A Tampa Bay teacher has sued the 511,000-member $4.9 billion Suncoast Schools Federal Credit Union in Florida court, charging the CU repossessed her car after she fell behind on her mortgage payments.
Angela DiNapoli said through her attorney that she was never late on a car payment to the Tampa-based CU but that she returned from a short vacation to find her car gone.
Initially she called the police, only to find out later that credit union had repossessed the car.
She also said, in a press release, that she had never been notified that she had missed a car payment or that the car, since returned, could be repossessed.
Her attorney, St. Petersburg, Fla.-based Charles Gallagher also said the CU had no cross-collateral clause in the mortgage contract, which would let them repossess the car in the event she fell behind on mortgage payments.
“This is a new tactic for lenders,” Gallagher said. “There is absolutely no legal justification for taking her car when she was up to date on her payments.”
He said that Suncoast later filed a foreclosure lawsuit against Napoli and that she filed her own suit in Florida's 13th Judicial Circuit.
“Suncoast strives to work with our members to resolve issues in a positive way for all concerned,” said Patti Barrow, vice president for marketing at Suncoast Schools. “But because there is litigation pending and we do not disclose any of our members' personal financial information we will not be able to comment further on this particular matter.”
The CU's attorney, Robert Coplen of Largo, Fla., also declined to comment on the case.
According to documents filed in court, Suncoast made DiNapoli the mortgage loan of $121,500 for the purchase of a condominium in January 2006.
The loan had an adjustable rate that reset in 2009, but Gallagher reported DiNapoli made mortgage payments until a series of budget cuts in 2010 significantly reduced her income and the loan went into default in March 2011.
A copy of the default notice was included as part of the credit union filing for foreclosure, which DiNapoli asserted took place after the credit union took the car.
In a motion to dismiss the foreclosure suit, DiNapoli argued that Suncoast could not foreclose because the CU had never notified her for a loan modification and other homeowner assistant programs mandated by federal and Florida law.
Gallagher said Suncoast returned the car to DiNapoli a few days after it became clear that the CU had no right to take it.
“They even demanded that she reapply for a car loan, disclose financials and sign off on a new loan before they would give it back,” Gallagher recounted. “When we refused given that there was no legal entitlement to the same, they gave it back.”