Article Courtesy of The Tampa Bay
By Susan Taylor Martin
July 28, 2018
The Florida Bar is seeking the immediate emergency
suspension of St. Petersburg attorney Mark Stopa, saying he appears "to
be causing great harm" to the public by continuing to practice
In a petition
filed with the Florida Supreme Court today, the Bar says
Stopa has continued to engaged in the kinds of
misconduct that already had led to a recommendation he
be suspended for at least a year.
The petition is based on several new complaints against
Stopa, one of Florida’s best known foreclosure defense
lawyers. Among them are allegations that he settled
cases without his clients’ knowledge; that he failed to
disclose his ownership stake in a company to which a
client deeded her house; and that he instructed one
client to lie about the amount he had borrowed.
That client is currently facing felony perjury charges.
"Immediate action must be taken for the protection of (Stopa’s)
clients and the public," the petition says.
After hearings this spring on prior complaints against
Stopa, Pinellas County Judge Linda Allan, acting as
referee, found him guilty on most counts. She indicated
that Stopa — prone to angry outbursts against judges and
others — "is in great need of professional psychological
help and recommended he be suspended," the petition
Foreclosure attorney Mark Stopa shown during a
hearing in April. The Florida Bar is seeking Stopa's immediate
emergency suspension, saying he appears "to be causing great
harm" to the public by continuing to practice law.
Stopa, 41, had been expected to appeal Allan’s ruling. On Wednesday,
however, he indicated he would accept the suspension and start a company
to help homeowners facing foreclosure.
"I’m disinclined to be challenging the result of what happened," he
said. "It is so time-consuming and expensive and I’m so excited about
this new business venture."
Called Shining Armor, the company would help borrowers negotiate "short
pays," a foreclosure alternative in which the bank agrees to accept a
lower amount that what is owed. Unlike a short sale, though, the
borrower would keep the house but with a new loan under more favorable
Stopa said the new company would be backed by "many millions" of dollars
but would not say where the money would come from.
The Bar’s petition includes these new allegations of misconduct:
• On April 18 — after Allan found him guilty in a similar matter — Stopa
settled a California woman’s foreclosure case without her knowledge or
authorization. The woman did not learn about the settlement until
another attorney told her the lender had agreed to $7,000 in relocation
• In 2014, Stopa’s firm told client Beverly Mellow that an investor
might be interested in buying her Tarpon Springs home. She executed a
quitclaim deed that year to Quest Systems LLC, a company owned or
controlled by Stopa. However, he "failed to explain the legal
ramifications of signing the deed, failed to advise her to seek
independent counsel concerning the transaction and failed to obtain her
written informed consent," the petition says. Stopa has continued to
fight the foreclosure on behalf of Quest Systems.
• Last year, in a trial before Judge Kimberly Sharpe-Byrd in Pasco
County, Stopa told client James Goeke to say he borrowed only $30,000 on
a line of credit although Goeke had previously said in a deposition that
he owed about $190,000. Stopa "knowingly encouraged or allowed his
client to take the stand and provide false testimony," the petition
• In foreclosure cases involving certain limited liability companies,
Stopa filed numerous motions that contained false statements, delayed
litigation and had a "detrimental effect on the court system," the
petition says. Stopa continued filing the motions despite warnings from
Judge Sharpe-Byrd to stop the practice.
Under an emergency suspension, Stopa would immediately be barred from
accepting any new clients. He could not withdraw money from any trust
accounts or financial institutions related to his law practice nor could
he transfer ownership in any property bought in whole or part with funds
belong to clients.