Freeburg couple sues US Bank and loan officer claiming they are under water

Andrea Dearden Jul. 20, 2011, 2:23am


A Freeburg man and wife claim US Bank and one of its loan officers doctored tax bills in order to justify a refinance that has left them under water on their mortgage.

Terry and Lisa Miller filed a lawsuit June 21 against US Bank and Simeon Bethke in St. Clair County Circuit Court. The complaint is based on a mortgage refinance they say happened in April 2007.

The Millers say they owned a home in the 7100 block of Press Road in Freeburg and were approached by US Bank agent Simeon Bethke about refinancing the mortgage. While gathering documents for the loan approval process, the bank received a copy of the 2006 real estate tax form from St. Clair County.

According to the tax document, the home's value was assessed at $161,332, the lawsuit states. Realizing that was not enough value to qualify for a refinance, Bethke allegedly manipulated the document by combining it with at least two unrelated tax bills for different properties.

The homeowners say Bethke doctored the real estate bill to show the fair property value to be $297,024. The Millers say the fraudulent bill referenced a different school district, township and fire department. They say even the numbers on the falsified tax form "didn't come close to adding up."

Based on the inflated value, the Millers say they were granted a refinance that resulted in a loan-to-value ratio they call "unconscionable" while also increasing their monthly mortgage payment by about $600. As a result of the alleged fraud, the Millers say they are now owe more than the home is worth and are unable to modify or refinance.

The Millers accuses US Bank of fraud and of violating Illinois' Consumer Fraud Act and the High Risk Home Loan Act. They are asking the lender to pay more than $150,000 along with punitive damages and court costs.

The couple contends Bethke's actions also constituted fraud and a breach of fiduciary duty. They are asking the loan officer to pay more than $100,000 along with punitive damages and court costs.

Attorney Jarrod Beasley of Belleville is representing the Millers.

Madison County Circuit Court Case No. 11-L-297.

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