Bay Area foreclosure deals under scrutiny - WFLA News Channel 8

Bay Area foreclosure deals under scrutiny

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G.T. Wilson II G.T. Wilson II
Sunnie Finkle and bail bondsman G.T. Wilson II Sunnie Finkle and bail bondsman G.T. Wilson II
David and Wendy Wein David and Wendy Wein
Peggy Vieira Peggy Vieira
Don Roderick Don Roderick
TAMPA, FL (WFLA) -

For years now, real estate agent Sunnie Finkle and bail bondsman G.T. Wilson II have tried to make a living from Florida's foreclosure crisis. Now they're named in a complaint to the Pasco County Sheriff's Office over a method they used with more than a dozen homeowners: Sign them up for a short sale, obtain power of attorney, rent the house to someone else, and keep the proceeds. 

"I do think I've been taken advantage of," said Peggy Vieira, the New Port Richey homeowner who filed the complaint. "I blame both of them."  Vieira said she had no idea Wilson leased the home after she signed papers with Finkle to do a short sale, which involves persuading the bank to accept a payoff of less than amount owed on the mortgage.

David Wein, the tenant, had no idea Vieira was the owner of the home and joined her in the Pasco complaint.  "We got caught up in it," Wein said.  Finkle and Wilson were involved in similar deals in Hillsborough and Polk counties.  News Channel 8 counted more than a dozen cases in public records where homeowners granted Wilson power of attorney.  Finkle put the number at 39.

There is no evidence, however, that a short sale to Wilson was ever completed.  "I've never had a closing with her," said Lesley Lambert, regional manager for Universal Land Title, whose company has been handling paperwork on proposed short sales initiated by Finkle since October.  "There's no short sale without the lender agreement and participation," said Stetson Law School Professor Darryl Wilson.

The key issue is a legal document called power of attorney, which grants someone else the authority to act on your behalf in legal or financial matters.  "That's not common practice in any sales transaction to sign a power of attorney," Wilson said.  Brad Monroe, past president of the Greater Tampa Association of Realtors, agreed.  "We don't normally need a power of attorney to do the things we do."

"I don't believe you sign a power of attorney for any of that kind of business," added David Bennett, president of the Pinellas Realtor Organization.  Still, a power of attorney form was part of the 67-page package Finkle presented distressed homeowners.  "She was very polite and pleasant," said Vieira, who has the New Port Richey home. "She seemed to know everything."

In a written note initiating her sales pitch, Finkle said she already had an investor who wanted to buy the property and she could help the owners avoid the stigma of foreclosure and bankruptcy while avoiding closing costs.  Time after time, the result of the deal was that G.T. Wilson took control of the houses through his company, HomeRes Inc., and rented them out for his own profit.

Now, Finkle and Wilson are feuding, pointing fingers at one another for any problems with the deals they worked.  Adding drama to their fallout: The two went through a marriage ceremony in Roatan, Honduras, in 2010. And Finkle was described as "married" when authorities filed a report on one of her two domestic violence arrests — all stemming from complaints by Wilson.

The two insist the wedding ceremony, complete with friends flown in for the occasion, was a charade and not legally binding.  Wilson, in an interview with News Channel 8, blamed Finkle for complaints by homeowners who were surprised to learn he rented out their properties and kept the proceeds.

Wilson said Finkle, working for his company, negotiated short sales agreements, handled the paperwork and notarized the documents.  "If the person who's doing the notary work breezes through it and they don't illustrate every single thing and they just try and rush through it I have no control over that," Wilson said.

There was nothing wrong with the paperwork, he said: "It's written in simple language so a 9-year-old child can understand it."  Finkle said everything she did was legitimate and she had no part in Wilson's subsequent rental deals.  "Talk to G. T. Wilson about that," Finkle told a reporter. "That's his game."

Carlos Mousier got a note from Finkle last August offering her services for a short sale. As she did with Vieira, Finkle told Noguiera she had a buyer lined up.  "No, she never said nothing about renting the house and then selling it," Noguiera said. "She said this is the power of attorney so that we can close the deal on stopping the foreclosure."

In Noguiera's case, the foreclosure happened anyway. His lender bought the home for $100 two weeks ago as the only bidder in a courthouse auction.  Now Noguiera, in poor health and living on social security and a small state pension, is living in a cramped apartment and worries about whether he will be able to find another place to live if he has to move out.  "How am I going to get a place to rent with my credit the way it is?"

Don Roderick and his wife found themselves in a similar situation.  Months after signing a short sales proposal with Finkle, they learned from a reporter that Wilson had been renting their home to a tenant since October and not sharing the proceeds with him.  "Not a penny," Roderick said. "Didn't know anybody was in it."

Finkle and Wilson came under scrutiny earlier for their practices following a complaint in Hillsborough County. Finkle offered to assist the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office then, in December 2011.  In a December 2011, email to a Hillsborough detective, Finkle said Wilson was also under investigation in Pasco at the time, "for breaking into homes he does not have contracts on at all and placing a tenant to collect 1st last before the owner finds out."

The Pasco sheriff's office said it has no record of the investigation but acknowledges there is an open investigation now involving complaints by Wein and Vieira.  The 2011 investigation in Hillsborough was closed as "unfounded" and turned over the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation. It remains under review.

In March 2010, the Florida Office of Financial Regulation ordered Finkle and Wilson to cease and desist operation of an unlicensed foreclosure-rescue business they were involved in called Home Loan Crisis Center LLC.  At the time, the state was cracking down on 100 or more similar businesses after determining "thousands of borrowers have been victimized by this new industry" in the wake of the real estate market collapse.

Wilson told investigators he was part owner of the venture and Finkle told them she negotiated loan modifications. Investigators said Finkle and Wilson continued to operate the business for months after they were ordered to stop.

Wilson told News Channel 8 the state-ordered shutdown stemmed from confusion over a change in regulations and said investigators never gave him a clear indication of what to do with his existing customers.  "My question to them was what do I do with these homeowners: Do I leave them hanging, do I just tell them, ‘Have a nice day, I'm sorry I can't help you guys,'" Wilson said.

Finkle refused to talk about the company except to say she worked for Wilson.  A Hillsborough County prosecutor is now trying to decide whether to file criminal charges against Finkle in the domestic complaints.

In November, Tampa Police accused her of breaking into Wilson's apartment, attacking him with a pillow, and bloodying his arm. In December, they arrested her again, this time on a charge she pointed a gun at Wilson while he was pumping gas in Tampa.  Finkle told a judge in December that Wilson fabricated the gun incident, using an employee of his to provide a false eyewitness account.

The feud has spilled into their business dealings, as well.  Wilson has urged property owners to sever ties with Finkle and Finkle has been tried to get homeowners to nullify agreements with Wilson.  Now, Wilson is sending letters to homeowners announcing he is giving up his stake in any contracts negotiated by Finkle.

Peggy Vieira recently received a letter from Wilson saying "we are saddened by what has transpired recently with your realtor," adding that her business practices "have made it almost impossible to provide you with the service you have come to expect from us."  Wilson said he is releasing the power of attorney Finkle arranged with Vieira, Noguiera and others.   They made the deal with Wilson's company, HomeRes, which he said he is closing "to pursue other interests."

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