U.S. Bankrupcy Court in the Eastern District. Photos: Black Star News
The Queens property owner, Ashmeen Modikhan, who claims she was a victim of a fraudulent loan modification scheme during chapter 13 proceedings in U.S. Bankruptcy Court claims the alleged scammers are now targeting potential proceeds from her personal injury lawsuit in an ongoing chapter 7 case in the same court.
Modikhan claims Judge Jil Mazer-Marino who’s handling the case, and the trustee Alan Nisselson, have ignored evidence she’s presented showing that she was the victim of a loan modification scam and that the parties currently seeking distributions from her assets presented “fraudulent” proofs of claim. They are not the parties of interest and they’re not entitled to payments, Modikhan maintains.
Moreover, she claims, since there are foreclosure judgments—albeit illegally obtained, she claims—in New York State Supreme Court, the proceedings in the bankruptcy court are moot. Modikhan claims her own lawyer, Darren Aronow, of the Aronow firm, was involved in the loan modification scam. She claims she was deceived into paying tens of thousands of dollars to the firm, the previous trustee Marianne DeRosa, and Rushmore Loan Management Services, servicers for Tiki Series IV Trust, an alleged creditor. The alleged loan modification scam was covered in a previous Black Star News article.
Before the Aronow firm allegedly steered Modikhan to the bankruptcy court, her two family properties—were foreclosed on in a default judgment in April and May, 2019 in State Supreme Court in Queens County. Modikhan, and Ronald O’Donnell, a retired lawyer who educates victims of mortgage scams nationally, say she shouldn’t even be in the U.S. Bankruptcy court.
The 2019 foreclosure judgment is filled with several hand-written entries and information superimposed on names of other alleged plaintiffs previously typed on the document. The alleged plaintiff in that May 2019 foreclosure judgment was a company called NationStar Mortgage LLC and its counsel Courtney Williams of Gross Polowy LLC who played a prominent role in the ongoing case before Judge Mazer-Marino and earlier before Judge Elizabeth Stong. Gross Polowy LLC has also represented multiple parties in Modikhan’s foreclosure cases and bankruptcy case.
In addition to the numerous cross-outs on the document and hand-written information, Modikhan claims she was never served. The foreclosure judgment claims that a notice of sale was published in the New York Post, without providing any date, or stating if the notice was published for four consecutive weeks as required. Copies of the published notice are also not provided.
That foreclosure judgment was signed on May 20, 2019 by then Acting Judge Mojgan Lancman. Modikhan is currently challenging that foreclosure judgment which she says was obtained illegally. On Monday, Black Star News sent an e-mail message to Judge Lancman and Lucian Chalfen, spokesperson for the New York Unified Courts system to confirm whether she had indeed signed the foreclosure default judgment. On Tuesday Lancman recused herself and another judge was assigned to the case.
Black Star News on Wednesday sent an e-mail message to Judge Alan S. Trust, Chief Judge in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, to find out why Modikhan is in the bankruptcy court in light of the judgments in State Supreme Court. Judge Mazer-Marino is also aware of the State Court judgments, court records show. Court spokesperson, Yvette Mills, in an e-mail message said, “Chief Judge Trust does not comment on pending cases.”
Modikhan says her previous lawyer Darren Aronow took advantage of her naiveté and lack of knowledge about bankruptcy proceedings. Under the alleged loan modification scam, Modikhan paid Aronow $1,000 per month and the trustee DeRosa $4,800 per month from December 2019 to December 2020. Then, beginning in August 2020, she started paying Rushmore Loan Services $2,950 per month.
Modikhan says she paid out a total of $90,537 to Aronow, De Rosa, and Rushmore. She would have paid tens of thousands more had she not become suspicious and sought help from people who advise mortgage scam victims, like O’Donnell the retired lawyer and Paris Dube, a paralegal. The payments came from Modikhan’s worker’s compensation payment—which was exempted funds—from an injury suffered while she worked for American Airlines.
The alleged loan modification scam began to unravel when O’Donnell, the retired lawyer, called Darren Aronow and confronted him—how could he represent Modikhan in a loan modification program on properties that had been foreclosed—albeit illegally—in the State Court? Aronow filed papers to withdraw from representing Modikhan the same day.
Aronow and DeRosa refunded most of the money from Modikhan but Rushmore refused. DeRosa has retired as chapter 13 trustee.
Modikhan accused Judge Elizabeth Stong, who presided over the case in the bankruptcy court while she was in chapter 13 of bias, for ignoring the alleged scam. Modikhan initiated adversary action—essentially a lawsuit—against DeRosa, Aronow, Rushmore, Courtney Williams, and other parties. When Stong didn’t recuse herself after three attempts by Modikhan to get her off the case, she complained in a letter to Chief Judge Trust. She also noted that Stong was presiding over both her bankruptcy case and the adversarial action, which she claimed was a conflict of interest.
Modikhan was afraid Stong would rule in favor of all the defendants’ motions to dismiss her case with prejudice which she says forced her into converting to chapter 7. Stong eventually recused herself. The case was assigned to Judge Jil Mazer-Marino; the new trustee was Alan Nisselson.
Mazer-Marino handled both Modikhan’s bankruptcy case and the adversarial action. Not surprisingly, Modikhan says, Mazer-Marino granted all the defendants’ motions to dismiss with prejudice. She also denied Modikhan’s motion for reconsideration. “The court continues to protect the parties that committed a scam against me,” Modikhan said. “If it was conflict of interest for Judge Stong to handle the adversarial case and the sham bankruptcy, then it must also be conflict of interest for Judge Mazer-Marino. I will appeal her ruling.” Mazer-Marino has permitted Modikhan to sue the Aronow law firm for malpractice.
Modikhan claims the court is trying to cover up the scam in order to protect the parties involved.
Rather than holding all the parties accountable in the court for the alleged loan modification scam exposed by Modikhan and punishing the parties behind it, the Court is pretending that Modikhan was the one who walked away from a legitimate loan modification plan. The court is still proceeding as if Modikhan had been eligible for and had been properly approved for loan modification.
Judge Mazer-Marino also set a date by which parties of interest were to present their proofs of claim. Subsequently Modikhan challenged the proofs of claim, alleging that they were fraudulent.
Documents show, and Modikhan and Dube point out, that the lawyer Courtney Williams, with Gross Polowy, LLC, filed a proof of claim on January 9, 2020 for Tiki Series IV Trust as creditor for $689,154.49. The servicer listed was Rushmore Loan Management Services. However, documents show that the assignment of mortgage from a company called MTGLQ to U.S. Bank as trustee for Tiki Series IV was executed on April 28, 2020, more than three months after the proof of claim stating that on January 9, 2020, Tiki Series IV was in possession of the note was filed by Williams.
“That means that Courtney Williams and Gross Polowy filed a fraudulent proof of claim. They didn’t own it, according to the evidence,” Dube said.
Chief Judge Trust, through spokesperson Mills, also declined to comment about the alleged fraudulent proof of claims filing. Williams, the Gross Polowy attorney, also didn’t respond to an e-mail message with questions about the alleged fraudulent proof of claim.
In court papers dated July 25, 2022 objecting to Modikhan’s motion to withdraw from the bankruptcy court, Nisselson wrote: “While the filed claims appeared to be valid as filed based upon a review of Debtor’s schedules, the trustee will make a more extensive review of the claims at the appropriate time.”
“What time can be important than today?” Modikhan said. “Trustee Nisselson seems to place the cart before the horse. He wants to distribute my assets then find out if these were parties of interest. This is like carrying out an execution then investigating whether the suspect was really guilty or not.”
In court papers Modikhan also claims that during a visit with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) she discovered that someone had unlawfully altered the addressee on her Income and Wages form to that of Rushmore Loan Servicing Co., the servicer for Tiki Series IV. She has asked the IRS to investigate the matter and reported it—and the alleged loan modification scam—to the U.S. Attorney’s Office and to New York State Attorney General Letitia James.
Judge Mazer-Marino has scheduled a hearing for Aug. 25, to consider two motions, both by the trustee Nisselson: one is Modikhan’s motion to withdraw from the chapter 7 proceeding, which Nisselson opposes; the other is Nisselson’s motion seeking approval for his plan to distribute proceeds from Modikhan’s personal injury lawsuit, which she opposes.
In 2014, Modikhan’s right hand was crushed when the door of a bus that carried American Airlines employees from terminals to parking lots shut on it. Modikhan hired a lawyer named Frank Cassisi in 2015 and sued the company that operated the bus, Golden Touch Transportation Co., for $5 million, court records show.
Judge Mazer-Marino approved trustee Nisselson’s motion to hire Cassisi as his counsel, to hire his own law firm Windel Marx Lane & Mittendorf, LLP—Nisselson and Cassisi allegedly settled the personal injury lawsuit against Golden Touch for $500,000.
Modikhan has rejected the purported settlement and says she wants to take the personal injury case to trial. She fired Cassisi and reported him to the Grievance Committee. The Committee informed her, in a letter dated Aug. 11, that her allegations are under investigation. Modikhan also notified Marguerite Grays, the Administrative Judge in State Supreme Court, Queens County, about Cassisi’s actions. The State Court responded by informing her that a trial date of Oct. 5, 2022 has been set for her personal injury case.
In his motion, to be heard today, Nisselson wants Mazer-Marino to approve distribution from the purported $500,000 in the following manner: $166,666.66 in fees and $3,297.71 in expenses for Cassisi; $200,000 to a company called Sedgwick to settle a lien on Modikhan’s worker’s compensation payments after she was injured. Nisselson’s plan doesn’t detail additional proposed distributions.
The trustee does ask that Modikhan be allowed $25,159, the legally allowed exempt. “I will be living in life-long pain due to my injury while working for American Airlines and this court wants to distribute proceeds from my personal injury case to non-creditors and leave me with $25,000?” Modikhan said. “First my worker’s compensation money was targeted. Now it’s my Golden Touch lawsuit.”
In his court papers opposing Modikhan’s motion to withdraw from the ongoing chapter 7 proceeding, Nisselson wrote: “The dismissal of the debtor’s case would be highly prejudicial to creditors of her estate since such dismissal would eliminate any possible distribution to her creditors. Such dismissal would render moot a proposed settlement, now pending with this court, of a personal injury action in which the debtor is a plaintiff.”
“Since these alleged debtors are not the parties of interest and presented false proofs of claim in the courtroom how can dismissing the case be prejudicial to these non-creditors,” Modikhan said. Dube, the paralegal notes that penalties for filing false proofs of claim could include a $500,000 fine and five years imprisonment.
While Modikhan’s case was still before Judge Stong, when she arrived for a hearing on March 4, 2020 before DeRosa, the then trustee told her that Hanin Shadood the attorney with the Aronow law firm assigned to handle her case was now working for the trustee. Yet the docket and court records show that Shadood remained Modikhan’s attorney of record until April 7, 2021 the following year.
Court papers show that Judge Mazer-Marino granted Nisselson’s motion to hire Cassisi as his counsel on July 30, 2021. Modikhan says the first time Cassisi informed her that he was now working for Nisselson, and not for her, was March 16, 2022. “I see the same thing that happened in chapter 13, when my lawyer Shadood went to work for trustee DeRosa. Now my personal injury lawyer is also working for trustee Nisselson in chapter 7,” she says.
Modikhan is also outraged that Cassisi and Nisselson seemed to diminish the trauma of her accident and injuries. In his filing Nisselson wrote that, in justifying the $500,000 settlement, Cassisi told him that Golden Touch “could argue that the debtor should have used more caution while exiting the bus,” or that “there is another albeit undiscovered cause of debtor’s pain unrelated to the accident.”
Modikhan has been representing herself since she fired Darren Aronow.