Bank Killed Minister, Evicted Wife, Family Says in 
Foreclosure Horror

  STRESS: Another Weapon Banks use to Illegally Foreclose

Bank Killed Minister, Evicted Wife, Family Says in

Foreclosure Horror

By DAVID LEE / Courthouse News

July 5, 2012     DALLAS (CN) - EMC Mortgage / JP Morgan Chase killed a retired minister by giving him a stress-induced heart attack, seized the home days later and wrongfully evicted his widow - all because they accepted the bank's offer and followed its advice, the man's wife of 57 years claims in Dallas County Court.

     Harry Engel, of Grand Prairie, died in July 2010. His widow, Wanda Jo Engel, and his adult children, Steve, Debra and Josh Engel, sued the bank, and EMC Mortgage and LPS Field Services on a host of charges, including wrongful death, wrongful foreclosure, trespass, gross negligence, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The family also sued Chase alone for fraud, fraudulent inducement and deceptive trade.

     The Engels say they made their mortgage payments for 22 years.

     Then in February 2010, they say, Chase sent a letter offering to refinance their home, with a lower monthly payment. They were interested because the husband and wife lived on a fixed income.

     At a Chase branch, the family says, Chase employee Michael Paretti "instructed the Engels to 'miss a payment' to help them qualify for Chase's refinance program and obtain a lower mortgage rate and a lower monthly payment."

     The complaint continues: "Trusting Mr. Paretti’s counsel as a Chase representative, the Engels missed a single payment as instructed. After skipping the payment as advised by Mr. Paretti, however, the Engels received a letter from Chase advising them that they were not eligible for a loan modification and that the mortgage had to be brought current immediately; the Engels were distraught, confused and afraid.

     "Then, Chase began sending demand letters to the Engels. These demand letters advised the Engels that their home was up for foreclosure, then that the home had been foreclosed upon, then an eviction notice was sent, and finally, a personal representative of Chase physically went to the Engel home, knocked on the Engels' door, and enforced the eviction notice.

      "After the Engels began receiving Chase's letters, they made numerous attempts to meet with Chase representative Paretti. On several of those attempts, Debra went with her parents to Chase bank and they waited in the lobby for hours for someone to help them. On one of those occasions, Mr. Paretti eventually met with them and handed them a piece of paper with a figure on it; Mr. Paretti said 'just pay this amount.' Harry and Wanda paid the 'amount,' but nothing changed and this process - of visits, long waits and empty promises - was repeated several times before the notices of foreclosure and eviction were received.

     "Immediately after the Engels receiving the eviction notice, Mr. Engel changed dramatically. He was overcome with stress and fear, and was terrified at the thought of losing his and Wanda's home of more than 20 years. His once positive outlook was gone."

     On July 1, 2010, "Mr. Engel got up and dressed but the stress of the foreclosure/eviction again overwhelmed him and he collapsed onto a chair," the complaint states. "Mrs. Engel immediately called 911, but Mr. Engel died in the ambulance on the way to the hospital. Mr. Engel passed away on July 1, 2010, within days of receiving the eviction notice."

     The Engels say Chase has changed the locks on their home, which remains unoccupied.

EMC is Chase's mortgage service and foreclosure company, the complaint states. Defendant LPS is Chase's national property service company, which now is managing the empty house.

     "With regard to Chase, the Engels believed what any reasonable bank customer should believe-complying with a lender's advice should be safe and should not put them at risk from the lender. In contrast to how a lender should behave, however, Chase and the other defendants' subsequent conduct proximately caused Mr. Engel's untimely death and the loss of the Engel home," the family says.

     They add: "Chase made illegal, negligent and fraudulent representations to the Engels so that it could secure a loan modification entitling Chase to benefits and financial incentives that the government was providing lenders to make loan modifications. ... Motivated by financial gain, defendants swiftly foreclosed on and/or seized the Engel home, wrongfully evicting Wanda Engel, only days after their actions had caused Harry Engel's death."

The Engels are represented by Steven Shaver with Shaver & Ash, of Mesquite.


PETITION for WRONGFUL DEATH against EMC Mortgage, JPMorgan Chase and LPS




Stress of foreclosure can make homeowners ill

Studies find illness rises where foreclosures highest

December 30, 2011|By Bob LaMendola, Sun Sentinel

Foreclosures are making Florida homeowners sick.

A series of studies over the past year, including one that zeroed in on Florida and other hard-hit states, found that people who go through home foreclosures suffer more stress-related illnesses, from high blood pressure to depression to heart trouble to nausea. foreclosures expected to begin rising again in the coming year, doctors and mortgage counselors said they expect to see more distressed homeowners fall ill.

 "We're beginning to [prove] the causal relationship. We're finding that foreclosure actually does lead to poor health," said Dr. Craig E. Pollack, a researcher at Johns Hopkins University who led several of the studies. "As foreclosures go up, so will the number of people who get sick."

The financial strain of foreclosure brought down both Annette and Ellison Hixson, who came within days of being evicted from their Miami Gardens house in March.

Ellison, 71, had a heart attack and had to stop working as an independent truck driver. Their lender eventually foreclosed. Within months, beset by stress and sleeplessness, he had another heart attack and a stroke, his wife said.


Annette, 63, said she lost 45 pounds and had stress-related flare-ups of diabetes symptoms, such as high blood sugar, eye trouble and pain in her hands and feet.


"Worry makes things that much more serious than they are," Annette Hixson said. "Stress is like a disease in itself. You never know if tomorrow the sheriff is going to knock on the door. That's a pressure that is with you day and night."

Both Hixsons have stabilized and felt better since a credit agency helped them refinance the loan and keep their house, she said.

Foreclosure counselors said they routinely hear similar health complaints from clients struggling with foreclosure proceedings.

Most report increased bouts of asthma, high blood pressure, racing heartbeat, sleeplessness, colds and flu. Psychological trouble may appear as well, including panic attacks, depression, irritability, temper outbursts and hopelessness, mortgage counselors said.


"They have an extreme amount of anger and frustration and despair at the whole foreclosure situation," said Maria Gaitan, president of Consumer Credit Management Services, a counseling agency in Delray Beach. "These people are at their wits' end and that brings out the worst in people."


Many did not have health insurance or lost coverage when they became unemployed, and don't want to spend money on medical care, said Craig Vanderlaan, executive director at Crisis Housing Solutions in Davie. reached the same conclusions in five studies over the past year. One, issued by the Bureau of Economic Research in August, looked at four states with high numbers of foreclosures: No. 1 California, second-ranked Florida, Arizona and New Jersey.

The multi-state study found that areas with high numbers of foreclosures reported 12 percent more hospital visits for anxiety, 8.1 percent more for diabetes complications, 7.2 percent more for hypertension, and 7.5 percent more for stress-related symptoms such as malaise, fever, abdominal pain and nausea.

The increased illnesses were seen more among African-Americans and Hispanics, who also have been hit hardest by the foreclosure crisis, the study said.

"How stressful it is when you are talking about losing the place where you live and possibly becoming homeless," said Kevin Maher, community education director at the Delray Beach credit agency.


An October study led by Pollack at Johns Hopkins found that Philadelphians in foreclosure were twice as likely as others to have depression, anxiety and similar problems, and one-third more likely to have high blood pressure. Many reported an increase in stress-related binge drinking and smoking, he said.

What should struggling homeowners do? Doctors and foreclosure counselors advise:

See a doctor if you get sick. Many people in financial trouble don't want to pay for checkups or medicine but don't realize they often can get free or low-cost care, if they ask, said credit counselors.


"There's no reason to not get medical care if you don't have money. You've got to stay healthy," said Jessica Cecere, president of four South Florida offices of Credibility counseling agency. "Talk to the doctor and ask for help. You can get it.

"Seek financial help early to get a clear picture of the situation, Maher said. Many people imagine the worst and discover that uncertainty about what could happen is more stressful than reality, he said.


Don't assume all is lost. Many homeowners delay or don't bother seeking help with a delinquent mortgage because they were told — mistakenly — by friends or family that the system cannot help, Maher said.


"So many people feel the damage is permanent. But it's not," Maher said. "Even in the worst-case scenario, we try to show them how to turn this into a positive. They can take steps that will restore their credit. No one has shown them the hope."

Here are details of one study, showing that Philadelphians in foreclosure have more illness:


High blood pressure: 41.3 percent of people in foreclosure, 35.6 percent of others

Stroke or related: 6.2 percent of people in foreclosure, 4.2 percent of others

Kidney disease: 5.5 percent of people in foreclosure, 3.3 percent of others

Source: Journal of Urban Health (October) or 954-356-4526


Foreclosures can make you sick, report says

Victoria Colliver, Chronicle Staff Writer
Published 04:00 a.m., Thursday, September 2, 2010


As Dianne Huntsberry was losing her home last year, the result of a financing scam, she also wound up in the hospital - twice - for what seemed like heart problems.


"I thought I was having a heart attack - I didn't know what was going on," said Huntsberry, 51, who said an unlicensed broker convinced her to put his name on the deed of her Oakland home in exchange for a low rate, but then took the equity and signed the home over to a bank.

Huntsberry's heart palpitations turned out to be an anxiety attack, which she attributed to the foreclosure. She was put on medication for high blood pressure and stress. Today, nearly a year later, she still struggles with health issues: weight gain, canker sores, skin problems, acid reflux and insomnia.

A report released Wednesday found foreclosures have not only economic consequences, but create health problems for the people and families involved - and those effects can ripple throughout a community.

In a survey of nearly 400 residents in two Oakland neighborhoods particularly hard hit by the foreclosure crisis, the Alameda County Public Health Department and Causa Justa/Just Cause, a housing rights group, teamed up to look at how people undergoing foreclosure experience higher levels of stress and increased medical problems. Tenants living in buildings in foreclosure have similar problems.


More health troubles

The research builds on work already conducted by Alameda County health officials showing that areas with the highest rates of foreclosures, such as the East and West Oakland neighborhoods surveyed in the report, already have life expectancies about 10 years less than other parts of Alameda County due to various social and economic factors, including high unemployment and crime rates.

Foreclosures exacerbate the health problems.

The report "really highlights much of what we know about communities that are already overburdened by poor health outcomes," said Sandra Witt, deputy director of the Alameda County Public Health Department.


According to the report, which was funded by the California Endowment, a private foundation promoting health care, 1 in 4 Oakland property owners received a notice of default on their mortgage, signaling the start of foreclosure proceedings.


The survey found that residents who are going through foreclosure or recently lost their homes were more than twice as likely to say that their mental and physical health had worsened over the past two years than those not going through foreclosure. Those residents were also twice as likely to report stress, depression or anxiety over the past month.

Residents in the two Oakland neighborhoods reported increased crime levels, with vacant properties serving as magnets for illegal activity. Adding to the strain, foreclosures disrupted social connections as neighbors moved out, a problem that can be particularly difficult on children who may have to change schools.

"This kind of financial distress leads to intense levels of stress, which, in turn, makes it not at all surprising to find people who are suffering emotional and, in some cases, physical consequences," said Paul Leonard, director of the California office of the Center for Responsible Lending, a consumer advocacy group.


Leonard said the report documents the kinds of impacts that health and housing experts hear about anecdotally. "This provides some really concrete evidence that foreclosures have many different kinds of negative impacts on borrowers and communities," he said.

Health problems are not limited to property owners, but extend to tenants who may not even know the property is in peril until they receive notice that their utilities will be shut off or when bank agents contact them.

200,000 displaced

About 37 percent of the foreclosed units in California were occupied by renters in 2009, which means that about 200,000 residents were displaced, according to a May report by Tenants Together, a statewide renters' rights organization based in San Francisco.

"When people think of the foreclosure crisis, they tend to think of the homeowners," said Gabe Treves, program coordinator with the group. He added that foreclosures cause tenants stress and often force them to live in substandard conditions.


"Tenants are absolutely the innocent victims of the foreclosure crisis," he said.

After she lost her home, Huntsberry, who works in security at a state health lab in Richmond, moved into an Oakland apartment that's about a fifth of the size of the home she owned for 13 years. She said she still wakes up in the wee hours of the morning and often turns to prayer.

"I've just been robbed of everything, and I have nothing to show for it," she said.

In sickness and in foreclosure

Last summer, representatives from Causa Justa/Just Cause interviewed 388 residents in East and West Oakland, two of the harder-hit neighborhoods, to investigate the impact of the foreclosures on health. Here are some of the findings:

-- Residents going through foreclosure or those who had recently lost their homes were twice as likely as others to say their mental and physical health had become worse over the past two years.

-- More than 3 in 10 foreclosed residents reported forgoing medical care due to money concerns.

-- 31 percent of tenants in foreclosed buildings said they were living with mold, rodents, cockroaches or other unhealthy conditions.

Read the report: The Alameda County Public Health Department will post the report, "Rebuilding Neighborhoods, Restoring Health," this afternoon at

Source: Alameda County Public Health Department; Causa Justa/Just Cause

Help for tenants

Tenants in foreclosed properties can contact Tenants Together at or by calling the group's hot line at (888) 495-8020.


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