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Calhoun County Treasurer’s Office door knocking to avoid foreclosures

MARSHALL, Mich.– The Calhoun County Treasurer’s Office has started knocking on doors of houses in danger of foreclosing, in hopes of helping residents keep their homes.

Calhoun County Treasurer staff plan to visit around 1,500 homes and properties in forfeiture. They hope to educate homeowners or occupants about the tax foreclosure process and give them the resources on how to stay in their homes.

Most of the rural townships have been visited and completed, but they still have a little while to go.

Starting the first week of September, Treasurer staff will visit the City of Albion, then move on to Marshall, Springfield and end up in Battle Creek by October.

Payment plans, hardship extensions and assistance through Step Forward Michigan are some of the resources being offered to those in danger of foreclosure.

Last year, the Treasurer’s Office helped 84 families set up payment plans and granted 105 hardship extensions. For more information, you can visit

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Parkway Place in Cordova Sells for $19.6 Million in Foreclosure

Cordova’s Parkway Place shopping center and three adjacent properties have sold in foreclosure for $19.6 million.

The properties entered into foreclosure after its owners – 19 North Carolina limited liability companies – defaulted on a $22.5 million loan, according to a first-run foreclosure notice in the Friday, Aug. 5, edition of The Daily News.

The owners paid $29 million for the four properties in February 2007, financing the purchase with the $22.5 million loan through LaSalle Bank. Three months later, the loan was assigned to The Bank of New York Trust Co., which has initiated the current foreclosure proceedings. In an Aug. 24 substitute trustee sale, The Bank of New York Trust Co. took possession of the properties. Jaime DeRensis and R. Spencer Clift III of Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell Berkowitz PC acted as substitute trustees in the sale.

The largest of the included properties is the 62,400-square-foot Parkway Place center at 1250 N. Germantown Parkway, anchored by Bonefish Grill, Petco and Party City. The Class A center, built in 2003, is on the east side of Germantown Parkway, spanning the block from Country Village Drive to Cordova Road.

Also included are the 5,682-square-foot Class A restaurant outparcel at 1260 N. Germantown Parkway that’s leased by Chili’s Bar Grill; a 70,700-square-foot Class B medical office built in 1999 at 8110 Cordova Road; and a 14,443-square-foot Class B medical office built in 2002 at 8115 Country Village Drive.

The Shelby County Property Assessor’s combined 2016 appraisal of the properties, which together span 17.4 acres, is $13.9 million. That’s roughly 30 percent less than the $20.3 million combined appraisal when the properties sold in 2007.

– Madeline Faber

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‘Extenuating circumstances’ shorten waiting period after foreclosure …

A: As foreclosures surged, the agencies that buy most mortgages increased the amount of time troubled borrowers had to spend in the “penalty box” before being allowed another mortgage.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac still have a seven-year waiting period after foreclosures. But that has been shortened to three years when borrowers can prove “extenuating circumstances,” such as a prolonged job loss or big medical expenses. Waiting times for other negative events, such as bankruptcy or short sale, have been reduced to two years with extenuating circumstances. Otherwise, it’s four years.

There are other loan programs that are even more forgiving. For example, the FHA has a three-year waiting period that can be shortened to one year if borrowers participate in its “Back to Work” program, which requires they document a significant loss of household income, that their finances have fully recovered from the event and that they’ve completed housing counseling. The Veterans Administration, meanwhile, makes loans available one to two years after foreclosure.

Q: I have been employed at a small business, a sole proprietorship, for 34 years. My boss is going to just shut down the business, with no plan for succession. I have a job offer from a rival firm, so I don’t plan on being out of work for very long. How will this affect my credit rating? If I apply for a loan after being employed for, say, six months at the new firm, will the short time at that job be a negative mark against me? Should I hurry to apply for a loan before the business shuts down? Would that be illegal or unethical, since I know that I won’t be there much longer?

A: Few people know with any certainty how long they’ll remain in their current jobs. If only those who planned to stick with their employers indefinitely were allowed to apply for credit, lenders would go out of business.

That said, a recent job change can complicate the process for getting some loans, such as a mortgage. If you’re planning to borrow the money anyway and can complete the loan process before changing jobs, you’ll likely have an easier time getting approved.

While some lenders take job stability into account, your credit scores do not. Credit scoring formulas don’t include any information about employment or income. You get and keep good scores by using credit responsibly. But part of responsible credit management is not applying for loans you don’t need, so don’t rush out to borrow money just because you can.

Q: I am 76 and widowed. I’ve been collecting half of my ex-husband’s Social Security payment for the last nine years. We were married for 20 years. He remarried in 1987 and his wife is still living. He is now terminally ill with cancer. Am I eligible for survivor benefits?

A: You will be. If you qualify for divorced spousal benefits while your ex is alive, you will qualify for divorced survivor benefits when he dies. Instead of collecting an amount equal to half his benefit, your check will increase to 100 percent of the amount he was receiving.

Survivor benefits differ from spousal benefits in another key way. If you remarry, divorced spousal benefits end. Survivor benefits can continue after marriage, as long as you’re 60 or over when you re-tie the knot.

By the way, your benefits don’t take any money away from his current wife. She, too, will be eligible for a survivor benefit equal to what he was getting, unless her own retirement benefit is greater. One primary earner’s work record can support a number of divorced spouses in addition to a current spouse, as long as the previous marriages lasted at least 10 years each.

Liz Weston is a personal finance columnist for NerdWallet. Questions may be sent to her at 3940 Laurel Canyon, No. 238, Studio City, CA 91604, or by using the “Contact” form at Distributed by No More Red Inc.

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Metro Phoenix had 4th-highest rise in rental rates in U.S., but 10K new apartments are on the way




Share’s home valuation tool uses the most accurate real estate data in Arizona. What’s your home worth?

It’s getting pricier for the convenience of calling your landlord when the AC breaks, the internet is down or the swimming pools needs cleaning.

Rents are on the rise in metro Phoenix, particularly in infill hot spots in Phoenix, Scottsdale and Tempe.

The Valley’s average apartment rent has climbed 22 of the past 23 months, according to national research firm Axiometrics.

The average apartment rent in the Phoenix area is now $924, according to the rental data firm RealPage. That’s about $70 more than it was a year ago.

Demand for rentals surged during the housing crash when so many people lost homes to foreclosure and had to rent.

Adding to that already big pool of renters are Millennials who aren’t ready to or don’t want to buy homes.

But higher rents are also bringing more apartment construction.

MORE: Metro Phoenix rents are rising in lots of strange places | Metro Phoenix starting to grow up instead of out | Rising rents spurring more homebuyers

Apartments leading the way for homebuyers

Tempe launched the Valley’s latest apartment development spree a few years ago, when new high-end complexes started going up around the city’s lake and Arizona State University.

Now, long-vacant prime parcels in downtown and midtown Phoenix are sprouting new apartment complexes. And older buildings in central Phoenix and Scottsdale are being torn down to make way for new apartments and condominiums.

What to know: Street Scout

Tom Simplot, CEO of the Arizona Multihousing Association and a former Phoenix councilman, told me apartments lead the way for people to buy homes in an area.

“People first became comfortable living in central Phoenix by renting,” he said. “Those of us living downtown are no longer urban pioneers, and we welcome all the new people and growth, whether rental or homeowners.”

Rents are climbing in many big U.S. metros, but Phoenix saw the fourth-biggest U.S. increase in rents during the summer, per RealPage stats. Sacramento was No. 1 with an almost 10 percent jump. Portland and Seattle saw increases of more than 8 percent.

Phoenix’s almost non-stop increase during the past two years is a bit unusual.

“Two years of almost nothing but increases in average rent is just about unheard of, given seasonal cycles and volatility in most metros,” said Stephanie McCleskey, vice president of research for Axiometrics.

She cites the Valley’s job growth as a big reason behind the area’s long streak of rent increases.

About 70,000 new jobs were added in metro Phoenix during the past year.

And now there aren’t a lot of empty apartments to choose from in the Valley. Only about 5 percent of the area’s rentals are vacant.

Salaries are also climbing in the Valley, but not as fast as rents.

The average rent on a Valley apartment is up almost 8 percent from last year.

Wages are up 2.4 percent in metro Phoenix, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Will pricey complexes draw enough renters?

Developers are upping apartment amenities to draw more people willing to pay higher rents.

Yoga studios, dog parks and washing stations, coffee bars and resortlike swimming pools are becoming the norm in the Valley’s highest-priced apartments.

Street Scout: Neighborhoods

Scottsdale-based apartment owner Mark-Taylor recently added Amazon Lockers in many of its Valley complexes. The lockers let online-shopping renters pick up their packages anytime.

Mark-Taylor executive Chris Brozina said the lockers are there to make renters’ lives “more convenient.”

High-end apartment renters pay for the conveniences as well as location. Rents at some new infill complexes in Phoenix, Scottsdale and Tempe can run as high as $2,000 for a one-bedroom.

In the second half of 2015, before a few new complexes opened up in the area, downtown Phoenix had the highest average apartment rent in the Valley.

What could make the lives of many renters easier is a lower monthly payment.

Complexes with more than 10,000 apartments are currently under construction or planned in the Valley. Most are upscale developments in popular neighborhoods.

If there aren’t enough people lining up to lease the many new apartments, then rents could dip.

Click here to see a larger version of the map.

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Simplify the foreclosure process – get educated by a foreclosure counselor

Simplify the foreclosure process – get educated by a foreclosure counselor

Most distressed homeowners counseled by Michigan State University Extension, 78 percent, were able to keep their homes.

Foreclosure rates have declined over the last several years, but the economic crisis is not over. During the past three years, 53 percent of Americans have made some kind of sacrifice to cover housing costs, reports the 2016 How Housing Matters Survey from the MacArthur Foundation. They took on more work, stopped saving for retirement, or increased credit card debt. A significant majority (81 percent) of respondents continue to believe that housing affordability is a problem in the United States today. Independent research by the Urban Institute shows that delinquency, default and foreclosure rates for borrowers who have received counseling from a HUD-approved housing counseling agency are 30 percent lower than uncounseled borrowers. The good news is that there are free housing counseling services available locally for struggling homeowners to talk about their situation and understand their options.

HUD-approved housing counselors are impartial, trained professionals who can help you make the decisions that are right for you. They provide homeowner education, pre-purchase and foreclosure prevention counseling, assistance with creating a budget and setting financial goals, fair housing information and a host of other services. Housing counseling allows more consumers to receive individualized and objective advice on understanding the rights and responsibilities of homeownership, to address credit and savings barriers and to meet their overall housing and financial goals.

During the past 10 years, 25 million homeowners were able to resolve their housing issue and avoid foreclosure, according to the Industry Extrapolations and Metrics report, April 2016. Among these solutions, there were 1.6 million permanent modifications through the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP), 2.4 million HAMP trial modifications, and 6.3 million servicer proprietary modifications. Also included were 14.8 million non-modification solutions, including various repayment, retention, and house sale plans. The HAMP program ends in December 2016. Homeowners who may qualify should send an application to their lender during the next few months.

In Michigan, the Step Forward Michigan program has provided assistance to over 30,000 homeowners to keep their homes since 2010. They received financial help to get caught up on delinquent mortgage payments or property taxes, up to $30,000. Some received loan modifications with more affordable monthly payments. Funds are available for the next year or so to help more struggling homeowners.

Facing foreclosure can be very confusing and overwhelming. Current homeowners who are concerned about or have fallen behind on their mortgage and/or property tax payments and are facing foreclosure can call with questions or schedule an appointment. The goal is to assess their situation and options, determine if they might qualify for assistance to keep their home and educate about the foreclosure timeline. Counselors also assist with lender communication and submitting complete application requests.

Michigan State University Extension is a HUD-approved housing counseling agency and has many MSHDA certified housing counselors at multiple county offices to assist you by phone or through technology. Find the one staff person nearest you at Other MSHDA-certified housing counselors may be located using

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W’bago house has issues – | News …

The Minnesota Valley Action Council (MVAC) is working with Wells Fargo Home Mortgage to obtain and split approximately $12,000 with Faribault County and the city of Winnebago as part of a deed in lieu of foreclosure.

The deed is for a property at 247 First Ave. NW in Winnebago a property with an estimated 2017 market value of $37,900 that would enter the foreclosure process unless liens against the property are removed by the city, county and MVAC.

Judd Schultz, representing MVAC, visited Winnebago’s City Council on Aug. 8 and the County Board on Aug. 16 to recommend the release of those liens. And the result could be a financial benefit for all parties involved.

Article Photos

This house in Winnebago has recently been the subject of discussion at both a County Board meeting and a meeting of the Winnebago City Council.

“Due to a traumatic brain injury, the homeowner has limited income and his home is in foreclosure,”?Schultz said, of the Winnebago homeowner. “Essentially, the mortgage company is willing to split money between lien holders if the liens are released.” Both the city and county have voted to do just that.

The homeowner, meanwhile, would have no foreclosure on his credit report if the proposed deed is finalized.

“We were the agency that helped rehab the home at one point,”?Schultz said, “and the homeowner asked us to help. It’s a small, rural area, and this is what we do help people.”

Helping the homeowner avoid foreclosure would also ensure MVAC, not to mention Winnebago and the county, is compensated for releasing liens on the property.

Around $12,000, a total Schultz estimated came from Wells Fargo’s investigation of the property’s value and presumed equity, would be available for distribution in exchange for the release of liens. And although initial plans were for the $12,000 to be divided equally among MVAC, the city and the county, Schultz said each loan holder will likely now receive a portion dependent on how old each of its liens are.

“They have this process with the $12,000,”?he said, of Wells Fargo, “that they will split it up amongst the five liens two from us and two from the city and one from the county. So the oldest liens get more money than the new ones.”

Regardless, Schultz said both Winnebago and Faribault County should expect to get some money back.

By his estimate, the city had invested about $29,000 in the property $4,000 from its Revolving Loan Fund and another $25,000 through a Small Cities Development fund. The county, Schultz added, had about $9,000 invested.

In MVAC’s case, the program’s own liens against the property total about $25,000 one for $5,000 that Schultz said came “a long time ago,”?and another for roughly $20,000. MVAC?funds most recently came in 2007 through the program’s Housing Preservation Grant.

In communicating with both Winnebago and the county about the release of the liens, Schultz said he encountered some hurdles with the proposed sharing of mortgage funds.

“At one point, the bank indicated there was a conflict of interest for MVAC?to seek the release of the liens since we have some on the property,”?he said. “But we’re not trying to unduly gain from this, and they’re the ones who offered the deed in lieu of foreclosure. If I?was saying we’d take $10,000 of the $12,000 being offered, I?could see there being a conflict.”

That is not what MVAC?is proposing, however, and as he continues to discuss the matter with Wells Fargo, Schultz said everyone is aiming for the same end result a wiping away of the liens, fair compensation for each of them and a less damaging punishment for a homeowner who can no longer afford his property.

“The deed in lieu still has some negative context for the homeowner,”?he said, “but it certainly helps.”

Schultz said additional communication will be needed to update the city and county on how much they will, in fact, receive in exchange for releasing their liens.

And, ultimately, letters of acceptance for those dollar amounts will be needed to make the entire process official.

Article source:

FHA Streamlines Process to Help Delinquent Homeowners Stay in Homes

The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) recently announced new procedures to strengthen the process mortgage servicers use to help struggling families avoid foreclosure and remain in their homes.  FHA is streamlining its loss mitigation protocols that servicers must use when evaluating and deploying ‘home retention options,’ foreclosure alternatives that allow delinquent borrowers to retain their home.

FHA’s revised procedures streamline the process servicers use to engage borrowers, specifically when evaluating them for the FHA-Home Affordable Modification Program (FHA-HAMP).  These changes will reduce the number of steps that a servicer and borrower must take to resolve a delinquency and enter into a loss mitigation home retention product.  In addition, FHA is removing certain obstacles that will allow servicers greater flexibility for evaluating an unemployed borrower for a special forbearance agreement.

Specifically, FHA will:

  • Require servicers to convert successful 3-month trial modifications into permanent modifications within 60 days instead of the average four-to-six months;
  • Allow borrowers with three missed mortgage payments to qualify for a partial claim to bring their arrearages current versus the previous requirement for a minimum of four missed payments;
  • End the traditional stand-alone Loan Modification option so struggling borrowers can access the FHA-HAMP option, with its greater payment relief, sooner; and
  • Eliminate the required 12-monthterm for FHA’s special forbearance option.  This will allow servicers to offer this option to more unemployed households.

For more information, visit

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Judge blocks foreclosure on Moorings loan

TRAVERSE CITY — The loan-holder for a real estate development partnership can’t foreclose on its loan for 60 days.

That’s according to a ruling from 13th Circuit Court Judge Thomas Power, who Friday ruled on a legal challenge brought by The Moorings of Leelanau County against real estate project partner Mark Johnson and his company, 447 Munson TC LLC. Project partners Bob Brick and Ted Lockwood sought a temporary restraining order to keep Johnson from going forward with a non-judicial foreclosure sale, originally scheduled for the same day as the ruling.

The three men are partners on the real estate project, which legal briefings describe as a 44-acre, 154-unit residential development under construction in Traverse City and Elmwood Township.

Power said the issue came up after Chemical Bank assigned the construction loan to 447 Munson LLC — Power noted that no one denied allegations that Johnson, a minority partner who agreed to provide financing for the project, is 447 Munson LLC’s sole owner. The LLC did so without notifying any other project partners.

The LLC’s attorney then notified Brick and Lockwood that the loan was in default, Power said.

“There’s no evidence that Chemical Bank advised any of the partners that the loan was in default or going to be foreclosed on prior to the assignment by 447 (Munson LLC,)” he said.

Moorings of Leelanau attorney Brian Etzel called the attempt to foreclose on the loan an “end-around” of the operational agreement between Brick, Johnson and Lockwood, and an attempt by Johnson through a shell company to wrest control of the development away from the other partners.

Etzel said he’s also questioning the validity of the assignment of that loan to the LLC, an issue on which Power didn’t decide Friday.

Power said there are legal issues with the foreclosure that couldn’t be resolved immediately, including questions over what duties a partner of a venture has to the other partners when obtaining something key for that venture to succeed, in this case, assignment of a loan.

Story continues below video

Power said the two sides, Brick and Lockwood on one and Johnson on the other, have made a number of claims and counterclaims of wrongdoing by the other.

Friday’s hearing was the latest chapter of a dispute between the partners that has resulted in at least three legal actions, including a lawsuit filed Thursday in 13th Circuit Court.

George Powell, 447 Munson LLC’s attorney, said that lawsuit names Brick and Lockwood as defendants and accuses them of defrauding and breaking promises they made to a bank.

Powell said the suits all stem from Brick and Lockwood’s alleged mismanagement of the project, and alleged subsequent dishonesty.

Etzel said he knew of the new suit but didn’t know what it contained.

Powell said he respects Power’s ruling to hold off on the foreclosure. That will allow 13th Circuit Court Judge Philip Rodgers, the judge originally assigned to the legal challenge, to hear arguments and view evidence before the foreclosure sale happens.

“We’re more than confident of our legal position, and we fully expect to prevail on the merits,” he said.

Etzel said his clients hope to resolve the legal issues so that the project can move ahead.

“Our goal is to be building, not litigating,” he said.

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Hell on wheels: a Miami food truck nightmare

Miguel Pacheco deals in the business of dreams. For just a few thousand dollars, he’ll convert a regular old truck into a food truck, or so he says. Customers of Don’t Stop Believing Fabrication Corp., aka DSB Fabrication, hoped to launch their own restaurant on wheels, joining the popular niche industry that has exploded with its low price of entry and enthusiastic customer base.

Plenty of people have taken him up on this offer, but some have definitely Stopped Believing, either in Pacheco or the notion of consumer protection in South Florida. Barry Cohen says he had to hound Pacheco for months and call the cops before he could get his truck back, unfinished. After a long, frustrating saga, Melani Romero saw her 1985 Chevy step van sold to another woman. That woman, Chelita Smith, through no fault of her own, ended up a co-defendant in Romero’s subsequent lawsuit against Pacheco.

Shelette Buchanan is the latest disgruntled customer. She moved from Wisconsin to Port St. Lucie to be closer to her brother, James, and to share her Chicago-style hot dogs — piled high with tomato wedges, chopped white onions, sport peppers and pickle spears and generously slathered with mustard — with a new market. She has yet to dispense the first dog from that still-undelivered truck.

None of them knew until it was too late who they were dealing with. Pacheco was declared by a Miami-Dade court to be a “habitual felony offender.” His record shows 15 arrests, most on multiple counts, for larceny, grand theft, forgery, fraud and conducting business without a license. He served prison time in 2005 for writing worthless checks and he and his son/business associate have a trail of bankruptcies, lawsuits, a foreclosure and various liens and court judgments.

In the buyer-beware world of South Florida, Don’t Stop Believing Fabrication is a cautionary tale, exemplifying what can go wrong when business is conducted on the basis of a handshake and a smile.

And if something goes awry, good luck. In Pacheco’s case, police said it was a civil issue, while state and county fraud enforcers said it was best handled by cops.

This isn’t Bernie Madoff money, but to the aggrieved customers, it hurts badly.

“I used to think people who fell for this kind of stuff were stupid,” said Shelette Buchanan. Now I understand how easy it is to be the victim.”

Held ‘hostage’

To hear Pacheco tell it, the claims against him are either irrelevant or untrue. The prison sentence, he notes, was 11 years ago, and the various lawsuits immaterial. He said he didn’t even know he was being sued in one recent case until after a judgment was rendered.

He says the customers who have logged complaints — including a small Facebook group dedicated to airing grievances against him — are liars who got cold feet when it came time to pay what they owed. He adds that health problems are to blame for his most recent difficulties.

I used to think people who fell for this kind of stuff were stupid. Now I understand how easy it is to be the victim. Shelette Buchanan

All Buchanan knows is that she is still waiting for the return on her $7,000 investment. Buchanan said she and Pacheco didn’t sign a contract when she made a $5,000 down payment on April 21. She had met Pacheco a few weeks earlier when he was doing a truck conversion for her brother at a local auto shop where Pacheco was employed. Pacheco said he could do the same for her more cheaply if he did it on his own.

It seemed like a good offer, and there were friendly vibes in the beginning — including one night when she, her husband, Pacheco and a handful of others all went out to dinner. “We took the kids to get ice cream after,” she recalls. It was a good night.

Also during this time, Pacheco gained the business of Buchanan’s cousin, Anthony McLaren and his wife, Lakesha Taylor, who came to visit Florida from Chicago and were intrigued by the idea of owning a food truck. The couple made a down payment in April for a vehicle that they still have not received — even after Anthony flew down in May to check on the status of the work, repeatedly extending his trip until it stretched out to three weeks while Pacheco gave him “the run-around.”

And before them, there were others.

Barry Cohen says Pacheco took his truck “hostage” for the majority of 2013 with virtually no work done after the $5,000 down payment. He filed a Better Business Bureau complaint in February 2014. Michele Mason, from the bureau’s southeast Florida branch, told the Miami Herald the allegations against Pacheco were “very serious.” She said that when the office notices patterns in the complaints, it generally refers such matters to law enforcement — but no case notes exist on whether the Pacheco complaints were forwarded accordingly.

Cohen got the county and city of Hialeah to conduct inspections, resulting in fines of about $2,500. He also lodged a complaint with the state attorney general’s Division of Consumer Protection, but it did not undertake an investigation. A spokeswoman told the Herald the situation was determined to be “more of a criminal nature.” Cohen says when he went to the police, but they told him there wasn’t enough evidence to put him in prison.

Cohen was incredulous. “He ripped me off for hundreds and thousands of dollars!”

The police did, however, help him get back his truck, which he took to another shop for completion. Pacheco’s description of these events differs: “His truck was very well done. I let him take the truck just having paid the down payment.”

In the midst of Cohen’s “hostage” situation, another unhappy customer, Melani Romero, had already reached wit’s end and was suing Pacheco. This followed a long saga involving both the police and Miami-Dade’s Office of Consumer Protection that ended with her truck being sold to another person, allegedly without her knowledge or permission.

Romero told the Herald she first met Pacheco in September 2012 after seeing his online posting. He gave her an initial cost estimate of $13,500 to purchase the truck and modify it for food sales, according to an itemized invoice filed in court. She paid the first $8,000 in two installments in September and October of that year. Eventually she started to feel suspicious. Pacheco kept pushing the deadline back with one excuse or another, and she wasn’t sure if he was doing any work at all, she said.

In December, she contacted the Hialeah Police Department. Detective Juan Amaro intervened, calling Pacheco to broker a solution, emails and interviews indicate.

Thus began two months of Amaro acting as a mediator between the two parties. On the first weekend of February 2013, he accompanied Romero to the auto shop. Pacheco told the Herald that she was “very happy with the work.” Romero says it looked “half ass.”

She has documentation to support her assertion, specifically a Feb. 2, 2013, email to the detective: “I feel like [Pacheco] is doing the job to get it out of the way [and] that’s not what I want. She said she would pay the remaining balance upon completion “as long as the truck is done RIGHT.”

Detective Amaro responded three days later: “The Truck is almost completed as scheduled and its delivery will depend on you,” he wrote. “As far as any specific work or features on the Truck, I will not be able to assist you or get involved any further; this constitutes a Civil issue.”

In the end, Romero never picked up the truck. Pacheco claims she did an about-face, suddenly expressing discontent when it came time to pay up. “I do not owe that lady a penny — that lady is a liar,” he says.

Romero denies that. For the next few months, she sent several more pleading emails to the police. After she reached out to the county’s Office of Consumer Protection, a case manager there spoke with both Pacheco and Amaro. But a month later, in May 2013, the office closed the case, citing a policy against mediating “business-to-business” complaints, a consumer advocate told the Herald.

As late as July 26, 2013, Romero was still sending emails to the Hialeah Police Department.

What she did not know was that her truck was no longer her truck. It had been sold it to another woman, Chelita Smith, back in March.

Here’s how that happened: In December 2012, records show, Midnight Express Towing and Recovery billed Alex Pacheco, Miguel’s son and the CEO of DSB and Don’t Stop Believing, for towing Romero’s truck. The towing record says the truck was “illegally parked,” which Midnight Express owner “Gio” Loureiro says often means a vehicle on a shared property is blocking another business.

A few days later, Midnight Express mailed a notice to one of Romero’s addresses, saying the truck would be put up for public sale if it went unclaimed. She says she never received the notice. The sale was scheduled for Jan. 31, 2013. Just two days later, Romero visited Pacheco’s shop to check on her vehicle, still intending to pay in full “as long as the truck is done RIGHT.”

Loureiro is emphatic that he was not in cahoots with the Miguel Pacheco. “[Pacheco] has problems with everybody, including myself,” Loureiro said.

Paperwork from Romero’s lawsuit shows that Midnight Express sold the truck to itself for one dollar on March 22, 2013. Loureiro says this is common practice for towed vehicles that are not claimed by their registered owners.

That same day, Chelita Smith handed Pacheco a $5,000 check as down payment on the very same truck — and agreed to pay an additional $8,000 in installments to refurbish it, according to a DSB invoice in the court file. Asked about this sale, Pacheco said that Amaro had told him in February that if Romero did not pick up the vehicle in 15 days, he could legally resell it. Amaro, no longer with the department, could not be reached for comment.

Thus began Smith’s own frustrating experience with Pacheco, who promised to have the truck ready by April 5, but dragged his feet for four months, according to a letter she later wrote that found its way into Romero’s lawsuit file. “Every time I called him or went to his shop, he had an excuse,” Smith wrote.

It wasn’t until July 15, she wrote, that Alex Pacheco, the son, finally accompanied her to transfer the truck’s title to her name. The record from that date shows the truck being transferred from Midnight Express to Chelita Smith for $7,000. Loureiro says he was not paid $7,000 and that it is more likely, based on how his company typically operates, that Midnight Express sold the truck for something like $500 to Pacheco, who then sold the truck to Smith for the greater amount.

At any rate, Smith didn’t write the check to Miguel, but rather to his son. Smith said Miguel told him that was for “tax reasons,” according to the letter in Romero’s case file.

As a result of this paper trail, Smith got tangled up as a co-defendant when Romero sued Pacheco. But both Romero and her lawyer described Smith sympathetically. Romero’s lawyer emailed her in October 2013 with an update: “Chelita Smith called. Seems like a fine lady who also got ripped off.”

The Herald could not locate Smith.

Romero eventually won her lawsuit against Pacheco in October 2013, securing a $10,192 judgment. She has not gotten her hands on the money. “It’s unfortunate but it can be easier to obtain a judgment than to collect,” explained Holly-Beth Billington from the county consumer protection office.

Call me back in 30 days and it will be a different story. They will have their truck. Miguel Pacheco

In his interview with the Herald in July, Miguel Pacheco said he was not aware of the judgment until months after the fact when his son informed him. However, the case file includes records of Pacheco’s wife being served with papers every step of the way.

Pacheco is still on probation dating back to the last decade — long before the Cohen, Romero and Buchanan sagas began. Romero’s lawyer sent Pacheco’s probation officer a letter informing him of Pacheco’s activities. He never heard back. The Herald left messages for the probation officer as well, but they went unanswered.

Call him Mike

And so, Pacheco has continued to operate, marketing himself under various names. Buchanan said when she did business with Pacheco this spring, she dealt with him simply as “Mike.” Cohen specifically named DSB Food Truck Fabrication in his complaint with the BBB. DSB and Don’t Stop Believing, which came along later, were both registered under Alex Pacheco’s name.

Not long after DSB ’s formation in August 2012, it faced multiple lawsuits, including one filed in May 2013. The case centered on bounced checks that Alex Pacheco had signed for more than $3,500 worth of equipment, according to the court files. A judgment for almost four times that amount was levied against the company on Sept. 11, 2013. A month later, the younger Pacheco filed for bankruptcy. Around that same time, a lawsuit was brought against both Pachecos and DSB for breach of contract by another customer who claimed to have paid $8,000 for food truck work that the father-son duo never did. That lawsuit is ongoing.

Alex Pacheco declined to comment through a lawyer.

Throughout the reporting of this story, Miguel Pacheco maintained there is no story. He said he is just a businessman behind schedule on his work for Buchanan and her cousin because he had a stroke in June, although the troubles date back years earlier. “Call me back in 30 days and it will be a different story,” he said in a lengthy interview with the Herald on July 11. “They will have their truck.”

It’s 44 days later and still no truck.

When the Herald called to check on things a month after that assurance, Pacheco pushed back the deadline again, saying he would resolve things that week. He promised to pay for the Chicago couple’s flight to South Florida. He has still not done that but says he is working on getting things together.

Like Romero and Cohen before her, Shelette Buchanan has filed complaints with the Hialeah Police Department, but satisfaction has eluded her.

Buchanan has pretty much given up hope. “My stress levels have been too much,” she says.

Know who you’re dealing with

One way to ensure you are dealing with an honest business person — besides doing a thorough Google search and insisting on references — is to check his or her criminal history in Florida.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement offers criminal background checks online for $24, payable by credit card.

Information required: a name, date of birth or approximate age, race and gender. The website is

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HARP loan extended through 2017, offering relief to underwater …

U.S. homeowners who are struggling to make their monthly mortgage payments have more time to take advantage of a government refinance program. The Federal Housing Finance Agency has extended the Home Affordable Refinance Program, or HARP loan, through Sept. 30, 2017.

The FHFA estimates that over 300,000 U.S. homeowners whose mortgages are underwater — they owe more than their home is worth — could still refinance through HARP to lower their monthly payments and avoid foreclosure.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will offer a new refinance program for borrowers with high loan-to-value ratios beginning October 2017, according to the FHFA. Meanwhile, the HARP loan, which was set to expire at the end of 2016, will “create a bridge” to the new refinance program, the agency said in a news release.

The FHFA says that “the new refinance offering will provide much-needed liquidity for borrowers who are current on their mortgage, but are unable to refinance through traditional programs.”

Over 3.4 million homeowners have used HARP to refinance their mortgages since 2009, when the program was launched in response to the housing crisis, according to the FHFA.

Deborah Kearns is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Twitter: @debbie_kearns.

The article HARP Loan Extended Through September 2017 originally appeared on NerdWallet.

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