Letters 10-24-2016

It’s Obama’s 1984 Several editions ago I concluded a short letter to the editor with an ominous rhetorical flourish: “Welcome to George Orwell’s 1984 and the grand opening of the Federal Department of Truth!” At the time I am sure most of the readers laughed off my comments as right-wing hyperbole. Shame on you for doubting me...

Gun Bans Don’t Work It is said that mass violence only happens in the USA. A lone gunman in a rubber boat, drifted ashore at a popular resort in Tunisia and randomly shot and killed 38 mostly British and Irish tourists. Tunisian gun laws, which are among the most restrictive in the world, didn’t stop this mass slaughter. And in January 2015, two armed men killed 11 and wounded 11 others in an attack on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. French gun laws didn’t stop these assassins...

Scripps’ Good Deed No good deed shall go unpunished! When Dan Scripps was the 101st District State Representative, he introduced legislation to prevent corporations from contaminating (e.g. fracking) or depleting (e.g. Nestle) Michigan’s water table for corporate profit. There are no property lines in the water table, and many of us depend on private wells for abundant, safe, clean water. In the subsequent election, Dan’s opponents ran a negative campaign almost solely on the misrepresentation that Dan’s good deed was a government takeover of your private water well...

Political Definitions As the time to vote draws near it’s a good time to check into what you stand for. According to Dictionary.com the meanings for liberal and conservative are as follows:

Liberal: Favorable to progress or reform as in political or religious affairs.

Conservative: Disposed to preserve existing conditions, institutions, etc., or to restore traditions and limit change...

Voting Takes A Month? Hurricane Matthew hit the Florida coast Oct. 6, over three weeks before Election Day. Bob Ross (Oct. 17th issue) posits that perhaps evacuation orders from Governor Scott may have had political motivations to diminish turnout and seems to praise Hillary Clinton’s call for Gov. Scott to extend Florida’s voter registration deadline due to evacuations...

Clinton Foundation Facts Does the Clinton Foundation really spend a mere 10 percent (per Mike Pence) or 20 percent (per Reince Priebus) of its money on charity? Not true. Charity Watch gives it an A rating (the same as it gives the NRA Foundation) and says it spends 88 percent on charitable causes, and 12 percent on overhead. Here is the source of the misunderstanding: The Foundation does give only a small percentage of its money to charitable organizations, but it spends far more money directly running a number of programs...

America Needs Change Trump supports our constitution, will appoint judges that will keep our freedoms safe. He supports the partial-birth ban; Hillary voted against it. Regardless of how you feel about Trump, critical issues are at stake. Trump will increase national security, monitor refugee admissions, endorse our vital military forces while fighting ISIS. Vice-presidential candidate Mike Pence will be an intelligent asset for the country. Hillary wants open borders, increased government regulation, and more demilitarization at a time when we need strong military defenses...

My Process For No I will be voting “no” on Prop 3 because I am supportive of the process that is in place to review and approve developments. I was on the Traverse City Planning Commission in the 1990s and gained an appreciation for all of the work that goes into a review. The staff reviews the project and makes a recommendation. The developer then makes a presentation, and fellow commissioners and the public can ask questions and make comments. By the end of the process, I knew how to vote for a project, up or down. This process then repeats itself at the City Commission...

Regarding Your Postcard If you received a “Vote No” postcard from StandUp TC, don’t believe their lies. Prop 3 is not illegal. It won’t cost city taxpayers thousands of dollars in legal bills or special elections. Prop 3 is about protecting our downtown -- not Munson, NMC or the Commons -- from a future of ugly skyscrapers that will diminish the very character of our downtown...

Vote Yes It has been suggested that a recall or re-election of current city staff and Traverse City Commission would work better than Prop 3. I disagree. A recall campaign is the most divisive, costly type of election possible. Prop 3, when passed, will allow all city residents an opportunity to vote on any proposed development over 60 feet tall at no cost to the taxpayer...

Yes Vote Explained A “yes” vote on Prop 3 will give Traverse City the right to vote on developments over 60 feet high. It doesn’t require votes on every future building, as incorrectly stated by a previous letter writer. If referendums are held during general elections, taxpayers pay nothing...

Beware Trump When the country you love have have served for 33 years is threatened, you have an obligation and a duty to speak out. Now is the time for all Americans to speak out against a possible Donald Trump presidency. During the past year Trump has been exposed as a pathological liar, a demagogue and a person who is totally unfit to assume the presidency of our already great country...

Picture Worth 1,000 Words Nobody disagrees with the need for affordable housing or that a certain level of density is dollar smart for TC. The issue is the proposed solution. If you haven’t already seen the architect’s rendition for the site, please Google “Pine Street Development Traverse City”...

Living Wage, Not Tall Buildings Our community deserves better than the StandUp TC “vote no” arguments. They are not truthful. Their yard signs say: “More Housing. Less Red Tape. Vote like you want your kids to live here.” The truth: More housing, but for whom? At what price..

Home · Articles · News · Features · Foreclosed
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Couple didn’t know they’d lost their house until it was gone

Patrick Sullivan - June 25th, 2012  
 This is the first of two stories about an Elk Rapids couple who encountered a mortgage modification scam artist and wound up on the brink of losing their home. This week, the Express looks at how becoming victims of fraud caused Pablo and Guadalupe Bocardo to have their home foreclosed. Next week, we will look at the efforts of their attorney, Jason Jenkinson, to fight Fannie Mae to get their house back.

Pablo and Guadalupe Bocardo have had some rotten luck in the past couple of years.

They wanted to modify the mortgage on their Elk Rapids home and they wound up working with a woman who has since become notorious as a swindler.

Their mortgage servicer foreclosed on them.

Their home was sold to Fannie Mae in a sheriff’s sale and eviction proceedings were started against them before they even knew something was wrong.

Remarkably, however, the Bocardos remain in their home.

That’s thanks to a little bit of good luck -- they found an attorney who, so far, anyway, has been able to stave off eviction and foreclosure and keep alive their chances to save their home in a federal court lawsuit, despite long odds against such a thing.

The Bocardos ordeal began when they became one of at least 60 or 70 homeowners from across Michigan who enlisted the services of a woman who claimed she could work out a better deal for them on their mortgage.


It started when the Bocardos heard about Tashia Lynn Winstanley and her company, TLW Mortgage of Holly, MI. It sounded like an outfit that could help them.

They wanted to lower their monthly payment and to do that, they needed a mortgage modification.

“We went to her and she said she could help us,” Pablo said.

They needed to put their trust in someone. Navigating the world of mortgage modification is complicated -- banks and mortgage companies are opaque, the process is complicated and hard to understand, and the language of real estate finance, for a regular person, may as well be in Czech.

“She said she had our back,” Pablo said. “She would always tell me not to worry. She had our back, and I believed her.”


The realization that Winstanley was a scammer and that they were the victims of a fraud did not come suddenly. It unfolded in a series of occurrences that just did not sit well for the Bocardos.

For one thing, their mortgage payment had been $1,200 prior to dealing with Winstanley, but soon after signing on with her, it went up to $1,400.

Winstanley told them they owed more because the bank believed they were a higher risk because they had missed a payment, which Guadalupe now believes must have been lost in the mail.

Now they also had to send their mortgage payments to Winstanley, not the bank.

Winstanley told them this was necessary to ensure the payments got to the mortgage servicer on time. She said this had to happen in order to negotiate a modification.

Guadalupe said she balked at paying $1,400 to Winstanley each month, not sure that she could afford it. Winstanley instead insisted on two payments of $700 each month.

The Bocardos would later find out Winstanley did little or nothing to attempt to renegotiate their mortgage. But the woman sure was tenacious when it came to collecting their checks each month.

“As soon as the day came, she would call me, ‘Did you make the payment? Did you make the payment?” Guadalupe said.


Another thing that should have been troublesome was Winstanley’s insistence that no matter what, the Bocardos should not contact the bank or the mortgage servicer directly.

The Bocardos honored that request for a while, until Guadalupe decided she needed to go around Winstanley, if only to reassure herself that everything was going alright.

“Even though she told us not to call them, I did call them,” Guadalupe said.

When she called the mortgage servicer, Select Portfolio, she learned that the mortgage payments she thought she had been making through Winstanley, the $1,400 she sent her each month, were not making it to the bank.

Winstanley, as usual, had an explanation.

The Bocardos said Winstanley redoubled her insistence that they not contact the mortgage company.

“She goes, ‘They will not talk to you,’” Guadalupe said. “’They will lie to you and tell you they are going to foreclose on you, only because they don’t want you do deal with me.”

“We trusted her because we were in a bind,” Pablo said.


Soon, however, Winstanley’s explanations could not keep up with reality.

There was a knock on the Bocardo’s door. It was a process server with an eviction notice.

Since they hired Winstanley, their house has been foreclosed, the redemption period when they would have been in a better position to contest the foreclosure had passed, and eviction proceedings against them had begun.

One day a man came around and offered them a few hundred dollars if they would just go away quietly. They declined.

And the $13,000 they’d given to Winstanley in fees and mortgage payments was gone, according to their attorney, Jason Jenkinson.


It was a devastating blow for the Bocardos. They did not want to lose their home. They’d been in the house for around 12 years. They’d raised three sons and a daughter in that house.

Two of their sons now play for the Traverse City Wolves semi-pro football team and one of them still lives at home with a grandchild.

“I put a lot of work into it when the kids were young,” Pablo said.

The house, located on a quiet street in the village of Elk Rapids, was a Habitat For Humanity house which they’ve made a lot of improvements to over the years.

Also over those years, Pablo planted rose bushes. The pink flowers grew in front of the house and along each side and in a garden in the back, surrounding two Catholic shrines the family erected.

Neighbors were astonished and thought Pablo must know some trick to get such lush, vibrant rose blooms, but he says he doesn’t do anything special -- he just plants them, waters and cares for them, and sometimes talks to them.

As foreclosure loomed, however, Pablo decided the rose bushes had to go. He didn’t want to lose them to the bank, too.

He ripped them out, all of them but one, and gave them away. It was unhappy but at the same time therapeutic.

“Last year I got so upset, I pulled them all out,” he said.

Since then, Jenkinson has had some success fighting their case and Pablo said he has allowed himself to have some hope that he will be able to keep his home.

He has started planting rose bushes again.


It seems that the Bocardo’s best luck throughout this ordeal was when they called a lawyer for help and wound up reaching Jenkinson, who specializes in fighting foreclosures.

When they called Jenkinson, he had already heard of Winstanley from another case and he knew the Bocardos were in trouble.

Ironically, it was Winstanly who pushed the Bocardos to call Jenkinson in the first place.

When the Bocardos confronted Winstanley about the eviction notice, she suggested they get another lawyer because she didn’t have time to deal with it.

Winstanley apparently didn’t suspect the Bocardos would find Jenkinson, who by then had already sent Winstanley a letter alleging that she was conducting a criminal enterprise by taking money up front and promising to modify mortgages as a nonlawyer.

“I wrote her a letter, saying she was breaking the law, and she just kept going,” Jenkinson said.

When she learned who they had hired, the Bocardos said, Winstanley told them Jenkinson should not be trusted and she told them not to talk to him anymore.

Jenkinson soon got to the bottom of what happened with Winstanley and discovered she had defrauded them of $13,000. But what she’d really done to them, and had done to many others, was so much worse, he said.

“Her actions actually caused them to lose their home,” Jenkinson. “How do you put a price on losing your home, losing your credit? ... I think that the human wreckage that she has caused, I don’t think she should see the light of day again.”


Winstanley, 38, sits in a prison cell today, at Huron Valley Women’s Correctional Facility in Ypsilanti, in part because a Leelanau County couple went through something a lot like what the Bocardos went through.

Winstanley was charged in Leelanau County last October in connection with a couple who also lost their home to foreclosure after she took around $16,121 from them.

She was charged by prosecutor Joseph Hubbell with using a computer to commit a crime, a seven-year felony; and with larceny by conversion, a five-year felony.

The Leelanau County couple went to the sheriff’s department last July after they discovered the money they had been paying to Winstanley to pay their mortgage was not making it to the bank.

They had hired Winstanley to negotiate with Bank of America to modify their mortgage, according to the charges. They received repeated assurances from Winstanley via phone and email that she was making progress in the negotiations.

Like the Bocardos, the result of Winstanley’s fraud was foreclosure -- Bank of America foreclosed because Winstanley failed to pay the couple’s mortgage and by the time the couple recognized the problem it was too late.


In an interview with a detective, Winstanley admitted in September that she took the couple’s money for her own use, according to the charges.

However, once charged, Winstanley maintained that she was virtually broke, despite all of the alleged fraud.

She applied for a court-appointed attorney and claimed an income of less than $1,000 per month and said all she had in the bank was $304.

Winstanley pleaded guilty in January and was sentenced by Circuit Court Judge Philip Rodgers to 17 to 60 months in prison.

She was ordered to pay $25,290 in restitution to the victims of that case and victims in one other case and she was ordered to forfeit a stake in an Otsego County property she inherited.


Winstanley’s legal trouble is far from over, despite other felony fraud convictions in Oakland and Kalakska counties. She is serving a sentence of up to five years in prison. She could be released as early as next July.

Prosecutors were not content to leave her sitting in prison, however.

She now faces charges in Grand Traverse County filed by the Michigan Attorney General that could get her put away for up to 20 years for conducting a criminal conspiracy.

That case involves four other homeowners.

A preliminary examination is scheduled in that case July 26. Winstanley’s attorney, Janet Mistele, did not return a message seeking comment. An aunt of Winstanley’s, who lives in Grawn and was listed in a Leelanau County court file, did not return a message seeking comment.

According to a filing in the latest case, prosecutors estimate Winstanley took over $250,000 from 60 to 70 clients from around Michigan since 2008, many of them from Northern Michigan.

Winstanley was allegedly so brazen that investigators say she continued to embezzle money from clients in late 2011 and early 2012 as she was out on bond while facing felony fraud charges in Leelanau County.


Yet, Winstanley is also a paradox. Despite the large amount of money authorities say she brought in over the period of a couple of years, Winstanley apparently has nothing to show for it.

In Leelanau County, and later in Grand Traverse County, Winstanley signed declarations that she was indigent and could not afford an attorney.

Also, a 2006 conviction for drunk driving in Grand Traverse County remains an open case because over the years she has failed to pay off the fines and costs in the case which amounted to just a little over $1,000.

So, what happened to all of the money? According to an affidavit filed by the attorney general’s office in the Grand Traverse case, the money might have gone into Winstanley’s bloodstream.

She admitted in an interview in the Leelanau County jail in February that she did not work to modify people’s mortgages and instead took the fees and the money people sent her to pay for her methadone drug addiction.

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