Chuck Kalogianis is in big trouble with a Florida court, and for that reason, he’s one of the Lawyers We Love™. You won’t believe the lengths he’s willing to go to defend a client. Chuck was recently caught tampering with evidence in a foreclosure case by changing the payee on his client’s promissory note.
First, some background. Constantine “Chuck” Kalogianis is a New England School of Law graduate who’s been practicing in Florida since 1993. He’s earned a reputation as a bad boy.
Chuck paid his way through law school by working as a stripper. He ran for the Florida House in 1998 and the U.S. Congress in 2002, losing badly each time but also running afoul of federal election laws.
Kalogianis Law Firm, PA handles real estate transactions, foreclosures and probate issues in Tampa Bay. The Florida Bar issued a public reprimand four years ago and made him take an ethics course when he ripped off one client and left a paralegal in charge of others.
Chuck took the lesson to heart. He’s now found a new, higher level of advocacy for his clients.
In a 250-page motion filed in a Pasco County foreclosure case, a loan servicer accused Kalogianis of stamping a fake endorsement on the promissory note submitted to the court. Bayview Loan Servicer, an agent for Bank of America, said they filed a note with a blank endorsement. That means anyone who possessed the note could enforce it. But if the note was actually endorsed — particularly to a bank other than Bayview or Bank of America — they’d lose legal standing in the case.
Bayview claimed Kalogianis was the only person with the means and the motive to alter the note. As a Pasco County lawyer, he had unsecured access to court files involving his clients. He also had a financial interest in winning because the court had awarded him $170,000 in attorney fees in a similar case.
But Bayview had more than a good argument. Kalogianis had been caught redhanded, they said, tampering with evidence in the clerk’s office — on camera!
Busted. That’s a rare boldness, one worthy of handcuffs.
But this is Florida, the one-time poster child of the mortgage foreclosure crisis that gripped the nation a few years ago. Home prices statewide have dropped by half in the last decade. Nearly 700,000 foreclosure cases clogged Florida’s courts at one point. To clear the backlog, the state supreme court set up a parallel system for foreclosures that cut lots of corners on due process, effectively rubber stamping anything a bank filed.
The irony is that banks paid billions to settle government claims of foreclosure fraud that included acts far worse than anything Kalogianis may have done.
Barry Cohen, Kalogianis’ lawyer, says he was just looking for the usual signs of bank fraud in that video:
… it would not be unusual to find mortgage fraud on the part of Bank of America and its legal agents in that they’ve already stipulated to being responsible for tampering with evidence resulting in payment of billions of dollars of fines to avoid a possible criminal prosecution.
He’s right about that.
During the heyday of the foreclosure crisis, copy shops like DocX blossomed by manufacturing fake mortgage documents for the banks. And foreclosure mills like the Law Offices of David J. Stern used those documents to kick millions of people out of their homes at the behest of the banks.
While those document shops are now out of business — and some of the lawyers disbarred — the practices continue unabated. Banks have stopped outsourcing fraud and now do it in-house.
Cohen is one of the best criminal defense lawyers in the area, but Kalogianis needn’t worry about criminal charges. While his actions (if proven) are clearly illegal, they’re not wrong. No Florida jury would convict a lawyer for doing what Kalogianis (allegedly) did.
I’m not pretending Chuck is a hero. He’s not, and $170,000 in legal fees is nothing to throw a stick at. Still, if you’re going to break the law for money, why not save someone’s home in the process?