VANCOUVER, Wash. -- A Vancouver veteran is being credited with prompting a federal lawsuit against a Western Washington trustee company.
The lawsuit, announced by the U.S. Department of Justice last week, claims that Northwest Trustee Services illegally foreclosed on the homes of at least 28 service members.
The DOJ says it launched an investigation after Jacob McGreevey, a Marine veteran from Vancouver, filed a complaint with the department in 2016. In 2010, Northwest Trustee foreclosed on McGreevey’s Vancouver home not long after he returned home from his third service tour in the Middle East. McGreevey, his attorney and the Justice Department say that violated the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act. The federal law makes it illegal to foreclose on the home of an active service member and one year after active duty without a court order.
“When I found that news out, it angered me. There’s no way to sugar coat it,” McGreevey told KGW. He and his attorney say Northwest Trustee was aware at the time that McGreevey had just returned from active duty, but foreclosed on his home anyway. “They knew the law, they knew the provisions, they knew better. And they still proceeded,” he said.
“It turns out Mr. McGreevey wasn’t alone,” said Sean Riddell, McGreevey’s attorney. Riddell is also a marine and was McGreevey’s commanding officer overseas at one point. According to the Justice Department’s lawsuit, Northwest Trustee illegally foreclosed on the homes of 27 other service members since 2010. “I’m offended that Northwest Title is still one, in business, and two, refuses to accept accountability for taking advantage of our veterans,” Riddell said.
In a statement provided to KGW, Northwest Trustee attorney James Galbraith said the Justice Department was wrong to file the suit. “This is nothing more than a baseless lawsuit by the federal government,” Galbraith said. “The fact is, Northwest Trustee Services has always supported our brave men and women in uniform and has a rigorous vetting system in place to ensure that they are protected from foreclosure. We take any allegations very seriously, which is why we have fully cooperated with the federal government and launched an internal review to evaluate tens of thousands of documents.”
In 2016, McGreevey filed a similar civil lawsuit against Northwest Trustee and his mortgage lender. A judge dismissed the lawsuit, however, after accepting arguments from Northwest and the lender that McGreevey waited too long to file the suit. Riddell says they’ve since filed an appeal.
McGreevey, meanwhile, says he’s not surprised that Northwest Trustee allegedly violated the law when it came to foreclosing on other vets. He wonders how many others could be affected as well. Moving forward, McGreevey said he wants to see stronger regulations when it comes to similar situations. “It’s not just an ‘I’m sorry, we took your home.’ They took a tangible piece of real estate and property and it had a detrimental effect on my finances, my credit, and everything I’ve done since that date,” he said.