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Mason v. Bank of America, N.A.

United States District Court, Third Circuit

October 10, 2013



MARY A. McLAUGHLIN, District Judge.

This action arises from foreclosure proceedings in the Court of Common Pleas for Philadelphia County against plaintiffs Pamela Mason, Barbara Wear, and Synell Hall-Phillips. The plaintiffs, in a pro se complaint, bring claims under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act ("RICO"), 18 U.S.C. § 1961 et seq. and for fraud. Defendants[1] McCabe, Weisberg & Conway ("McCabe"), Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, an unincorporated division of Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. ("Wells Fargo"), HSBC Bank USA National Association, as Trustee for Master Performing Loan Trust 2005-1 ("HSBC"), and Bank of America, N.A. ("Bank of America") each move to dismiss the plaintiffs' complaint pursuant to various combinations of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6). Some of the defendants also move, in the alternative, under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(e) for a more definite statement.[2] The plaintiffs then filed a motion for relief, which the Court will consider as a response to the reply brief filed in support of HSBC's motion to dismiss. The Court finds that the Rooker-Feldman doctrine bars its subject matter jurisdiction over the claims of Ms. Wear and Ms. Hall-Phillips. On Ms. Mason's claims, and even assuming that Rooker-Feldman does not bar this Court's jurisdiction over the other claims, the Court finds that the complaint fails to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6).[3] The Court will grant the motions to dismiss with prejudice as to all defendants and deny plaintiffs' motion for relief.

I. Background[4]

Plaintiffs state that the defendants are part of a debt collection fraud racket. Compl. pp. 2-3. This collection scam occurs where "[i]n a back room of the Chicago Board of Trade or simply from one of many Internet hosts, worthless bundles of commercial paper in the form of copies of charged off debt are sold at action." Id. at 3. Phelan and McCabe then "break apart the bundles and resell the worthless commercial paper in clusters based on who the original mortgagee is and what the geographic location of the origin of the individual copies." Id . Then Wells Fargo, also known as HSBC, [5] and Bank of America mark up the worthless commercial paper and resell it to Phelan and McCabe, who then defraud and extort money and property from the plaintiffs. Id . Phelan and McCabe subjected plaintiffs to legal proceedings where standing was never proved, authority to make consumer loans was not proved, and damages were never proved. Id.

Plaintiffs allege five predicate acts that they state are in violation of the RICO statute, 18 U.S.C. § 1961 and § 1962. These five predicate acts are essentially identical. Plaintiffs claim only generally that Phelan and McCabe filed a fraudulent security instrument in the "DISTRICT COURT of EASTERN PENNSYLVANIA County, PHILADELPHIA." Compl. pp. 4-6. Phelan and McCabe also allegedly claimed that plaintiffs were indebted to Wells Fargo and Bank of America for more than $75, 000, which Phelan and McCabe "knew was false, with the intention that [the plaintiffs]... rely on the fraud to [the plaintiffs']... detriment." Id . The alleged fraud and extortion is claimed to have "occurred on December of 1993, October 2002, and July 2001."[6] Id . These allegations continue in plaintiffs' "RICO case statement, " whereby Wells Fargo, also known as HSBC, and Bank of America are "running a racket by taking money and property from parties situated similarly to [plaintiffs]... to satisfy... nonexistent debts.'" Id. at 8.

Plaintiffs seek the dissolution of Wells Fargo, also known as HSBC, Bank of America, Phelan, and McCabe. Plaintiffs also seek compensation for "all parties in a sum not less than three times the collective sums of property and losses to business of all who are similarly situated." Compl. p. 10.

II. Procedural History[7]

Ms. Mason, Ms. Wear, and Ms. Hall-Phillips have been subject to three separate in rem foreclosure actions in the Court of Common Pleas for Philadelphia County. See Bank of America, N.A. v. Hall-Phillips, Mar. Term 2012, No. 03776 (C.C.P. Phila. Cnty. filed Mar. 29, 2012); HSBC Bank USA, National Association as Trustee for Master Performing Loan Trust 2005-1 v. Wear, Feb. Term 2013, No. 02176 (C.C.P. Phila. Cnty. filed Feb. 21, 2013); Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. v. Mason, Feb Term. 2013, No. 02832 (C.C.P. Phila. Cnty. filed Feb. 26, 2013).

The McCabe firm filed the foreclosure action against Ms. Hall-Phillips on behalf of its client, Bank of America. In the action against Ms. Hall-Phillips, on January 23, 2013, Judge Fox granted Bank of America's motion for judgment on the pleadings and entered an order granting Bank of America an in rem judgment in foreclosure. In the action against Ms. Wear, an in rem default judgment was entered against her on June 29, 2013, for failure to file her answer within the requested time. Finally, the foreclosure action against Ms. Mason remains pending. As of June 12, 2013, Wells Fargo's motion for alternative service was granted, and other motions are pending.

III. Legal Standard

A. Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Subject Matter Jurisdiction Under Rule 12(b)(1)

On a motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1), dismissal is warranted where a court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over a case. Rule 12(b)(1) motions are either facial or factual challenges. CNA v. United States , 535 F.3d 132, 139 (3d Cir. 2008). A facial attack concerns the sufficiency of the pleadings, whereas a factual attack is a dispute over the existence of certain jurisdictional facts alleged by the plaintiff. Id . (citing United States ex rel. Atkinson v. Pa. Shipbuilding Co. , 473 F.3d 506, 514 (3d Cir. 2007)). "In reviewing a facial attack, the court must only consider the allegations of the complaint and documents referenced therein and attached thereto, in the light most favorable to the plaintiff." Gould Elecs., Inc. v. United States , 220 F.3d 169, 176 (3d Cir. 2000).

By contrast, when a defendant attacks subject matter jurisdiction "in fact, " the court is "free to weigh the evidence and satisfy itself whether it has power to hear the case." Mortensen v. First Fed. Sav. & Loan Ass'n , 549 F.2d 884, 891 (3d Cir. 1977). In reviewing a factual attack, the court is not confined to the allegations of the complaint. Cestonaro v. United States , 211 F.3d 749, 752 (3d Cir. 2000). No presumption of truthfulness attaches to the plaintiff's allegations, "and the existence of disputed material facts will not preclude the trial court from evaluating for itself the merits of jurisdictional claims." Mortensen , 549 F.2d at 891. The ...

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