Nazarian, Leahy, Friedman, JJ.
unscrupulous mortgage transaction in this case unfolded when
Rene Mitchell ("Appellant") sought a fixed rate
loan for the purchase of a residential property and executed
a sales contract specifying the same. At the closing a month
later, Ms. Mitchell, to her surprise, realized that the loan
documents she had just executed were actually for an
adjustable rate mortgage. She halted the closing, had the
word "VOID" stamped on all executed documents, and
informed the lender of the error and requested acknowledgment
of cancellation in writing. Several days and notices later,
the lender sent Ms. Mitchell a notice stating that her loan
had been modified to a fixed rate loan at 6.2% interest. Ms.
Mitchell was apparently satisfied with this and made payments
on the loan for nearly eight years after moving into the
residence. No new loan documents were executed.
Mitchell defaulted in January 2013, and in August 2015,
substitute trustees for the current loan servicer, Keith M.
Yacko, Robert E. Frazier, Thomas J. Gartner, Jason L. Hamlin,
Glen H. Tschirgi, and Gene Jung ("Appellees" or
"Substitute Trustees"), filed an order to docket a
foreclosure in the Circuit Court for Prince George's
County. Ms. Mitchell filed a motion to stay the sale and
dismiss the action, arguing, inter alia, that the
order to docket did not contain copies of a valid and
enforceable note or deed of trust. After her motion was
denied without a hearing, Ms. Mitchell appealed.
examination of the documents in the record reveals that on
July 14, 2005- three days after Ms. Mitchell terminated the
closing-the adjustable rate deed of trust was filed in the
land records for Prince George's County with the
"VOID" marks excised. This document, devoid of all
"VOID" marks, was attached as an exhibit to the
2015 order to docket filed 10 years later. Also, appearing
for the first time was a copy of the Adjustable Rate Note
that Ms. Mitchell signed at the closing, with the
"VOID" stamps removed. In place of the
"VOID" stamps, both documents donned new stamps
reading simply "REDACTED."
Mitchell raises four questions in her appeal, but the first
is dispositive: "Did the Circuit Court err in failing to
dismiss the foreclosure action because the Note and Deed of
Trust in the Order to Docket are not valid and
enforceable?" We hold that a
foreclosure proceeding cannot be instituted upon forged
documents. The aforementioned documents-clearly false and
materially altered to look genuine-suggest forgery,
 and equitable relief is not available
to a party with unclean hands. Ms. Mitchell's Rule 14-211
motion to stay the sale and dismiss the action stated a
facially valid defense to the foreclosure. As such, the
circuit court erred in denying the motion without a hearing.
We vacate the court's order and remand for a hearing.
Closing the Closing
2005, Rene Mitchell decided to purchase residential property
located at 9003 Harness Way in the City of Bowie, Maryland
("the Property") from Maria and Harold J. Moxley.
On June 8, 2005, Ms. Mitchell signed a sales contract,
listing the purchase price at $555, 900.00.
Mitchell desired to finance the purchase with a fixed rate
30-year mortgage from Fremont Investment and Loan
("Fremont"). According to an
affidavit she filed in the underlying foreclosure action, Ms.
Mitchell and Fremont had agreed to a conventional fixed rate
loan, as documented by the terms of the sales contract.
However, at the closing on July 11, 2005, Ms. Mitchell
noticed, contrary to her expectations and much to her
surprise, that the promissory note contained an adjustable
interest rate and the deed of trust contained an adjustable
Mitchell then informed her realtor and the settlement agents
of the error, requested that the closing be terminated, and
refused to sign any further documents. She also requested the
return of all documents that she had signed up to that point.
Although the settlement agents, Barbara Licon and Philip
Sardelis, agreed to terminate the closing, they told Ms.
Mitchell that they had to keep the documents and shred them.
Consequently, Ms. Mitchell requested that they stamp a
"VOID" mark on each page of each document that she
signed. Ms. Licon complied. Ms. Mitchell also wrote a note on
the adjustable rate note which read: "I requested this
copy of Voided documents with Barbara Licon signature of Void
[sic]. My Realtor is present to witness. We are to come back
tomorrow to execute corrected documents. I have requested
Fremont provide me a letter acknowledging cancellation of
this debt loan, Deed promissory note. RM[.]" Ms.
Mitchell followed-up on the same day with the following
letter to Fremont:
I am requesting that you immediately cancel my loan and
return all monies due back to me based on the Loan Documents,
executed by Sandler Title & Escrow, LLC on behalf of
Fremont Investment & Loan, not reflecting my sales
Upon my review of the signed loan documents prepared by
Barbara Licon from Sandler Title & Escrow, LLC . . .
[t]he loan package was not explained very well and was
rushed. I saw many errors in the loan package mid way through
the closing and stopped the closing. Ms. Licon stated that
they would correct the documents and I must immediately
contact Fremont Investment & Loan directly and cancel the
original loan documents, which she kept in her possession,
claiming she would have to shred. I kept the blank documents
and requested her to draw a void line across each one. None
of the second copy documents have my signature and I am very
uncomfortable with leaving the original documents for her to
shred but she states this is a normal procedure. My realtor
Paula Haynes was a witness to this conversation between Ms.
Licon and me as was the notary Mr. Phillip Sardelis who also
signed the documents as we went through them. Both can also
verify that I requested the documents to this loan be
. . . The loan terms are:
1st Mortgage 30 year conventional firm fixed at an
interest rate of 6.200%
2nd Mortgage 30 year conventional firm fixed at an
interest rate of 9.125%
Please advise me on what the next course of action is to
provide new accurate loan documents for review and
this is my official notice to cancel the original Adjustable
Rate loan documents that I did not agree to purchase and were
not accurate based on the attached documents for the property
at 9003 Harness Way, Bowie[.]
responded by letter on July 12, 2005, acknowledging receipt
of Ms. Mitchell's request to cancel her loan. Fremont
agreed to cancel the loan "transaction, " and
indicated there was a "new transaction" that was
adjusted to provide the "proper loan
same day, Fremont issued two notices to Ms. Mitchell. The
first affirmed that, "[a]s of the date of this Notice,
the principal loan balance that is owed to Fremont Investment
& Loan for 444, 728.00 AT 8.6770% ANNUAL PERCENTAGE RATE
AS REFLECTED ON THE FEDERAL TRUTH-IN-LENDING DISCLOSURE
STATEMENT IS CANCELLED AS OF THE ABOVE REFERENCED DATE."
(Emphasis in original).
second notice stated that Ms. Mitchell's loan would
henceforth be a conventional fixed rate loan, and provided
As of the date of this Notice, the principal loan balance
that is owed to Fremont Investment & Loan for 444, 728.00
AT 6.200% 360 MONTHS CONVENTIONAL FIXED RATE FULLY AMORTIZING
In addition, we would like to advise you that you have thirty
(30) days after receipt of this Notice to dispute the
validity of the above debt, or any portion thereof. If you do
not do so, the debt will be assumed to be valid. If you
canceled notify us in writing within this thirty (30) day
period that you dispute the debt, or any portion thereof, we
will obtain and mail to you verification of the debt.
you have thirty (30) days after the receipt of this Notice
to request the name and address of the original creditor,
if different from the current creditor. Upon receipt of a
written request from you within the thirty (30) day period,
we will provide you with the name and address of your
(Emphasis in original).
loan documents were executed. On July 15, 2005, Fremont
returned the cancelled documents-the deed of trust and note,
bearing the "VOID" marks and Ms. Mitchell's
handwritten note-to Ms. Mitchell. Significantly, the first
pages of the deed and note sent to Ms. Mitchell contain
stamps reading "CANCELLED AND SATISFIED IN FULL without
recourse" followed by a signature line dated July 15,
2005. Although it takes some deciphering, the signature line
on the stamp reads "Fremont Investment & Loan,
Lizbeth Stokes, Vice President."
Mitchell lived at the Property and made consistent payments
for almost eight years. On January 1, 2013, Ms. Mitchell
first failed to make a payment on the loan and continued to
miss installment payments each month thereafter, according to
the affidavit of default and indebtedness executed by an
agent for the loan servicing company.
October 10, 2014, the Substitute Trustees, acting for U.S.
Bank, sent a notice of intent to foreclose to Ms. Mitchell.
Then, on August 24, 2015, the Substitute Trustees filed an
order to docket foreclosure in the Circuit Court for Prince
required by Maryland Rule 14-207, the order to docket
foreclosure contained copies of a note and deed of trust as
exhibits revealing that 10 years earlier a deed of trust was
filed in the land records for Prince George's County on
July 14, 2005-just three days after the terminated
closing. These documents were
apparently doctored, because they do not
bear the "VOID" marks. Instead, the copy of the
deed of trust filed with the order to docket bears the
marking "REDACTED" on each page, and contains an
adjustable rate rider. Similarly, each page of the adjustable
rate note bears the marking "REDACTED." The note
does not contain the "VOID" marks, Ms.
Mitchell's handwritten note, or the lender's
further required by Maryland Rule 14-207, the order to docket
contains an affidavit, executed by the servicing agent,
stating that the note is a "true and accurate
copy." Another affidavit, this one
executed by Robert E. Frazier, affirms, in pertinent part,
"[t]hat  attached hereto is a true and accurate copy
of the Deed of Trust that is the lien instrument subject to
this foreclosure action. If applicable, any personal and/or
private information has been redacted as noted on the
document." The Substitute ...