Velletri v. Dixon

44 So. 3d 187 (2010)

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Velletri v. Dixon

Florida Court of Appeal
44 So. 3d 187 (2010)

RW

Facts

Susan Velletri (defendant) took out a two-year, mortgage-secured construction loan from Thomas Dixon (plaintiff). Providence Mortgage Corporation (Providence) serviced the loan. The $250,000 loan’s stated interest rate was 15 percent. At closing, Providence escrowed $65,000 of the loan proceeds, to be paid out only as construction proceeded. Providence also assessed a hefty loan-origination fee and a one-time additional interest charge. In all, Providence withheld approximately $78,000, or 31.2 percent of the loan proceeds. Providence then assigned the loan note and mortgage to Dixon. When Velletri fell behind in repaying the loan, Dixon sued to foreclose on Velletri’s mortgaged property. In her defense, Velletri argued that the loan was usurious. Florida law distinguished between civil usury, an offense involving loans at interest rates between 18 and 25 percent, and criminal usury, an offense involving loans at interest rates higher than 25 percent. The penalty for civil usury was the lender’s forfeiture of twice the amount of interest collected on the loan. The penalty for criminal usury was debt cancellation and the return of any amounts paid on the loan. The trial court permitted Dixon to foreclose on Velletri’s property but assessed the penalty for civil usury. Both Velletri and Dixon appealed to the Florida Court of Appeal.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Villanti, J.)

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