Tampa foreclosure process server ProVest LLC under state investigation for sloppy practices dubbed "sewer service"

15

December

Wake up and good morning. As if the mortgage foreclosure mess was not nasty enough already. The Florida attorney general is investigating two Florida companies that deliver foreclosure notices to homeowners, including one based in Tampa, on civil allegations of slipshod business practices. Tampa's ProVest LLC of 4520 Seedling Circle, one of the largest processing services in the nation, faces complaints of  filing questionable statements with the court, back-dating documents and questionable billings. The second firm under investigation is Miami's Gissen & Zawyer Process Service Inc.

The investigation is reported in today's South Florida Sun-Sentinel story here. What do process servicers do? They personally hand court summonses to defendants, notifying them legal actions have been filed against them. In foreclosure cases, the paperwork tells the recipients they must respond in 20 days or the action will proceed.

Sloppy process serving has already earned a nickname: Sewer Service. It refers to the alleged practice of process servers simply tossing foreclosure notices in a sewer then claiming the papers were personally handed to the homeowner.

ProVest was founded in 1991 by CEO Scott Strady, a former sales manager for Gillette. The ProVest web site says the "company employs close to 1,000 associates and provides customer service support from 15 nationwide offices."

ProVest spokesman Mark Hubbard told the Sun-Sentinel his company is cooperating in what he understood was a broad look by the state at the process serving sector. "Provest is confident the vast majority of notifications are being conducted appropriately and when there are anomalies of inadequate service, we strive to learn from those situations," he said.

In one example cited by the Sun-Sentinel, South Florida defense attorney Brent Del Gaizo lodged a complaint with the attorney general claiming sloppy practices by ProVest in two ongoing foreclosure cases. In one, he said court documents filed by the server showed his husband and wife clients were given the summons, even though they were in Colorado at the time and their housesitter testified no one delivered papers. A Broward County judge threw out the subpoenas, the newspaper reported, after Del Gaizo filed a motion, pointing out the discrepancy.

A newspaper story in Highlands Today, an affiliate of the Tampa Tribune, raised questions last month about ProVest's ties to some of the "foreclosure mill" law firms infamous for dubious foreclosure procedures and under investigation by the Florida attorney general. The story, citing process servers, stated:  "Among the largest with operations in ten states is Tampa-based ProVest. Although ownership interest by the law firms has been denied, they maintain support staff at the Law Offices of David J. Stern and Shapiro & Fishman in Boca Raton. Marshall C. Watson also uses ProVest." All of those firms are under state investigation.

-- Robert Trigaux, Times Business Columnist

[Last modified: Wednesday, December 15, 2010 7:18am]

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