by Elliot Francis for WAMU
September 21, 2011
Prince William County has the highest rate of foreclosures in Virginia, and residents of one neighborhood who blame the foreclosure rate on the practice of ‘robo-signing,’ are demanding accountability from the banks and an investigation by state officials. At the height of the foreclosure crunch, approximately 25 percent of homes in the Georgetown South development in Manassas were foreclosed and vacant.
Residents find evidence of robo-signing
A team of citizen advocates, concerned over the disproportionate number of foreclosures, launched an investigation this past summer to find out why. They released a report yesterday that found the rapid and voluminous rate of shuttered homes in Georgetown South was the result of robo-signing.
Robo-signing, a practice allegedly used by some banks to fast track the foreclosure process, involves the signing of documents without confirming information, or, in some cases, the use of forged signatures.
“Robo-signing and the speed of foreclosure in Virginia have hurt individual homeowners, and entire communities, and we need action now,” Rev. Clyde Ellis, one of the activists, said during a rally to announce the results of the investigation on the steps of the Prince William County courthouse Sept. 20. The report is “just a next step in our campaign to hold financial institutions accountable for this foreclosure crisis,” Ellis added.
“One woman actually signed documents as a vice president of seven different banks over the course of two years which indicates to us potentially false credentials,” says Rev. Nancy McDonald Ladd, who helped organize the document investigation.
Complaints of blight left in forclosures’ wake
The velocity of foreclosure left no homeowners behind to tell the stories. The neighbors who remain talk about blighted blocks and abandoned homes attracting crime. Ellis says there’s a good reason why it happened here.
“I think it goes back to the fact that Prince William County is now predominantly majority minority, and by virtue of that fact, the bankers purposely targeted this area,” he says.
McDonald Ladd says the group is demanding Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli launch a full investigation into the robo-signing. “We have not heard back yet from Ken Cuccinelli and the governor but we’re just making those appeals now,” she says.