|Updated: 3/14 11:21 am
||Published: 2/19 6:33 pm
"Ms. Howard, we see the problem," she said. "That's what they've been telling me since 2010."
Single mom, and disabled military veteran Anita Howard only thought her biggest battles were behind her. She's now drowning in a sea of paperwork and debt she didn't know she had, and doesn't believe she should.
Her dining room table, covered in files, the number would rival any attorneys documentation of a case. Bank statements from 2009 documenting her payment history on her home's mortgage, laying out a case in black and white when she's stuck solidly in the gray.
"I paid them my loan every month, and it is anarchy on my loan," she said.
In 2010, Howard initiated a loan modification with CitiMortgage, and that's when her problems began. According to Howard, during the loan modification period, she was told payments weren't to be made. However, she did make them, just to be safe, and Citi told her that money would be put into an account and applied to future payments on principal, interest and escrow.
"I should have one loan payment going in and applied," she said. "I have all this activity on my loan, it's like a cash register."
Possible Financial Mismanagement?
For example, the account holding money to be paid on her mortgage, only accessible by Citi, showed withdrawals to pay construction companies and miscellaneous expenses.
One statement shows the payment being made to a home siding company, but Howard's home is brick. No siding was ever installed or purchased. A different copy of the same statement, sent to Howard by Citi, shows that same payment on the same day going to a completely different company. Howard said she has never heard of either of the entities.
"It has been emotionally and financially devastating," she said. "This is embezzlement. Someone is stealing my money. And there's no controls, there's no accountability. No one is standing up for the consumer."
Another instance of financial mismanagement, according to CitiMortgage, another department within the bank's infrastructure had reversed four of Howard's mortgage payments. That money never was credited to her checking account, and it was never applied to her mortgage.
"I don't know why those payments were reversed. It was only mentioned to me in August of 2012 that they had been reversed in October 2010," she said. "I didn't need them to reverse the payments. I was making the payments. I still haven't gotten an answer on why that happened."
From March 2010 through August 2012, Howard has documentation showing she paid her mortgage payments on time, and she also has documentation showing Citi was aware of the disputed discrepancies. The most recent letter from Citi addressed to Howard in December 2012, assuring her CitiMortgage would investigate and resolve the matter -- even as the company proceeded with foreclosure.
"I honestly talked to Citi on August 30, 2012," she said. "They said they would look into it. On August 31, 2012, I was notified that they were initiating foreclosure proceedings through a local firm."
Fighting the Fight and Citi's Response
The discrepancies she pointed out to FOX16 -- only a few of them, Howard said. She's hired an attorney, who is being stonewalled, Howard said.
"They [Citi and Wilson & Associates] refuse to provide answers on these financial discrepancies. They refuse to delay the foreclosure. Citi says only Wilson&Associates can delay it. Wilson & Associates say only Citi can. Then the story changes to the investors are the only ones who can stop the foreclosure, but they won't disclose who the investors are."
We called Wilson & Associates, requesting to speak to the attorney who has signed all of the notices and letters sent to Howard. The attorney wasn't available, but her assistant told us, "I can't talk specifics of a case, but I can tell you that we have complied with all of her attorney's requests we have fully validated the debt."
When we asked for more details, we were told the attorney's supervisor would return our call. So far, they haven't.
We also attempted to contact CitiMortgage through a number of phone calls, we were never able to reach an actual PR representative, and the Mortgage Office's Executive Representative Unit would not answer our questions, either.
"We've done everything we can," Howard's son said. "We don't know what else we can do. We've made the payments, and we're still going to have our home foreclosed on illegally."
To add insult to injury, Howard said because of the financial mismanagement and general disarray of her account under Citi's management, her mortgage payment was raised three times in less than six months, from a little over $500 a month to more than $700 a month.
As a disabled veteran, Howard's had to rely on her son.
"I'm in college on a scholarship, so I had some money in savings," he said. "With all of these payments, lawyer fees, and everything else, I have helped where I could."
"That's humiliating as a mother," Howard said. "I'm grateful I have a son who could help, but that money should have been there in his savings to help him plan his life. Instead, he's having to worry about if his mother and high school brothers will have a roof over their heads at the end of the week. It's especially frustrating knowing I made the payments."
At this point, CitiMortgage still considers Howard to be in default, despite her dozens of bank statements showing she made payment. Facing foreclosure, she wouldn't say this is proving to be the American dream of ownership she had hoped.
"This is like a nightmare. It's like a bad dream when will this end?" she asked.
Apparently the answer lies in her foreclosure notice. Without help, the end will be on Thursday in a public auction.
"The end is a horror story -- they're stealing our homes," she said.
Non-judicial Foreclosure in Arkansas
One of the challenges, as Howard sees it, is the non-judicial foreclosure process in Arkansas. It allows a mortgage company to forgo a legal proceeding in court to foreclose on a homeowner.
"They are the judge and jury," she said. "They hire an attorney, they say you didn't pay your mortgage, and all of a sudden they hold the golden ticket with no one there to stop them."
The Arkansas Attorney General website provides tips to homeowners who are falling behind on payments and facing foreclosure. But in Anita's case, they would recommend a private attorney -- which she already has -- and has hit the same stall tactics and refusal from the bank that Anita said she faced.
If Howard's home is auctioned, she will have no recourse.
"I will have no way to recoup my home," she said. "It's gone. I can never get it back, and there's no one to help us. It's all a lie. There's no one keeping them in check. There's no one standing up for consumers."