More than 160 homeowners at Citi mortgage event

Taurean Augustus, a Citibank consultant from Hagerstown, Md.,

Taurean Augustus, a Citibank consultant from Hagerstown, Md., talks with Antoinette C. Miller, of Central Islip, at a workshop for distressed homeowners held by Citibank's mortgage division at the Marriott in Islandia. (July 31, 2012) Photo Credit: Steve Pfost

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A Citibank foreclosure prevention event in Islandia Tuesday drew more than 160 homeowners seeking help with their mortgages.

The bank was the last of five major mortgage lenders to meet with Long Island homeowners in July. The five lenders -- Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Citibank, JPMorgan Chase and GMAC -- reached a $25 billion settlement with state and federal agencies earlier this year, in which they promised to reach out to distressed homeowners and improve the way they handle mortgage modification requests.

At the Islandia Marriott Long Island Tuesday, Citibank representatives met with homeowners in blue-curtained cubicles, reviewing their cases and scanning in financial documents. Some 3,500 distressed homeowners were invited to attend, according to Citibank. The bank's mortgage division, CitiMortgage, is holding 35 such events nationwide this year, compared to 25 last year.

Most of the homeowners in distress "are normal people who have hit some kind of a financial challenge," said Robert Cushman, senior director of customer management at CitiMortgage. "They either had their hours reduced or they lost their jobs or they had unexpected expenses, or all of the above."

Antoinette Miller of Central Islip, who attended the event, said she hoped to lower the monthly payments on the two-bedroom rental home she owns in Mastic Beach, since she has not been able to count on a steady stream of rental income from the property. If the mortgage could be modified, she said, "then I could catch up."

Rich Dipre of Sayville said his business doing maintenance and electronics installation on boats has been hit hard by the downturn. He hoped to lower the interest rate on his roughly $140,000 mortgage, which he said is now at 6.375 percent. "With mortgage rates as low as they are," he said, "if I could refinance, that would make a big difference."

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