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Florida Ag Bondi Forces Resignation Of Whistleblowers

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Scott Maxwell TAKING NAMES


July 20, 2011

A few months ago, two of Florida's assistant attorneys general were blowing the lid off foreclosure fraud in this state.


They were turning up evidence of bogus paperwork, exposing the law firms and lenders at fault — and making them pay.


If the world of investigatory accounting had rock stars, Theresa Edwards and June Clarkson were Beyonce and Lady Gaga.


Right up until they were ousted, anyway.


At the height of their popularity, when Edwards and Clarkson were generating national headlines — and making profiteers nervous — Attorney General Pam Bondi's office asked them to leave.


So said Edwards, who recalled: "Our director called us in at 3:30 one Friday afternoon and said: 'You can either resign today, or you're going to be fired.'"


The news came on the heels of a performance review filled with praise.


"Obviously we did our job too well," Edwards said. "We were making too much noise."


Bondi's office won't say why the two were ousted — or even confirm that they were. Instead, the office stresses that the two attorneys "resigned."


Spokeswoman Jennifer Meale said her office is as committed as ever to rooting out financial fraud. "The resignations of these two individuals will not impede these investigations," Meale said. "In fact, we are more aggressively pursuing these investigations."


Edwards found that claim interesting — since neither she nor Clarkson were even allowed to brief anyone else in the office on the year's worth of work. "I couldn't even write a memo," she recalled.


This duo attracted acclaim for exposing "foreclosure mills," which are involved in ousting massive numbers of families from their homes, sometimes without following all the rules.


They discovered fraudulent signatures and bogus names. (Literally: "Bogus" was the first name in the blanks of some documents.)


Some documents contained dates that were off by a few years. One was off by 8,000.


In other instances, financial powerhouses claimed to have "lost" paperwork.


"Fraudulent Practices come in all shapes and sizes," the women concluded in their report. "Robo-signers. Fake witnesses. Fake notaries. Fake documents. False affidavits."


And keep in mind: All of this had to do with companies attempting to foreclose upon people's homes.


The duo's work attracted widespread attention — from the Los Angeles Times to the Washington Post. "60 Minutes" was particularly intrigued with their disclosure that "Linda Green" had signed thousands of mortgage documents and supposedly served as a vice president of more than 20 banks.


The firms began feeling the pressure. One agreed to pay $2 million in a settlement.

Edwards' and Clarkson's work was largely responsible. And their bosses knew it.


In a performance evaluation obtained by the Palm Beach Post, Edwards' supervisors praised her work, calling it "instrumental in triggering a nationwide review of such practices."


One month later, Edwards was gone.


On one level, it's hard to believe Bondi's office would oust its best-known crusaders just to silence them — if only because it would be so politically stupid.


But the fact that Bondi and her staff won't offer any explanations is troubling. (And excuses about the private nature of personnel decisions seem pretty thin when the personnel involved have pretty clearly waived any expectation of privacy. Plus, truth is most always a good defense.)


As far as doling out justice goes, Bondi's long-term actions will speak loudest.


The head of her office's economic-crimes division vowed Tuesday that his office is working more aggressively than ever — though he wasn't sure what, if any, punishment other firms or fraud perpetrators might face.


So, one of two things will happen:


Either Bondi's office will aggressively stand up for consumers, making the bad guys pay — no matter whose feathers it ruffles.


Or it will resort to the pulled-punches approach to watchdogging that many Floridians have come to expect from attorneys general, present and past — the kind where inflammatory press releases bashing other politicians make more headlines than crusades against the powerful on behalf of the meek.


Edwards, who has since started a new law firm with Clarkson, fears it will be the latter, saying others in the attorney general's office saw what happened to her.


"We just couldn't understand how we were the bad guys here," she said. "We thought our job was to protect the consumer from unfair and deceptive trade practices. And that's all we tried to do."



Hmmm..... people blowing the lid off of foreclosure fraud get fired. Isn't Pam Bondi a freedom-fighting tea party republican? I guess she only cares about her campaign donors.

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She has a nice resume... but she got a St. Bernard once, from a shelter, and when the owners located the pup,


she refused to give up the dog until the owners sued.


In another blurb, she says that the two were asked to resign because of poor behavior and communications


with opposing attorneys or whatever.

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