Justice Dept. sues Bellevue company over foreclosures on military homes

SEATTLE (AP) — Since 2010 a Bellevue company has foreclosed on at least 28 homes owned by military service members without obtaining required court orders, the U.S. Justice Department said.

A lawsuit was filed Thursday against Northwest Trustee Services Inc. in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington.

The lawsuit claims the company violated the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, which protects the rights of service members who are on active duty by suspending or modifying certain civil obligations. The law prohibits foreclosing on the home of a service member during active military service and one year afterward without a court order if the mortgage originated prior to the servicemember's period of active military service.

The Justice Department launched an investigation into Northwest's practices after U.S. Marine Corps veteran Jacob McGreevey of Vancouver, Washington, submitted a complaint. McGreevey's home was foreclosed on in 2010, less than two months following his release from active duty in Operation Iraqi Freedom, according to the Justice Department.

In 2016, McGreevey sued both Northwest and his mortgage servicer, PHH Mortgage, but a judge dismissed the case, accepting the companies' argument that McGreevy had waited too long to file.

The department's investigation allegedly revealed that in addition to McGreevey, Northwest had foreclosed on other homes of military service members in violation of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act.

"The loss of a home is a devastating blow for anyone - but far worse for active duty service members often called to war zones far from Western Washington," U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes said in a news release. "Our investigation revealed that Northwest Trustee Services repeatedly failed to comply with laws that are meant to ensure our servicemembers do not have to fight a two front war - one on behalf of all of us, and the other against illegal foreclosures."

Northwest didn't respond immediately to a request for comment.

The lawsuit seeks monetary damages for affected service members and a court order for the company to stop the alleged practices.