HURRICANE – In October 2008, while working on the oil fields in Vernal, Utah, Anneliese Freeman-White found a lump in her left breast. When her doctor told her it was breast cancer, she didn’t immediately tell her husband or other family members. The first thing she did was call Wells Fargo, the holder of her mortgage and home equity loan.
“Before I even told my family that I had cancer I called Wells Fargo,” Freeman-White said. “I told them I needed to get my home loan modified, and that I’m going to need help because I was [the] main supporter of my family.”
Freeman-White, her husband, her daughter and her granddaughter (who Freeman-White had legally adopted as her child) lived in a house in Hurricane. Freeman-White and her husband bought the property and paid a contractor to build the house in 2004 for a total of $138,000. They put $30,000 down in cash – money they’d gotten from a settlement for her husband’s failed back surgery. The fusion of five disks in his spine failed because the titanium the doctors used broke. The failed surgery made Freeman-White’s husband disabled and he has not been able to work since.
Freeman-White and her husband originally sent their mortgage payments to the contractor who built their home. In 2007, the contractor began going through a divorce. Freeman-White and her husband were afraid their home would get tied up in the contractor’s divorce negotiations, so in 2007 they took their mortgage to Wells Fargo.
In 2007 Freeman-White and her husband also took out a home equity loan with Wells Fargo to build a fence and landscape their yard. They only needed $15,000 to cover these expenses but the loan officer convinced them to borrow $45,000.
“We were stupid,” Freeman-White said. “We should have said ‘no, we’ll just get what we need to build the fence.’”
After being diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008, Freeman-White spoke to Wells Fargo’s home mortgage department and their home equity department nearly every day. During this time she was also undergoing chemotherapy. Despite the fact that the home mortgage department and home equity department were both parts of Wells Fargo, representatives from those two departments never spoke to each other – Freeman-White was the one that informed each department of what the other one was doing she said.
Wells Fargo’s home equity department finally told Freeman-White to miss a home equity payment while her mortgage was being modified, she said.
“I told them, just lower [the home equity loan payment] by $100 and I’ll be able to make it,” Freeman-White said.
In the meantime, Wells Fargo had to foreclose on Freeman-White’s home in order for the modification of her mortgage to go through. When Freeman-White began the mortgage modification process, she owed $107,000 on her mortgage. After the modification and foreclosure expenses were added to the loan, she owed about $118,000.
Freeman-White called Wells Fargo asking about this change in her balance owed.
“They said that’s the way it has to be done,” Freeman-White said.
Freeman-White called the home equity department as soon as she had the information they needed about the modification of her mortgage.
“The day I got the modification paperwork I called the home equity department and said, ‘I have the modification papers, what do you want to do on your end?’” Freeman-White said.
Now that Freeman-White’s mortgage payment was lowered, she was able to pay her home equity loan payments.
The home equity department at Wells Fargo told her not to worry about paying her home equity loan payments, she said. The department had already sold Freeman-White’s $45,000 debt to a collection agency and reported it to the credit reporting agencies as unpaid.
Freeman-White continued to receive chemotherapy during these events.
Eagle Crest, LLC, the collection agency that bought Freeman-White’s home equity loan, first called her in March 2009, right after she’d received another chemotherapy treatment for her breast cancer. By this point she was bald, and feeling extremely sick.
“They called me a lame-ass piece of shit, nothing but a loser,” Freeman-White said. “My daughter grabbed the phone and told them to never call her mom again.”
A few days later, Freeman-White was admitted to the hospital for a chemotherapy overdose. She was in the hospital for seven days. While she was in the hospital, Eagle Crest called Freeman-White’s home and harassed her family.
Freeman-White started radiation treatments for her breast cancer, but she began to suspect something wasn’t right. Her left breast had shrunk considerably. It was hard as a rock, and began to smell foul.
“It smelled like sewage,” Marquita Hess-Nelson, a friend of Freeman-White, said.
It took some time for Freeman-White to convince her doctors that there was a problem. She was finally diagnosed with a severe radiation burn and taken into surgery
Freeman-White underwent a double mastectomy. Doctors covered the hole in her chest where her left breast used to be with muscle taken from Freeman-White’s back.
Unknown to Freeman-White, Eagle Crest sold Freeman-White’s home equity loan to another collection agency, Partners for Payment Relief, LLC. Freeman-White received two letters in the mail from Partners for Payment Relief, and then a foreclosure notice was stuck to the outside of her home.
Freeman-White, alarmed, called Wells Fargo and asked them what to do.
Wells Fargo told her not to worry about it.
“They told me they’re the first lienholders,” Freeman-White said.
Wells Fargo told Freeman-White that as long as she didn’t leave her home, the collection agency couldn’t foreclose on it.
“But I have eviction notices,” Freeman-White told Wells Fargo. “[Wells Fargo] said nobody can kick you out as long as you’re making your modified loan [mortgage] payments.”
Dec. 22, 2010 Freeman-White went to court to try to keep her home.
She brought a letter from her doctor, Dr. Richard Lemon, who asked the court to allow Freeman-White to stay in her home.
“[She] has disabling neuropathy caused by her chemotherapy and chest wall inflammation caused by an infection caused by surgery and radiation therapy,” Lemon wrote. “I do not feel at the present time that she is physically able to move.”
The court evicted Freeman-White from her home, but gave her two weeks in which to move out. Without the court’s intervention, Freeman-White would have had to move out in only three days.
Freeman-White’s home was put up on public auction and Partners for Payment Relief bought it for $14,600. Freeman-White originally paid $138,000 for her home.
After Partners for Payment Relief foreclosed on and bought Freeman-White’s home, Wells Fargo foreclosed on the home, based on their interest in the original mortgage Freeman-White took out on the home in 2007. Wells Fargo put the house on public auction a second time.
According to the Washington County Recorder’s Office, the title for Freeman-White’s home has changed hands more than seven times since 2004.
Freeman-White, her husband, and her 9-year-old granddaughter no longer have a home. Freeman-White and her husband now have three foreclosures on their credit records and haven’t been able to rent a place to live. They’ve been spending time at various properties belonging to Freeman-White’s friends.
Before she got breast cancer, Freeman-White had good credit and a good job.
“I had everything,” Freeman-White said. “I had credit cards. I built myself from raising my two girls to getting married. We had credit cards. We had a nice home.”
Freeman-White knows she has lost her home in Hurricane forever, along with the $30,000 cash she and her husband put as down payment in 2004.
“I don’t really want the home back. I want my credit straightened out,” Freeman-White said. “I want Wells Fargo to recognize what they’ve done to my life and others – because I kept in contact with them 24/7 and they kept telling me, ‘Don’t worry, they can’t get you out of [your home].’ But they knew they could! They destroyed my family in the process.”
Freeman-White says she tried to follow the rules and do everything right.
“There wasn’t a day that went by in chemo and radiation and being sick that I didn’t deal with Wells Fargo, trying to save my home so my granddaughter had a place to live in case I passed away,” Freeman-White said.
Freeman-White receives medical care through Utah State Medicaid, so she and her family are trying to stay close to the St. George area. If Freeman-White moves away from Utah – to Las Vegas, for example – she will lose her medical coverage.
In an ironic twist, Freeman-White received a letter in the mail from Wells Fargo after her home had been auctioned to the public for the second time.
The letter told her that she had no homeowner’s insurance on her home and she needed to purchase some.
At this point, Freeman-White hadn’t owned her home for over six months.
“Nobody knows what the other hand is doing,” Freeman-White said. “Nobody talks to anybody.”
Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2011, all rights reserved.