Years After Refinance, Original Mortgage Foreclosed

Kwaku Atta Poku a naturalized citizen and an immigrant from Ghana built a small taxi service, but now finds himself financially ruined. He came to the United States in 1992, gravitating to Columbia, Maryland two years later. He built his AAAA Star cab service from scratch, driving by day and learning how to repair and maintain his cabs at night. The Columbia taxi owner lost his family’s townhouse to foreclosure despite making every mortgage payment.

Atta Poku was evicted from his townhouse one year ago after he could not prove in court that the original mortgage was paid off during a refinancing in 2001. The settlement check and several other documents were lost by the large financial institutions involved in the deal. Atta Poku insists that Washington Mutual Inc., the Seattle-based mortgage firm that refinanced his house in 2001, was paid off. A Washington Mutual spokesman said the firm didn’t receive the money.

The story was written as human interest but some important information is missing from the articles. It leaves me with more questions than answers:

Why did Washington Mutual wait more than 5 years to foreclose?
Was Washington Mutual the original mortgage or the later refinanced mortgage?
Why did it take so long to start foreclosure action?
Was a broker or local office involved?
Was funding delayed leaving a shortage for the daily interest that accrues after the pay-off quote?
Was information on the check to the mortgage account properly identified?
Was it sent to the correct address and department?
Was it incorrectly applied to a different mortgage account?
Were the funds received then returned to the original issuer of the check?
Was the original mortgage paid and not recorded for local records?
Did Mr. Poku receive closing documents that specify the allocation of funds relative to the transaction?

During mortgage refinance and debt consolidation, the borrowers routinely rely on brokers and settlement companies to pay off previous mortgages and specified debts. The borrower receives a new mortgage for an amount large enough to pay off agreed and specified debts. The borrower does not see or have control over the checks. Payment of the original mortgages and other agreed debts is the duty and responsibility of the lender that receives funding for the new mortgage. Borrowers may be victims of accounting errors, poor record retention, or unscrupulous actions of the brokers and lenders. In all honesty there may not have been a check, per se. Very likely the transaction was via ACH and is only one line in a page containing millions of dollars in daily business.

More disturbing is that the Pokus were guilty until proven innocent. The bond from Mr. Poku to delay foreclosure through the court was unaffordable. The reluctance of the financial geniuses to research, ascertain the problem, and resolve it before putting a family out of their home says volumes.

I dearly hope that resolution is in Poku’s favor if there was an error in the sequential process of their mortgage. Resolution should also include damages for pain, suffering, penalties charged by other lenders, and loss of status within their community. In the meantime, the community has helped the Pokus by helping them rent an apartment near their original home and minimize disruption to their lives and business. Apparently the citizens of Columbia, Maryland doesn’t perceive the Pokus as risky deadbeats, as did Washington Mutual.