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Hard-luck tales surface as Syracuse prepares to seize 101 tax delinquent …

SYRACUSE, N.Y. – For years, when Kenneth Bloom didn’t pay his property taxes, nothing happened.

Living on a fixed income and swamped by medical expenses, he paid other bills instead.

Since 2007, the tax debt on his two-bedroom house in the city’s Salt Springs neighborhood has grown to more than $19,000.

Now the tax bill has grabbed Bloom’s attention.

After months of written warnings that Bloom says he doesn’t remember seeing, the city is preparing to seize his house at 320 Mountainview Ave. He has until September to try to prevent the foreclosure.

Mayor Stephanie Miner launched a citywide initiative last November to compel Syracuse property owners to pay their delinquent taxes or forfeit their properties. The program has reached a decisive moment: The city is about to seize people’s homes.

Bloom, 62, said he learned of the pending action a couple months ago when two city employees came to his door to warn him. They left him some information and a long list of apartment referrals.

Bloom has lived in his house for more than 50 years, off and on. His parents bought it when he was in fifth grade. In recent years, his finances have been decimated by health problems, including a triple-bypass surgery.

He said he does not know whether he can prevent the foreclosure, which might require a down payment of more than $3,000. “I don’t know what I’ll do,” he said.

This is the first time in more than a decade that city property owners have faced mass foreclosures for neglecting their taxes. City councilors soon will have to vote on each home to be taken from its owner. Some say they are reluctant to do so.

“For me, I’m going to have problems seizing owner-occupied properties,” said 2nd District Councilor Pat Hogan.

But 3rd District Councilor Bob Dougherty said there is little hope for some of the owners. Dougherty said he is trying to help homeowners in his district avoid foreclosure, but some owe more than they can repay, and more than their houses are worth.

“We say we want everyone in America to own a home, but maybe some people shouldn’t,” Dougherty said.

Syracuse officials have lined up their first batch of about 100 properties to seize, roughly 25 of which are owner-occupied houses.

Immediately after seizing the properties, the city plans to transfer ownership to the new Syracuse-Onondaga County land bank, which will market the properties for sale. The land bank’s mission, besides improving tax collections, is to revitalize neighborhoods by getting neglected properties into the hands of new owners.

Beginning at the Common Council study session Wednesday, councilors will review each property for transfer to the land bank, formally known as the Greater Syracuse Property Development Corp. The city will only seize properties that the council approves for transfer.

At its first two voting sessions in August, the council will vote only on vacant land, commercial buildings and rental properties. Katelyn Wright, a city planner and acting director of the land bank, said the council will not vote on owner-occupied houses until Sept. 9. She said city officials want to give owners as much time as possible to avoid foreclosure.

View full sizeJames Mack walks in front of his house on Glenwood Avenue in Syracuse, which the city plans to seize because $23,000 in back taxes are owed on it. Mack said he and his wife fell behind on taxes because they lost jobs due to serious illnesses. Syracuse plans to seize about 100 tax-delinquent properties, including 25 owner-occupied homes, in August and September in the first mass foreclosures by the city in more than a decade.  

But Strathmore resident James Mack has already given up on keeping his house at 615 Glenwood Ave., where he has lived for the past 15 years. Mack said he and his wife, Constance, failed to keep up with the taxes after they both became disabled and jobless – she because of cancer, he because of an injury.

Mack, 47, said Constance was so distraught about the $23,000 delinquent tax bill that she moved out three months ago and went to live with relatives in Pennsylvania.

Mack has a fixed income from Social Security. He inquired about saving the house by entering into a “tax trust,” which is a repayment agreement that requires a 10 percent down payment and monthly payments thereafter. But he wasn’t eligible because the house is in his wife’s name, he said.

Mack said he grows tearful when he thinks about leaving the home where he and Constance raised children and grandchildren. Over the years, he said, the couple made many improvements to the roomy two-story house, which is valued by the city assessor at $118,000.

“It’s just a sad thing,” he said. “It’s been your home for so long, and all of a sudden you have to give it up.”

City employees have knocked on the door of every owner-occupied house targeted for foreclosure to try to make sure homeowners understand the process and where to find assistance if they want it, Wright said. Some owners appeared to have vacated the homes already.

For help, the city directs homeowners to work with Home HeadQuarters, a nonprofit agency that offers foreclosure-prevention counseling. Kerry Quaglia, executive director, said his agency could provide low-interest loans for homeowners to pay off their back taxes. The repayment terms are similar to a tax trust, but there is no down payment and the interest rate is 5 percent rather than the 12 percent charged by the city.

But few applicants qualified for the loans, Quaglia said. Many had credit problems or liens against their homes that made them ineligible, he said. Of the 115 homeowners who met with foreclosure specialists, only about 20 applied for loans and only seven were approved, he said.

Nell McFarland-Miles, 69, said Home HeadQuarters rejected her application for a loan even though her house at 722 Northway St. is worth far more in collateral than her tax debt of $15,000. The house has a market value of $85,000, according to assessment records.

McFarland-Miles said she will raise money privately to enter a tax trust and prevent foreclosure.

The well-kept house formerly belonged to her father, who died in 2005, McFarland-Miles said. Most of the back taxes accumulated while the property remained tied up in his estate, she said. During that time, she spent roughly $30,000 on repairs, but nobody in the family paid the taxes.

This mansion at 114 Summit Ave. in Syracuse has a delinquent tax bill of $78,000 and is on a list of properties eligible for tax foreclosure, according to city officials. The son of owner Martha Pina said he plans to establish a tax trust to pay the overdue taxes. 

Many of the homes targeted for foreclosure are modest, but there is a mansion on the list, at least for now.

The 10-bedroom, 5 ½-bathroom house at 114 Summit Ave. is assessed at $282,000 and has a full market value of $344,000, according to the city assessor. The house was built in 1903 for industrialist Willard C. Lipe, whose family started the Brown Lipe Chapin and Lipe Rollway manufacturing companies.

Tax records show that the current owner, Martha Pina, owes delinquent taxes of more than $78,000, dating back five years. Robert Gutierrez, Pina’s son, said Pina lost track of the tax bills after she refinanced her mortgage and the new bank did not pay the taxes out of escrow. Gutierrez said he plans to establish a tax trust on Pina’s behalf to prevent foreclosure.

Sheldon Ashkin, first deputy finance commissioner, said on Friday that Gutierrez has paid the current taxes and has applied for a tax trust to repay the delinquent taxes. But he still has to pay a roughly $7,800 down payment to activate the tax trust and remove the house from the foreclosure list, Ashkin said.

As soon as the city council works its way through the first 100 properties ready for foreclosure, Wright will present them with roughly 100 more from a second round. Over three years, the city plans to send foreclosure notices to about 3,500 eligible properties, Wright said.

City officials hope the crackdown could bring the payment of $11 million in delinquent taxes over the next eight years and increase normal tax collections by $2 million a year.

Contact Tim Knauss at or 315-470-3023.

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Foreclosure sales are up in 2013

The number of Louisville homes sold through foreclosure has risen during the first six months of 2013.

The number of Louisville homes sold through foreclosure has risen during the first six months of 2013.

Kevin Eigelbach
Reporter- Business First

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The number of foreclosure sales scheduled for Jefferson Circuit Court during the first six months of this year was 2,239, a 30 percent increase from the 1,729 scheduled during the first six months of last year, said Jefferson County master commissioner Edith Halbleib.

Actual sales of foreclosed property also are up slightly, from 1,064 during the first six months of 2012 to 1,095 as of the first six months of this year, an increase of nearly 3 percent.

Those numbers seem to indicate that there still is a large inventory of homes in foreclosure, which acts as a drag on home prices. The local statistics also seem to run counter to figures Business First previously reported about the percentage of mortgage loans in foreclosure, which has been trending downward.

Halbleib told Business First in January that she expected sales to increase this year because she had streamlined scheduling, so that once a lender gets a judgment, the sale will be scheduled automatically.

Although sales and scheduled sales are up so far this year, indications are that they might taper off the rest of this year, Halbleib said, because filings of new foreclosure cases in Jefferson Circuit Court are slowing.

According to figures provided by the Jefferson County Office of Circuit Court Clerk, 2,272 foreclosure cases were filed from Jan. 1 through last week, a rate of nearly 11 cases per day. That’s slower than 2012, when 4,573 cases were filed for the entire year, a rate of more than 12.5 cases per day.

The number of foreclosure cases peaked in 2009 with 5,188, then fell to 5,184 in 2010 and 4,345 in 2011.

Kevin Eigelbach covers these beats: Financial services, residential real estate, property and casualty insurance, construction, unions, engineers, architects, agriculture, South End, Southwest County, Bullitt County.

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2013-07-29T06:11:00Z 2013-07-29T10:53:19Z Fallout from foreclosureALISON …

RACINE COUNTY — Foreclosure filings are plummeting and tax foreclosures are stagnating, but the last gasp of the foreclosure crisis in Racine is a big one.

In the city, almost half the housing market is foreclosed properties, according to one analysis. Meanwhile, homeowners are increasingly opting for bankruptcy, rather than going into tax foreclosure and losing their homes.

“The crisis — I would never say it’s over, but it’s ending, it’s ending very quickly,” said University of Wisconsin-Whitewater economics professor Russell Kashian. “These are the last stages of the foreclosure crisis.”

But that last stage looks like an especially rough one for Racine, where unemployment rates still hover at about 12 percent.

Kashian, who tracks foreclosure trends across Wisconsin, calls the statistics here “astounding.”

Last resort

When facing foreclosure, homeowners out of options can file for bankruptcy, protecting them from losing their home as they get their finances in order. It’s not a good option, said County Treasurer Jane Nikolai, but for some people, it’s the only one.

Even as the recession recedes, that last resort is being used more and more by county homeowners facing the possibility of tax foreclosure.

Across Racine County, those numbers increased by 31 percent between June 2012 and June this year, according to Nikolai. In Racine, bankruptcy protection against foreclosure jumped by 54 percent, she said.

This is what Kashian calls the “last big gasp” of the foreclosure crisis.

“Basically, you’re down to the toughest of the toughest foreclosures, the people who have gone through every financial, legal mechanism they can to forestall the loss of their house,” he said. “That’s why you’re seeing these tax foreclosures and you’re seeing the bankruptcies.”

The county only pursues foreclosures after three years of delinquent taxes. Almost six years distant from the start of the recession, “This is the worst,” Nikolai said.

“Everybody who’s had savings, a 401(k) they’ve withdrawn — all that’s used up at this point, for most people” seeking bankruptcy over foreclosure, she said.

Sometimes, bankruptcy can help, Nikolai added; people get their finances in order, and the county gets its taxes paid back. But, “This is the really bad time.”

The market

Meanwhile, the city’s housing market is seeing a glut of foreclosed homes — about 48.7 percent of all sales, at latest count.

Based on his experience, “I can tell you … that’s an astounding number,” Kashian said.

That number comes from Dan Gobis, a licensed real estate broker with RE/MAX Newport Realty in Racine.

Of the single-family homes sold each month in 2013, between 30 and 40 are foreclosures, according to Gobis’ analysis of Multiple Listing Service reports, which include all real estate agent-listed sales, but do not capture sales by owner.

In 2013, 51.3 percent of MLS reported sales were purchased with cash, Gobis said; that’s compared to 10.4 percent cash sales in 2006.

“Why?” Gobis asked. “Because they’re investors” — people buying the foreclosed properties to fix up, then sell at a profit.

Although the foreclosures are selling, it isn’t great for the market’s health, according to Kashian.

“It’s really, really a hardship for the people who are trying to sell in competition with them,” he said. “These foreclosures are not price-sensitive. The banks are just looking to get out.”

According to MLS listings, the average sold price of cash sales in 2013 is $38,268. In 2006, that figure was $83,662.

Sunny side

Yet for foreclosures, “The bulk of them, it’s over,” Gobis said.

So far this year, circuit court records show that mortgage foreclosure filings have fallen in Racine County, and Nikolai said the number of county tax foreclosures is stagnating.

This time last year, Racine County already had about 750 foreclosure filings. As of Friday, there have been about 474.

That’s in line with statewide trends, where filings have fallen by about 40 percent, Kashian said.

But it’s still notably shy of pre-recession levels. Between 2005 and 2007, the county sat just shy of 300 total foreclosure filings between January and August. In the City of Racine alone, about 285 have filed for mortgage foreclosure in 2013 to date.

Relative to the rest of the county, Racine residents consistently file the lion’s share of mortgage foreclosures, and represent the bulk of those choosing bankruptcy over tax foreclosure.

By all accounts, it’s the economy.

“The market is getting better,” Gobis said. But, “People have to have jobs, and that’s part of the problem in Racine — the high unemployment.”

But even as the economy improves and foreclosures decline, the fallout from the crisis is especially painful. Nikolai said her office is continuing to work with those it can to prevent them going into tax foreclosure.

Despite the market’s unpredictability, she — like Gobis — is generally optimistic, particularly when the housing market is seeing improvement.

“The foreclosure crisis is basically over,” Kashian said. But, he added, that’s also because most of the homes that were at risk of foreclosure or unstable when the recession hit have now passed the tipping point.

“Eventually the crisis has to end, not necessarily because the rain has to stop, but because the number of people standing out in the rain has gone down.”

Financial Resources

Racine County Treasurer’s Office: (262) 636-3239

City of Racine Housing Services: (262) 636-9197

Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority: (888) 995-4673

Green Path Debt Solutions: (414) 282-8064

Family Service of Racine: (262) 634-2391

Additionally, the Racine Coalition for Financial Fitness lists local resources on its website:

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Jill Kelley’s office building foreclosure case is settled

TAMPA — A $2.1 million foreclosure case involving an office building formerly owned by Tampa socialite Jill Kelley and her husband, Scott, was settled Monday, according to the judge overseeing it.

The case had been scheduled to go to trial Aug. 12 before Hillsborough Circuit Judge Christopher Sabella. Settlement terms were not disclosed, which is typical in civil cases, and attorneys for the parties could not be reached for comment.

A pretrial hearing had been scheduled Monday, but the Kelleys and attorneys did not appear as settlement talks concluded.

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The case involved a three-story office building in downtown Tampa on Madison Street that the Kelleys purchased in 2008 after securing a $2.1 million loan from Central Bank. But the bank filed the foreclosure action in April 2010 after the couple failed to make loan payments.

The Kelleys bought the property using their corporation, Kelley Land Holdings. Jill Kelley is currently listed as the corporation’s managing partner.

The bank said the fair market value of the property is about $1.4 million. Once that is applied to the loan, the Kelleys owed the bank more than $700,000 with interest adding $109 per day, according to a September 2011 court filing. The balance due currently was not immediately clear Monday.

That figure also did not include attorney fees.

Kelley is the Tampa hostess who unwittingly triggered an investigation that ended the careers of CIA director David Petraeus and former Central Command leader Gen. John Allen.

In 2012, Jill Kelley was named as the tipster in an FBI investigation that ultimately uncovered Petraeus’ extramarital affair with his biographer, Paula Broadwell, leading to his resignation.

The affair came to light after Kelley reported threatening emails to the FBI, which turned out to be from Broadwell.

Kelley is suing the U.S. Justice and Defense departments for allegedly leaking her name to reporters.

A separate foreclosure action by a different bank on the Kelleys’ $1.5 million Bayshore Boulevard home is still pending. The home’s image was beamed around the world after the scandal erupted in November.

William R. Levesque can be reached at or (813) 226-3432.

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State foreclosure assistance available

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The third round of a state-sponsored, federally funded foreclosure-prevention program will become available to qualified residents in Jackson and Josephine counties this week.

The Home Rescue Program provides monthly mortgage assistance of up to $20,000 over a 12-month period or payments of up to $10,000 to help people get caught up on present mortgages that are in arrears.

“We’ve seen good results so far,” said Ben Pray, a spokesman for Oregon Housing Community Services. “When you try to find the most effective instruments to help homeowners, we’ve found buying time for them is something that has proven effective nationally, not just in Oregon.

Applicants must have lost at least 10 percent of their income compared to 2011 or 2012, and meet other criteria.

The online gate for the first 100 applications opens at noon Wednesday and closes next Tuesday, Aug. 6. Once the first 100 applications are filed, however, the digital gate will close until the following Wednesday, Aug. 14.

People who go to the application website at can determine whether they qualify to apply.

An online checklist, for example, will reveal that homeowners whose first mortgage is a home equity line of credit aren’t eligible, and neither are people with vacation homes or rentals.

“Qualification” doesn’t mean automatic approval, Pray stressed.

“But if you qualify to apply, there’s a pretty good chance of approval. We have a video and eligibility criteria and customer service to assist people, so there shouldn’t be surprises.”

The application involves six to seven online pages, and wage, mortgage, bank and other statements will be needed.

“It’s no different than going through the mortgage process,” Pray said. “Even if one document is missing, it slows down the application and approval process. The burden is on the applicant, so they need to be as informed as possible.”

Depending on how fast the 50-person staff can process the first 100 applications, Pray said, the spigot may widen to 200 or 250 for later cycles.

Pray said the first two rounds in 2010 and 2012 — both a bit different than this one — drew a large response in a state where unemployment was well above the national norm.

“The state of affairs for foreclosures is much different now, but there is still a need,” he said.

Three northwest counties — Columbia, Clatsop and Tillamook — and two in Southern Oregon — Klamath and Lake — got a head start on the third round, allowing rural residents a chance to jump in early, Pray said. Clackamas, Multnomah and Washington counties, in the Portland metropolitan area, will enter the program Aug. 28.

Pray said it takes about four months for decisions about approval, depending on the completeness and complexity of individual applications.

Funds are from the Treasury Department’s “Hardest Hit Fund,” which allocated $220 million to Oregon in 2010 to administer foreclosure-prevention programs. Federal funds went to 19 states, including Arizona, California and Nevada in the West.

Oregon Housing and Community Services administers the program through the Oregon Homeownership Stabilization Initiative, in cooperation with local nonprofit partners — ACCESS in the Rogue Valley.

OHIS has thus far delivered more than $93 million in assistance to more than 8,000 homeowners. Pray said the third iteration could add another 2,500 to the role, depending on how much is awarded to participants.

“If the mortgage we’re paying is $1,000, then over 12 months we would only use $12,000 of a potential $20,000,” Pray said.

“It’s the same idea for home reinstatement. If every homeowner uses $10,000, we can help fewer people. But if everyone approved is only a month or two behind, that would allow us to help more people.”

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or Follow him on Twitter @GregMTBusiness.

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Brown Deer Business Park faces $22.3M foreclosure lawsuit

The Brown Deer Business Park has 40 acres and 10 buildings.

The Brown Deer Business Park has 40 acres and 10 buildings.

Sean Ryan
Reporter- The Business Journal

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HSA Commercial Real Estate is trying to work out an agreement with U.S. Bank after the lender filed a foreclosure lawsuit against the developer’s properties in the Brown Deer Business Park.

Also this week, developer Stewart Wangard said he will not contest Milwaukee County’s decision to accept another company’s project proposal over his own for a site in the Park East corridor.

In Brown Deer, a foreclosure lawsuit is pending over the bulk of the industrial buildings in the 40-acre Brown Deer Business Park, located at West Brown Deer Road and North Green Bay Road.

U.S. Bank in late May sued HSA Commercial, claiming the developer in mid-January stopped making payments on mortgages for its land and buildings in the business park and owes $22.3 million. U.S. Bank, in its lawsuit, will ask a Milwaukee County Circuit Court judge to appoint a receiver to manage the business park properties.

HSA Commercial is a multi-faceted developer whose recent Milwaukee-area initiatives include starting construction on the Mayfair Triangle project in Wauwatosa and buying the 10-acre Plaza 173 shopping center on West Blue Mound Road in Brookfield.

Robert Smietana, vice chairman and chief executive officer of HSA Commercial, responded to questions about the lawsuit with an emailed statement. Smietana said HSA Commercial officials are in discussions with lenders over the loan.

“We are hopeful that we can arrive at an equitable solution that will help to enhance the long-term value of our shared interests in the property,” the statement said. “Though recent economic conditions have posed considerable challenges for us in our office and industrial leasing efforts at Brown Deer, we remain committed to the project, because we are optimistic about the improvement of the commercial real estate market in southeast Wisconsin.”

Sean Ryan reports on real estate, construction and public transit in southeast Wisconsin

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Foreclosures slide in Las Cruces area – Las Cruces Sun

LAS CRUCES Foreclosure rates in Las Cruces decreased for the month of May compared to the same period last year, according to newly released data from CoreLogic.

The CoreLogic data reveals that the rate of Las Cruces area foreclosures among outstanding mortgage loans was 1.88 percent for May, a decrease of 0.14 percentage points compared to May of 2012 when the rate was 2.02 percent. Foreclosure activity in Las Cruces was lower than the national foreclosure rate, which was 2.61 percent for May 2013.

Jodi Juliana with Steinborn and Associates Real Estate said she handles foreclosure properties for Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and a few other entities.

“We have seen a significant decline in the amount of foreclosure inventory currently on the market as well as in the pipeline — listings that we know will be hitting the market in the next few months,” she said. “Buyers are always looking for a good deal so the decrease in inventory has led to many REO (real estate owned) listings getting multiple offers.”

John Hummer, owner of Steinborn, said that the number of foreclosures may be down, but they are still affecting the overall market.

“Foreclosure represent 4 percent of MLIS (multiple listing service) listings but are 20 percent of MLIS sales,” he said. “The median price of foreclosures for the first six

months of 2013 is $113,000, which brings down the overall median price of home prices.”

Juliana said that she would not be surprised, though, if there continues to be foreclosed properties on the market, although not at the same level as in the recent past.

“There are a lot of properties all around town that are obviously abandoned and most likely going through the foreclosure process,” she said. “So I can only suspect that we will have a steady inventory over the next few years, but it will be no comparison to the last three.”

Teresa Camacho, with Coldwell Banker de Wetter Hovious, said that she has noticed a drop in foreclosed properties and said she thinks the levels will not return to what they were in the past.

“They’ve gone down a little bit,” she said. “I think there will always be foreclosures, but we’re not getting them like we used to.”

Doris Nurenberg, executive officer with the Las Cruces Association of Realtors, said that business has been improving as a whole for the real estate market.

“(What) I’m hearing out there is we’re as busy as we can be,” she said. “Things are selling. I don’t think the lending issue has eased up a whole lot, but there’s money to lend. Interest rates only ticked up a tiny bit.”


For people who find themselves facing foreclosure or even delinquency, there is hope available.

The Fair Lending Center at the United South Broadway Corporation — a nonprofit law office — reports that homeowners are allowed to defend themselves in court during the foreclosure process, but many defendants do not have representation.

YWCA’s Consumer Credit Counseling Service closed its office in Las Cruces but people can still find help through the El Paso office and can even conduct phone sessions. The phone number is 888-533-7502.

CAFe is a nonprofit that works in areas such as education and job creation, and is also active in the foreclosure realm. CAFe is non-denominational, but works with religious organizations and people who are dealing with foreclosure. Rose Ann Vasquez with CAFe deals in foreclosure and can be reached at 575-496-1116.

“Our highest rate of foreclosures are in the 88012 and 88011 zip codes,” she said of the areas on the East Mesa side of Las Cruces. “I’d really like to have churches contact us if members in their congregations are being affected.”

Vasquez said the New Mexico Attorney General Ownership Preservation Program has a state-wide, toll-free number where people can also find help. The number is 1-855-664-6630. She said a good website to checkout also is

According to Corelogic, in Las Cruces, the mortgage delinquency rate — the percentage of loans that are more than 90 days delinquent — decreased in May, 3.65 percent of mortgage loans were 90 days or more delinquent compared to 4.01 percent for the same period last year, representing a decrease of 0.36 percentage points.

Brook Stockberger may be reached at 575-541-5457.

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Activists protest outside Wells Fargo executive’s San Marino home

Members of Occupy Fights Foreclosures and the nonprofit Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment staged a circular picket line in the 1300 block of Woodstock Road for about an hour. The group dispersed quickly and without incident after San Marino police declared the assembly unlawful.

Officials in the tony bedroom community passed an ordinance requiring demonstrators to stay 150 feet from a protest target’s home or 75 feet from the curb after a similar October 2011 protest at Sloan’s home.

National Lawyers Guild attorney Carol Sobel, who attended Saturday’s demonstration, said the law goes overboard in restricting constitutionally protected speech and is laughably impractical: Woodstock Road is about 40 feet wide, meaning demonstrators would have to gather outside a neighboring home to comply.

San Marino City Manager John Schaefer said the ordinance is intended to balance the rights of demonstrators and homeowners and was based on laws in other cities that have survived court challenges.

A protest at Sloan’s house in April 2012 resulted in a two-hour standoff with police and the arrest of Ana Casas Wilson, a disabled woman fighting to stop Wells Fargo from foreclosing on her South Gate home.

Casas Wilson had planned to challenge the ordinance but died before her case made it through the courts.

This time, demonstrators said they were focused less on challenging the ordinance than on pressuring Wells Fargo to grant loan modifications for struggling homeowners.

Despite state and federal regulations enacted after the collapse of the subprime loan industry, the bank moves properties into foreclosure too swiftly and often refuses payments from delinquent borrowers trying to get back on track, organizer Peter Kuhns said.

“The point is big banks like Wells Fargo get bailouts from taxpayers, but they don’t show compassion when people need it, especially disabled people like me,” said Richard Castaldo, who is losing his Hollywood condominium to foreclosure.

Castaldo, 31, lost the use of his legs when he was shot eight times during the 1999 massacre at Columbine High School in Colorado.

Wells Fargo granted Castaldo an adjustable-rate mortgage with interest-only payments in 2008 and later sold the loan to another broker, he said.

Wells Fargo spokeswoman Diana Rodriguez said the bank has “an excellent record when it comes to taking care of our home-lending customers” and “respects the rights of people to peacefully demonstrate.”

During Saturday’s demonstration, a woman exiting a home on Woodstock Road shouted at demonstrators to leave but declined to be interviewed.

Protester Peter Dreier, an author and political science professor at Occidental College, countered that activists must take the foreclosure fight to the banks and even their executives’ homes in order to provoke change.

“This is how you get government to respond and bankers to do the right thing: by holding them up to public scrutiny and embarrassment,” Dreier said.


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Costa Mesa, California (PRWEB) July 28, 2013

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The Law Offices of Zhou Chini have launched a new marketing campaign seeking to inform area residents that they can have wage garnishments stopped by filing for emergency bankruptcy, this will help provide an instant influx of funds into household budgets. The law firm has been operating since its start in 1999 and firm attorneys are well experienced in bankruptcy law so they know how to get Costa Mesa residents financial relief. To find out more about bankruptcy information in California and how it affects those that file contact the firm directly 888-901-3440. Zhou Chini want to let Costa Mesa individuals, families and business owners know that they can get fast relief from wage garnishments and other serious financial burdens by utilizing one of their lawyers. It is difficult to make ends meet in a struggling economy. However, insult is added to injury when lenders and bill collection agencies aggressively seek to strip people of their hard earned incomes. Such tactics can place incredible amounts of stress on already stressed individuals and families that who are struggling financially. The Law Offices of Zhou Chini consist of bankruptcy experts that have successfully stopped wage garnishments and increased money flow through the filings of emergency bankruptcy for hundreds of area residents. Those seeking such relief can schedule a free 30 minute consultation with an expert attorney to discuss such options as Chapter 7, 11, or 13 bankruptcy as well as methods for stopping current wage garnishments, and home foreclosure. Those facing foreclosure should speak with an expert mortgage consultant before speaking to a bankruptcy attorney to see if a refinance is an option.

Highly skilled and knowledgeable attorneys work with the Law Offices of Zhou Chini, all of which are experts in bankruptcy law. The firm has assisted hundreds of Southern California residents avoid foreclosure or obtain financial relief through their professional services. Clients receive a no cost 30 minute consultation with a qualified bankruptcy attorney to discuss their situations and receive expert bankruptcy advice before proceeding. The bankruptcy lawyers use the best SEO consultant to assist in promoting the message about the importance of speaking with a bankruptcy attorney in Costa Mesa if someone is considering filing. The firm continues its online presence by using the top professional search engine optimization company. The firm offers zero cost bankruptcy information on the firm’s blog and social media pages. With this information, along with free consultations, the firm hopes to attract more Costa Mesa residents looking for financial relief. To read more about the firm’s Facebook page visit,

About the Firm: The Law Office of Zhou Chini servicing the cities and counties of California. Mr. Zhou is a graduate of UCLA and has been practicing law since 1999. Mr. Zhou has a wealth of experience in bankruptcy, civil litigation, family law, criminal law and unlawful detainer. Zhou and Chini Law Offices provide bankruptcy assistance to Orange County, Los Angeles, Orange County and San Diego residents. To speak with an Orange County attorney for a consultation read the contact information below.

Contact: Ron Chini

Website: info(at)bankruptcyattorneyorangecounty(dot)org

Phone: 888-901-3440

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Longmont Humane Society makes plea for donations to avoid foreclosure

LONGMONT — The Longmont Humane Society is asking for $772,227 in donations by Nov. 30 to avoid possible foreclosure later this year.

Construction cost overruns from the facility’s expansion that began in 2006 and six years of financial deficits have drained the organization’s reserves, leaving the humane society unable to make its 2013 and subsequent annual loan payments, executive director Liz Smokowski said.

The nonprofit needs to raise this year’s payment within four months or the organization could face foreclosure or be forced to file for bankruptcy as early as December, said Smokowski, who inherited the loan when she was hired at the end of 2011.

In 2006, the town of Lyons, which uses the society’s services, issued a bond for $6 million on behalf of the humane society under the state’s Municipalities Development Revenue Bond Act to allow the society to begin construction. Wells Fargo now holds the loan.

In 2005, philanthropist Susan Allen of New York had promised the humane society $5 million for the expansion of its facility. That gift came over five years in $1 million increments.

The bond allowed the organization to begin construction right away on its expansion.

The organization’s financial problems are due to construction costs for the 43,000-square-foot expansion and annual deficits from 2006 to 2011 exceeding $1.6 million. The cost of the expansion was forecast to be about $8.2 million but came in at $9 million by the time it opened in January 2009, Smokowski said.

Donations decreased starting in 2007 following the economic downturn, and operating costs increased once the expansion was completed due to higher utility costs and expenses associated with the care of more animals.

“The fact that we filled this building with animals right off the bat told us there was a community need and it was sort of an ‘If you build it they will come’ type of thing,” Smokowski said. Currently loan-holder Wells Fargo has refused to renegotiate the loan. More than a dozen other banks have refused the organization’s request to take over the loan, mostly due to the deficits, Smokowski said.

Last year, Smokowski reduced staff by 30 percent, closed three of the organization’s four thrift stores and moved the clinic, which was located offsite, into the expanded facility to cut costs.

Further cuts are unlikely because they would put the quality of service at risk, Smokowski said.

The nonprofit has launched a fundraising campaign, The Longmont Humane Society: Serving the Community Now and Forever, focused on large gifts to achieve the organization’s immediate and long-term goals, which include paying off the remaining $3.1 million on the loan by the fall of 2014.

Four loan payments of $772,000 remain, including the one due in November.

The humane society’s building is collateral on the loan.

Longmont Humane Society Board President Shelly McLeod

said the organization is in “crisis mode,” and asking for help from the community is one of the nonprofit’s only remaining options.

“I think this problem goes back many years, to when the shelter accepted a large gift with strings attached and built a facility that is simply out of scale with the Longmont community and the shelter’s donor base,” said Clay Evans, who served as the interim executive director for the Humane society in 2008 and 2009. “Longmont Humane Society deserves praise for being willing to give animals a shot that a lot of shelters would put off, but you have the money to do those things or you can’t.”

Smokowski is the humane society’s fifth executive director since 2008.

McLeod said excessive turnover has been a contributing factor to the organization’s financial difficulties.

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