Disbarred attorney accused of foreclosure swindle
- Article by: ALEJANDRA MATOS
- Star Tribune
- March 31, 2014 - 9:25 AM
Steven Lundeen used to represent criminal defendants in court, but he was disbarred in 2012 for using drugs, improperly taking money from his clients and failing to show up in court. Authorities say that less than a year after he lost his law license, Lundeen entered a new business venture: taking money from Hispanic homeowners trying to avoid foreclosure.
Lundeen, 54, is due in court next week to face two felony charges of theft by swindle. According to the criminal complaint, Lundeen allegedly posed as a Wells Fargo representative and tricked residents of a Minneapolis duplex into giving him $2,000 after he threatened eviction.
A Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid attorney said that despite a decline in the number of foreclosure scams as the housing market improved, cases like this one demonstrate that homeowners in distress are still vulnerable to fraud. The legal aid attorney, Luke Grundman, said Lundeen’s scheme seemed especially “blatant.”
Lundeen obtained his law license in 1997 and practiced as a criminal defense attorney in Minneapolis, court records show. The seven misconduct complaints against him included allegations he misappropriated client funds, ignored client phone calls and lied to the court about why he did not show up to trial.
In one case in 2011, the Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility found that Lundeen didn’t attend a client’s trial in Ramsey County District Court because he was sitting in jail after an arrest for cocaine possession. The Minnesota Supreme Court disbarred Lundeen in March 2012.
Five months later, a Brooklyn Center man paid Lundeen $1,020 to represent him, not knowing Lundeen no longer had a license, according to a criminal complaint.
Then in February 2013, Lundeen and an interpreter stopped by a south Minneapolis duplex, which was on the verge of repossession after a foreclosure sale, the complaint said.
In one unit lived siblings Mario and Maria Manuel-Nanduca. Lundeen and the translator allegedly told the siblings that they had three options: buy the house back from Wells Fargo, pay rent or leave, the complaint said.
A week later, Lundeen came to the house to collect $500 in rent from each unit in the duplex. A month later, he did the same thing.
Then, Maribel Garcia, a Realtor and an authentic Wells Fargo representative, showed up at the home. The family asked whether they should start paying her instead of Lundeen.
“I explained that nobody from Wells Fargo had come to collect rent,” Garcia said during an interview.
Garcia told the siblings to call the police next time they saw Lundeen. The following month, Lundeen’s girlfriend, Sara Lyn Anderson, and the interpreter showed up, the complaint said. The family called the police and they were both arrested.
The complaint said police discovered a portfolio in Anderson’s car that had 60 Hennepin County Sheriff foreclosure records for properties owned by people with Hispanic names. Lundeen later admitted that the portfolio belonged to him, the complaint said.
If convicted, Lundeen and Anderson, 46, of Lauderdale, each face up to seven years in prison and a $15,000 fine. Neither returned calls from Whistleblower.
Garcia said Wells Fargo paid the utility bills and allowed the families to stay in the home for free for three months after the scam. They have since moved away, she said.
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