NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Local News

December 23, 2013

Court sides with bank in home equity fraud case

BOSTON — The federal court of appeals has upheld a bankruptcy court decision that a Byfield woman cannot file bankruptcy to avoid financial responsibility for the repayment of a debt she incurred fraudulently.

According to a Dec. 16 decision written by Chief Judge Sandra Lynch of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, Andrea Levasseur, currently of Byfield and formerly of Rowley, cannot expunge her debt of more than $124,000 on checks she wrote from a home equity loan on a home she no longer owned.

According to the court decision, Levasseur, at the time known as Andrea Sullivan, took out a line of credit secured by the equity on the home she owned on Wethersfield Street property in Rowley. On Nov. 14, 2003, however, Levasseur sold the Rowley home, paid off her first mortgage and the Fleet Bank Home Equity Account.

By selling the property, there was no property upon which the home equity line of credit could be secured, Lynch wrote, something Levasseur would know, for “she had worked for a real estate agent and had participated in closings before.”

In June 2003, the court stated that Levasseur purchased a home in Byfield and notified Fleet Bank of her new address, but not that she had sold the Rowley property. In mid-2005, Fleet merged with Bank of America and took over Levasseur’s checking and home equity line of credit. The bank periodically sent her statements for both accounts at her new address, because the credit line had never been formally closed following the sale of the property. One statement showed that the available line of credit amounted to $124,000, according to the court decision.

By June 2005, Lynch wrote, Levasseur’s husband’s business was not doing well and the family was having trouble paying its bills. That’s when Levasseur dipped into the line of credit on the home she no longer owned. She drew exactly $124,000 in checks from the Newburyport branch of the Bank of America home equity account, depositing the money in her Georgetown Savings account.

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