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Prominent lawyer Barry Cohen hired by Pasco lawyer accused of document tampering

Well-known Tampa lawyer Barry Cohen has been hired by Pasco lawyer Constantine Kalogianis, who has been accused of tampering with mortgage documents. In this photo, Cohen is speaking at a news conference in 2012. Eve Edelheit | Times
Published May 26, 2016

Lawyer Constantine Kalogianis has been so successful helping delinquent borrowers fight their lenders that there's no reason for him to alter mortgage documents, an attorney representing him says.

"It appears that (the lenders) are looking for an excuse to embarrass him in the court of public opinion and in the court of law and discourage others who protect the interests of the economically weak,'' prominent Tampa attorney Barry Cohen said in an email.

In a pair of motions, a loan servicing company has accused Kalogianis of altering promissory notes in five Pasco County mortgage foreclosure cases to make it appear that the lenders trying to foreclose didn't have legal standing to do so. The motions say he did that by stamping the notes to indicate they had been endorsed to a lender other then the ones filing the foreclosure suits.

This week, Bayview Loan Servicing, which is foreclosing on a Kalogianis' client on behalf of Bank of America, obtained a video of a man it says is Kalogianis looking at court files in the Pasco clerk's office. The video appears to show him removing a small object from an accordion folder, stamping a page in a court file and returning the object to the folder.

Previous coverage: Court motion says cameras in Pasco clerk's office captured lawyer doctoring mortgage documents

In the email received by the Tampa Bay Times late Wednesday, Cohen did not mention the object or the man in the video's apparent use of it to stamp a court record.

"I can't see anything incriminating other than a lawyer doing a diligent search, going through files looking for mortgage fraud,'' Cohen said of the video. "After all, it would not be unusual to find mortgage fraud on the part of Bank of America and its legal agents in that they've already stipulated to being responsible for tampering with evidence resulting in payment of billions of dollars of fines to avoid a possible criminal prosecution.''

Cohen said that Kalogianis has won "many cases'' in which promissory notes had not been stamped or signed by any lender.

"Why in the world would he want to do something that could potentially hurt his client by putting a stamp on a note?'' Cohen asked "Simply stated, there was no need for Constantine to stamp anything to win the case.''

Forging or altering public records, including court records, can be a felony punishable by up to five years in prison.

Previous coverage: Motion accuses Pasco lawyer of altering documents in foreclosure cases

The Tampa Bay Times called Kalogianis' office twice Wednesday seeking comment about the video, once at 9 a.m. and again in mid afternoon, but received no response. At 5:10 p.m., Cohen called to say he was representing Kalogianis and would have a statement within 15 minutes (It didn't arrived until 8:31 p.m. Wednesday).

"(Kalogianis') advisors conflicted him on whether or not to talk to the press so he's finally got hold of a really good advisor who is sending you this email on his behalf,'' Cohen wrote.

Cohen, one of Tampa Bay's best-known lawyers, has represented clients in several high-profile cases. Among them were Clearwater chiropractor William LaTorre, who was charged with vessel homicide on Memorial Day weekend 1989 after his cigarette boat hit a boat full of teenagers, killing four. LaTorre was acquitted; he committed suicide in 2014.

Cohen also represented Marlene and Steven Aisenberg, whose baby, Sabrina, disappeared from her Valrico crib in 1997. The Aisenbergs, the only suspects in the case, were indicted on federal charges of making false statements but the charges were later dropped and the couple was awarded $2.9 million in legal fees. Sabrina has never been found.

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