 11 restructuring plan for Jackson Hewitt in Wilmington, Delaware. The company is the nation’s second largest tax preparer. The company filed for bankruptcy protection in May, 2011.

    The company has a total of $357 million in outstanding debt that they owe to lenders. Jackson Hewitt is offering ownership of the company and a $100 million term loan under the reorganization plan. Existing stockholders will be offered nothing under the plan.

    Court papers estimate the company’s worth at $225 million, and lenders will be providing a $115 million loan to keep the company running until the next tax season begins.

    A majority of the company’s unsecured creditors are plaintiffs in class-action lawsuits that challenged Jackson Hewitt’s practice of issuing loans based on customers’ anticipated tax returns. Critics have accused the company of violating consumer-protection statutes with the offering of high-interest rapid refunds to tax filers. The IRS stopped providing tax preparers with advance warnings of filers whose returns could be at risk, making the offering of the refund loans untenable and ending the practice.

    Benjamin Brand Services – Chicago bankruptcy lawyer

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