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Hutcheson, Erlanger in federal court Friday morning

On Friday morning Hutcheson Medical Center and Erlanger Health System officials will meet in federal court in Rome, Ga.

Hutcheson, in a news released late Thursday, explained the reason the two hospitals will meet in U.S. District Court.

“On July 23, Regions Bank, as senior lender to Hutcheson, notified junior lender and subordinated lender Erlanger that if they did not stop foreclosure efforts (against Hutcheson) by noon on Friday, July 25, Regions would join Hutcheson in asking the federal court for an injunction and temporary restraining order (TRO) against Erlanger, and further would file a separate suit against Erlanger for damages to Regions. Erlanger refused to stop the foreclosure proceedings.

“On Friday afternoon before Regions even filed its pleadings, the federal court ordered Erlanger to file a response to Hutcheson’s motion and ordered a TRO hearing set for 10:30 a.m. on Friday, Aug. 1. Regions filed its pleadings against Erlanger this afternoon.”

“Until and unless there is a court order to the contrary,” Farrell Hayes, president and CEO of Hutcheson, said in the news release, “Hutcheson will continue to do what it has done for the past 62 years, which is to provide quality, local health care to the citizens of northwest Georgia. Hutcheson belongs to the citizens of Walker, Catoosa, and Dade counties, and we cannot understand why a big Chattanooga hospital would go to such lengths to try and put a community hospital out of business,” added Hayes.

Here is the full news release from Hutcheson:

“Hutcheson Medical Center announced that Erlanger Health System has refused to drop its foreclosure proceedings against Hutcheson, northwest Georgia’s public hospital. On July 3rd, Erlanger had notified Hutcheson as well as Walker and Catoosa counties as Hutcheson’s note guarantors, of Erlanger’s intention to proceed with a non-judicial foreclosure on August 5th, instead of letting the federal lawsuit Erlanger initiated take its proper course.

“The legal disagreement between the two hospitals centers on a failed management agreement and its attached $20 million line of credit note issued by Hutcheson to Erlanger in 2011. Hutcheson claims Erlanger wasted the whole line of credit themselves as Hutcheson’s manager from 2011-1013. Erlanger filed suit to force Hutcheson to repay the note. Hutcheson counter-claimed for mismanagement damages far exceeding the value of the $20 million note. Both parties were working towards a settlement when Erlanger withdrew from negotiations and filed a foreclosure action against Hutcheson. On July 24th, Hutcheson moved for an injunction to stop the foreclosure.

“On July 23, Regions Bank, as senior lender to Hutcheson, notified junior lender and subordinated lender Erlanger that if they did not stop foreclosure efforts by noon on Friday, July 25, Regions would join Hutcheson in asking the federal court for an injunction and temporary restraining order (TRO) against Erlanger, and further would file a separate suit against Erlanger for damages to Regions. Erlanger refused to stop the foreclosure proceedings.

“On Friday afternoon before Regions even filed its pleadings, the federal court ordered Erlanger to file a response to Hutcheson’s motion and ordered a TRO hearing set for 10:30 a.m. on Friday, August 1. Regions filed its pleadings against Erlanger this afternoon.

“’Until and unless there is a court order to the contrary, Hutcheson will continue to do what it has done for the past 62 years, which is to provide quality, local health care to the citizens of northwest Georgia,’ said Farrell Hayes, President and CEO of Hutcheson. ‘Hutcheson belongs to the citizens of Walker, Catoosa, and Dade Counties, and we cannot understand why a big Chattanooga hospital would go to such lengths to try and put a community hospital out of business,’ added Hayes.”

Article source:

Racquet Club of Concord sold before foreclosure auction

A buyer has purchased the Racquet Club of Concord, staying a foreclosure auction that had been scheduled for yesterday morning.

The Nelson family built the health club on Garvins Falls Road in 1972. In a voicemail Tuesday, Debbie Nelson said Charles Magardy has officially bought the Racquet Club. He signed the papers Tuesday night, she said. The change was recorded at the Merrimack County Registry of Deeds yesterday morning.

“We are very happy to see him buy the facility,” Nelson said in her voicemail. “So this is good.”

Nelson did not return a call for further comment. Neither did Magardy, whose LinkedIn profile notes he is the president and CEO at Mabardy Oil Inc. and a corporator at the Provident Bank.

“He needs to get moving,” Nelson said Tuesday. “He takes over tomorrow morning.”

The Nelsons and Magardy completed the sale just hours before it was scheduled for auction. The mortgage holder was Michael Benton of Executive Health and Sports Club. Benton was also set to buy the property, until the Nelsons walked away from that deal earlier this year.

Benton told the Monitor this month that the Nelsons had not been making mortgage payments on the club, and he had to pay outstanding taxes in order to stop the city from seizing the property. If the Nelsons had not found a buyer by yesterday morning, the Racquet Club would have been auctioned off at 10 a.m.

Instead, Magardy stepped in. The 72,000-square-foot building was listed at $1.8 million in May, though it is unclear how much Magardy paid and what his plans are for the long-standing club.

“He’s really excited to take over,” Nelson said in her voicemail.

(Megan Doyle can be reached at 369-3321 or or on Twitter @megan_e_doyle.)

Article source:

Followup: New owners of eviction-fight house say they’re taking the city to court

Followup: New owners of eviction-fight house say they’re taking the city to court

July 29, 2014 at 4:28 pm | In West Seattle housing, West Seattle news | 30 Comments

(July 18 WSB photo)
A new development late today in the fight over a Morgan Junction house that’s been the subject of a showdown over foreclosure and eviction. Eight days ago, Mayor Ed Murray announced he was telling police to stand by until the circumstances Byron and Jean Barton‘s legal fight over the house was clearer; this afternoon, we received the following announcement from a law firm representing the company that bought the house at foreclosure auction in April:

Triangle Property Development has taken legal action to force Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and the Seattle Police Department to uphold the law by removing the illegal trespassers from a West Seattle house.

The company filed the document, formally called a writ of mandamus, in King County Superior Court more than a week after Murray ordered police officers to stand down rather than remove Byron and Jean Barton from the house, which they had broken into after being legally evicted by King County Sheriff’s deputies. Triangle Property Development bought the house at a foreclosure auction in April, more than two years after the Bartons stopped making mortgage payments.

“Mayor Murray’s refusal to uphold the law is undermining the legal process by preventing a property owner from lawfully using and possessing its property,’’ said Synthia Melton, legal counsel for Triangle Property Development. “The legal issues the mayor refers to in this case have already been determined by the courts. The Mayor’s inaction is supporting criminal trespass, and can set dangerous precedent for how court-ordered evictions will be executed, making it more difficult for law enforcement to perform its job.”

Much of the media coverage surrounding the eviction of the Bartons has been incomplete, misleading or downright inaccurate. Here are the facts of the case:

According to King County property records, the Bartons received the house free and clear from a family trust in 2003 and almost immediately began to use a series of mortgages to turn the value of the house into cash. By August of 2007, the house was pledged to more than $660,000 of debt.

In 2011, the Bartons ceased making payments on their mortgages. In 2012, their lender began foreclosure proceedings, which concluded in April when Triangle Property Development bought the property at auction.

Mindful of Mr. Barton’s disability, Triangle made repeated offers of thousands of dollars of relocation assistance to the family, who refused that help in favor of a series of futile attempts to block the eviction in court.

On July 18, King County Sheriff’s deputies evicted the Bartons from the house despite the interference of protestors, and changed the locks. After the deputies left, the Bartons, along with protestors, broke into the house, committing the crimes of breaking-and-entering and trespass. Since that time, they have illegally trespassed on the property, and protesters have subjected Triangle Property Development employees and officials to harassment and abuse.

The case drew regional media attention back on Friday, July 18th, when King County Sheriff’s Deputies evicted the Bartons, four weeks after a different KCSO employee had declined to evict them because of Byron Barton’s health status. Meantime, we’re following up on this new development – including looking up the latest court documents – and will add whatever reaction we get.


RSS feed for comments on this post.

  1. so…what happens if they vacate, Triangle tears down, starts building a new house, and the the Bartons win their law suit. I’m not a legal mind, so I’m asking. The house would be gone. Would they be compensated monetarily? Anyone out there want to venture an answer to this “what if”?

    The Bartons do have a law suit pending, don’t they? Or am I imagining that?

    Comment by JanS — 4:45 pm July 29, 2014 #

  2. JanS, previous WSB story noted that Triangle said they were not going to tear down the home.

    Comment by Graham Morgan — 4:52 pm July 29, 2014 #

  3. thanks…so, substitute “remodel” :)

    Comment by JanS — 4:54 pm July 29, 2014 #

  4. I 100% agree with this court actions and hope it is executed quickly. This is not a case of people being swindled by a bank. This is a couple that systematically lived beyond there means (BEFORE HIS HEALTH ISSUES) by cashing out the equity in their house and at that point putting up their house as collateral. I never like to see or cheer for someone losing their home but this is what happens. It is sad that people make these choices but in the end of the day it is a choice that they made.

    Comment by The Truth — 4:55 pm July 29, 2014 #

  5. This just came in a short time ago so now I’m following up on a whole variety of aspects (checking back on the court files, the site’s DPD files if any, asking the mayor and the Bartons for comment, etc.). And yes, they have a lawsuit pending, though it’s over the foreclosure = going back to check that too. Tonight I don’t have a meeting to go to and might finally be able to put together something resembling a coherent timeline of all this. The comment about “not going to tear down the house” was from a Triangle Development-affiliated person. I had noted that this is a double-lot house, meaning that it COULD potentially hold two residences, under zoning, though that depends on a lot of things including the site’s buildability – Tracy

    Comment by WSB — 4:56 pm July 29, 2014 #

  6. ” more than two years after the Bartons stopped making mortgage payments. ”

    .I get it – its sad as heck to see someone evicted, but come on – two years + without making a mortgage payment? just what is the new owner supposed to do? just say “oh well” and forget about it?

    Comment by flimflam — 4:56 pm July 29, 2014 #

  7. I only know the facts posted here and in the related stories – based on that, I hope there is an expedient resolution and the new rightful owner takes possession. I would also like to see charges filed against those who assisted with the breaking and entering. I am sure this will be the popular opinion based on posts in related stories … not.

    Comment by Graham Morgan — 4:57 pm July 29, 2014 #

  8. All coverage seems a bit one-sided, not WSB, and the “facts” presented gently lead to certain conclusions. I have seen little coverage of the other side—there is some reason people chose to defend these people. I, for one,am leery of a no-tear-down assumption based on what the developer said.

    Just an alternative view.

    Comment by charlabob — 5:06 pm July 29, 2014 #

  9. “According to King County property records, the Bartons received the house free and clear from a family trust in 2003 and almost immediately began to use a series of mortgages to turn the value of the house into cash. By August of 2007, the house was pledged to more than $660,000 of debt.”

    Wow! I felt bad that mounting medical bills put them in this position, then I realized his stroke happened in 2012.
    Wish I could borrow over half a million and live in my home without paying a mortgage.

    Comment by Krm66 — 5:13 pm July 29, 2014 #

  10. TR – thank you for publishing the facts in this case instead of the sensationalism. Your straight-up journalism is appreciated!

    Comment by Kim — 5:15 pm July 29, 2014 #

  11. Well, we’re trying. I also believe in publishing statements so that people can hear for themselves what the various sides are saying – we have published statements from multiple sides in this case now, and I am sure there are more to come. In the previous coverage, we were one of only two media crews left when the advocates supporting the Bartons gave a press briefing, and we recorded it and published that video in its entirety as well – that was part of the unfolding coverage that ran from morning into the night on July 18th (embedded into the story around noontime) – – more to come – TR

    Comment by WSB — 5:22 pm July 29, 2014 #

  12. I hope they go hard after Murray for his abuse of office. Would never have happened anywhere else but in Seattle. Really doesn’t matter what new property owners do as it’s their property that they paid for, and don’t forget the Bartons were going to end up with money if they moved out, not exactly broke, just don’t want to move along with not paying towards what they owe. Everyone should quit paying their utility bills and taxes to the city and see what happens, you will get a lean on your home then sold 2-3 years if not paid. Quicker than what’s going on in this case.

    Comment by wetone — 5:26 pm July 29, 2014 #

  13. I don’t understand how the mayor has executive power beyond what the legal system has ruled. The Barton’s need to recognize they don’t have legal rights to the property and vacate without additional protest. It sounds like Bartons are clearly aware of how to “play” the system to their advantage.

    Comment by Mt — 5:29 pm July 29, 2014 #

  14. Well written press release and very correct. This is an abuse of power by the mayor and a sad, pathetic milking of the media that is so typical of Seattle.

    Comment by Ray — 5:36 pm July 29, 2014 #

  15. Enough a enough. Out they go.

    Comment by 35thSteve — 5:44 pm July 29, 2014 #

  16. I know many West Seattleite who inherited homes and are living in a place they couldn’t possibly afford on their own, but most have avoided succumbing to this money trap. Not good to get stuff free.

    Comment by G — 6:03 pm July 29, 2014 #

  17. Seriously! If the Bartons sucked $660,000 dollars in loans/equity out of that house, they clearly came out ahead. I’ll bet it sold on foreclosure at 1/2 that price, probably less. The bank took a beating and the taxpayers (ala bank bailouts) absorb the rest. Sorry for the Bartons and the decisions they made, but on the face I see little merit in their case. and that makes the Mayor an idiot to be involved.

    Comment by steve — 6:25 pm July 29, 2014 #

  18. I wish there were an easy way to regurgitate all the information from all previous stories (and comment discussions) into each successive one. Since there isn’t: No, Steve, the house sold at auction for about that sum. The mortgage was less. King County Sheriff’s reps told us that the Bartons actually get part of the proceeds because Triangle bought the house for more than the minimum bid, more than was owed on the house. Not quite sure how that works but that’s what they said. I have not confirmed all the numbers mentioned in this statement – still trying to find a new court document, for one. – TR

    Comment by WSB — 6:36 pm July 29, 2014 #

  19. So, Ed murray is above the law? He’s going to get sued and kicked out of office.

    Comment by sittingbird — 7:02 pm July 29, 2014 #

  20. Since when does a “mayor” have juristiction over a county? If I understand correctly, this was a county procedure that was enforced by the KC Sheriff. They should be the ones back to enforce the lawfull eviction, regardless of what the “mayor” wants. The SPD should only be involved if needed to “keep the peace”.

    Comment by bs — 8:03 pm July 29, 2014 #

  21. As noted by the King County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson we interviewed for our report last week (it’s linked in the first paragraph of our story above), it is their duty to serve eviction orders. However, that does not mean they have permanent jurisdiction over/responsibility for the eviction site/scene. Once they had done their duty, KCSO said, it was up to SPD, who has police jurisdiction, to enforce the law against what could be considered burglary/trespassing.

    Comment by WSB — 8:07 pm July 29, 2014 #

  22. I feel sorry for the developer. They will sink thousands into legal fees to claim what it rightfully theirs, then carry the scarlet letter for being the bad guy. Come on Barton’s, take your personal possessions from the home and leave.

    Comment by Joe — 8:44 pm July 29, 2014 #

  23. Wow. No words. Out they go. Get a house free clear and dig yourself into this kind of mess? Not okay. I agree with Joe’s comment above.

    Comment by M — 9:21 pm July 29, 2014 #

  24. I’m all for Vets. Work with them everyday.
    But, this is not a Vet story and there is much more to it than the takers media are telling. You don’t wait for a gapping wound to turn into an amputation and expect everyone else to bail you out. They were irresponsible and it’s costing them the home they lived in for free…for a long time! Using being a Vet to gain attention to this irresponsibility is shameful and takes our attention off our Vets who really need us as a result of their service.

    Comment by WTF — 9:49 pm July 29, 2014 #

  25. If the foreclosure is found illegal in June of next year, then this was an illegal sale and the Bartons will likely take back their land from this developer. The one the developer needs to sue is the people they made a quick $ with on this deal. But what’s that, the developer would have sold this already and run off with large amounts of cash? Yes, yes they would have. And who then do the Bartons go after to get their land and home back? If it’s an illegal foreclosure, the only one losing out on all this is the Bartons.

    Comment by Mike — 9:50 pm July 29, 2014 #

  26. “According to King County property records, the Bartons received the house free and clear from a family trust in 2003 and almost immediately began to use a series of mortgages to turn the value of the house into cash. By August of 2007, the house was pledged to more than $660,000 of debt.”
    I’d love to read these, if somebody can provide the links to this documentation so I can interpret it myself instead of reading the legal twisted view of it by “a law firm”. Can you also name that law firm, I’d love to do a background check on them. There’s all sorts of fun stuff about law firms on the Internet. Which ones are connected to each case is always fun to see.

    Comment by Mike — 10:15 pm July 29, 2014 #

  27. Stop me if you’ve heard this one. A lawyer, developer and a banker walk into a bar…

    Comment by Mike — 10:29 pm July 29, 2014 #

  28. Triangle’s representation is Dimension Law Group of Renton. I still haven’t found this particular filing. I have found a couple other eviction cases – preceded by foreclosures – involving Triangle, however. As discussed extensively in comments on our previous two stories about all this, you can find some of the real-estate documents in King County Online Records, which unlike the Superior Court docs at ECR Online, does not usually shut down for the night, and does not require paying per page, etc. I don’t re-upload docs like these in most cases because they tend to have very personal information and I don’t have software for redacting. – TR

    Comment by WSB — 10:29 pm July 29, 2014 #

  29. What does Kshama Sawant have to say about this whole thing? She went down in person the day of the eviction, but I don’t hear a peep out of her now cmon Kshama.I get it a good time for a photo op.

    Comment by sittingbird — 11:01 pm July 29, 2014 #

  30. “[free] Housing is a human right.” Wow, I didn’t know that. I’d like to know how to get one of these free houses please.

    And can I also have the hundreds of thousands of dollars in home equity loans along with my free housing?

    Thank you.

    Comment by Alex — 11:22 pm July 29, 2014 #

  31. Thanks WSB for the clarification. I misspoke. A house up for auction will always start the bidding at the balance (660k in this case) that is due on the mortgage. I find it amazing that this house sold for this amount(and higher) in this area, but then again we are in another real estate bubble. If there were no takers at auction, then this house would have become “bank owned.” The Bartons unfortunately got in over their heads, but lucky that they’re actually coming out ahead with proceeds from the sale. i.e., lucky that it sold at auction, and above starting bid.

    Comment by steve — 12:01 am July 30, 2014 #

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Putnam County court records

Putnam County Common Pleas Court dispositions

July 22

Putnam County Treasurer Tracy Warnecke was granted judgment against Jeffrey E. Trumbull, Hatfield, Arizona, and Heidi B. Trumbull, Hatfield, Arizona, in the amount of $1,537.93 in delinquent taxes and assessments.

July 23

Beneficial Financial I, Inc., Elmhurst, Illinois, was granted a foreclosure against Donald L. Partin, Vaughnsville, and Mary A. Partin, Vaughnsville, in the amount of $123,171.35, plus interest and costs.

New Cases

Huntington National Bank, Columbus, v. Eugene L. Recker, Continental; foreclosure.

Kenneth Schroeder, Leipsic, and Karen Schroeder, Leipsic, v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co., Murfreesboro, Tennessee, and Dennis Michael, Leipsic; complaint for personal injuries.

Pennymac Loan Services, LLC, Moorpark, Calif., v. Beth Doster, Delphos, and Mark Doster, Ottawa; foreclosure.

Andrew C. Grieve, Montague, Mich., v. Stephen P. Buehrer, administrator of Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation, Columbus, and Great Oaks Transportation, Inc., Ottawa; notice of appeal.

Jody A. Camareno, Glandorf, and Arturo J. Camareno, Ottawa; dissolution with children.

Putnam County Municipal Court dispositions

July 21

Camerin T. Harrington, 24, 328½ W. Second St., Ottawa, pleaded no contest to an amended charge of carrying a concealed weapon and was found guilty. Sentence: $100 fine. He also pleaded guilty to an amended charge of disorderly conduct. Sentence: $100 fine.

Luke D. Lammers, 23, 717 Broadway St., #3, Leipsic, pleaded guilty to telecommunications harassment. Sentence: 180 days jail, suspended, $150 fine. He also pleaded guilty to an amended charge of menacing. Sentence: 30 days jail, suspended, $100 fine and complete assessment at Pathways Counseling Center. Charges of aggravated menacing and telecommunications harassment were dismissed.

Travis L. Dauterman, 24, 1635 N. Union St., Fostoria, pleaded no contest to assault. 180 days jail, 170 days suspended, $250 fine, one year probation, pay $1,595.13 restitution to victim and no contact with victim for two years.

Anthony L. Schumacher, 30, 15074 Road Q, Columbus Grove, pleaded guilty to an amended charge of second-offense reckless operation. Sentence: Four points, 30 days jail, 27 days suspended. $250 fine, with credit for three days jail upon completion of DIP.

July 22

Tyler J. Harris, 19, 8211 Rockwood Drive, Findlay, pleaded guilty to failure to stop after an accident. Sentence: 180 days jail, suspended, $100 fine, and complete assessment at Pathways Counseling Center. Charge of driving under suspension was dismissed.

Bryan A. Recker, 23, 14721 Road 22K, Cloverdale, pleaded no contest to criminal damaging. Sentence: 90 days jail, suspended, $200 fine, pay $400 restitution, perform 20 hours community service, and no contact with victim or his property for two years. He also pleaded no contest to an amended charge of hit and skip. Sentence: 90 days jail, 87 days jail, $250 fine, perform 20 hours community service with credit for three days jail upon completion of DIP. Charges of criminal damaging, open container, failure to control and reckless operation were dismissed.

Harley-Davidson Lane, 20, 11351 Road 20J, Cloverdale, pleaded guilty to underage possession. Sentence: 30 days jail, suspended, $250 fine. He was also fined $50 for speeding.

July 24

Paul J. Duling, 51, 206 Blanchard St., Gilboa, pleaded guilty to first-offense OVI. Sentence: Six points, 180 days jail, 174 days suspended, $750 fine, $375 suspended, two year license suspension, with credit for three days jail upon completion of DIP, one year probation. Charges of following too close, drug abuse/possession and drug paraphernalia were dismissed.

Derek M. Schwab, 30, 580 North St., Marion, pleaded guilty to domestic violence. Sentence: 180 days jail, 179 days suspended, $150 fine, and complete assessment at Pathways Counseling Center and abide by recommendations and no contact with victim for two years.

Putnam County Municipal Court judgments

July 21

Blanchard Valley Health System, Findlay, default judgment v. Natalie R. Butler, Leipsic, and Richard A. Butler, Leipsic, $504.66, plus interest and costs

MT Truck Enterprises, LLC, Columbus, default judgment v. Brenton E. Karbowiak, Pandora, $824.49, plus interest and costs.

Capital One Bank, Norcross, Georgia, default judgment v. Jesse A. Martin, Ottawa, $732.59, plus interest and costs.

July 22

IOM Health System, Cincinnati, default judgment v. Pamela S. Manning, Continental, $2,949.04, plus interest and costs.

July 24

Discover Bank, New Albany, default judgment v. Brian W. McCrate, Ottawa, $1,908.29, plus interest and costs.

Article source:

Thousands stuck in limbo waiting to save their homes

A huge backlog and slow processing times are putting troubled homeowners in limbo for months while mortgage companies review their applications for federal housing assistance, according to a new report from the bank bailout’s watchdog. 

As of May, more than 220,000 homeowners applying to Treasury’s Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) were still waiting for a decision from their servicer, according to Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (SIGTARP). That’s nearly double the number of applicants who were stuck in limbo in November 2013, and the slowest mortgage companies are taking 10 to 12 months to give them an answer. 

“Clients are very stressed through this time — everything is on hold for them, they don’t know whether to invest their money on this or that,” says Carmen Castro-Conroy, a Maryland-based housing counselor. “The not knowing is probably the most difficult for them.”

Homeowners who are applying for loan modifications are already having trouble making their mortgage payments, and the huge backlog makes it even more likely that they’ll fall behind. If so, they could have a harder time qualifying for a HAMP modification and avoiding foreclosure. “If Treasury does not take strong action to stop this growing trend immediately, it will be homeowners who suffer the consequences,” the SIGTARP report said. 

As part of the 2008-2009 bank bailout, Washington set aside billions to help troubled homeowners make their mortgage payments and avoid losing their homes to foreclosure. But HAMP is being administered through private mortgage companies, and a slew of problems have made it difficult for ordinary Americans to get assistance from the program. HAMP was originally supposed to last through December 2013, but the White House extended it for another two years. As of June 2014, Treasury has expended only 33% of the $38.5 billion in TARP funds for the program.

The report singled out two mortgage giants for poor performance over the last six months. “Chase and Select Portfolio Servicing stood out as the least effective large servicers in keeping up with demand for HAMP,” the watchdog said. “During this period Chase processed an average of 35% of the applications it received each month, while SPS processed an average of 42% of the applications it received.”

The slowest servicers were Citimortgage, a subsidiary of Citigroup, which took an average of 12 months to process HAMP applications; Select Portfolio Servicing, which took an average of 10.5 months; and JPMorgan Chase, which took 7.6 months on average.

Special Inspector General Christy Romero blames the Obama administration for failing to notice the problem in the first place, given that its own data made it clear. “When Treasury is holding data and not doing anything with it, and homeowners aren’t being treated fairly, there’s something wrong with that,” said Romero, who heads SIGTARP. “Homeowners don’t have the luxury of time, of waiting for seven months or 10 months.”

Castro-Conroy, the housing counselor, says that homeowners with full-time jobs tend to go through the process more quickly. If homeowners have more than one source of income, the process tends to take longer because there is more paperwork, and customers don’t always understand the process. But, Castro-Conroy adds, mortgage servicers can be at fault as well: Long delays force applicants to resubmit income documentation, for instance, and staffing turnovers can further prolong the process. 

“It’s not ever an acceptable excuse to blame it on the homeowners and say they didn’t have their package complete,” said Romero.

The watchdog previously criticized the administration for failing to ensure that HAMP money was dispersed quickly, as participating mortgage servicers failed to communicate clearly with homeowners, lost their paperwork, and otherwise prolonged the process. SIGTARP, which is also a law enforcement agency, reached a $320 million settlement with Suntrust after alleging that the company misled HAMP borrowers, falsely reported them as delinquent, and was slow to process HAMP applications.  

“So significant was SunTrust’s failure in this regard, that the floor of the room in which the bank dumped the voluminous unopened HAMP applications actually buckled under
the packages’ sheer weight,” SIGTARP said. 

The watchdog also said that Treasury should be doing more to ensure that those who do ultimately qualify for HAMP are able to stay afloat. About 30% of the homeowners in the program have already defaulted again, costing taxpayers about $1.3 billion, the report says, and that number could increase as HAMP mortgage rates automatically rise after five years. SIGTARP suggests that Treasury use other bailout-funded housing programs to help HARP participants remain current. 

While the housing market and broader economy have shown signs of healing, the redefault rates and the steady demand for foreclosure-prevention assistance indicate that many homeowners are still struggling. 

When lawmakers originally passed TARP, “it was all about getting money out to banks immediately. The same level of effort and immediacy have not applied to TARP housing programs,” says Romero. “Will they eventually get all the money out? Maybe. The question is, when did the homeowners need it? It’s always yesterday.”

Article source:

Steamtown mall management chaning – Scranton Times

Control of the foreclosed Mall at Steamtown will change hands on Friday.

Zamias Services Inc., a Johnstown property management and development firm, will become the receiver and run the mall’s operations, legal work indicates.

When foreclosure action against the downtown retail complex was filed in March after Steamtown Mall Partners defaulted on a $37.1 million mortgage payment in July 2013, court papers identified Zamias as the receiver.

Ownership of the mall changed hands two weeks ago when the property’s mortgage holder took possession of the retail complex at Lackawanna County sheriff’s sale after no bidders emerged to meet the asking price of $37.3 million.

The unidentified lender filed paperwork last week in county court exercising the option to appoint a receiver, which will operate the complex under the mortgage holder’s ownership.

Efforts to reach Joseph Anthony, president of Zamias, were unsuccessful.

Steamtown Mall Partners, which owned the complex before the foreclosure, will stop managing the mall on Thursday, said Scott Esterbrook, a lawyer who represents Al Boscov, the department store magnet who had an ownership stake in the facility.

Boscov’s is an anchor at the mall and Mr. Boscov has voiced interest in reacquiring the retail complex.

“It is what we expected,” Mr. Esterbrook said of the transition. “This is just part of the process. They will manage it.”

Mr. Esterbrook, who is counsel to Mr. Boscov in the foreclosure, said discussions are continuing with LNR Partners, a Florida real estate company that managed the mall’s loan account for the mortgage holder.

“We are continuing to talk to LNR, but there hasn’t been a whole lot of progress,” he said. “We are optimistic at some point that we will reach a deal.”

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The FTC Stops Six Fraudulent Loan Modification Companies

The FTC announced this past week a joint federal and state enforcement sweep, with additional federal entities such as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), 15 state Attorney Generals and state agencies, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has requested that a series of six mortgage relief operations have their assets frozen and stop their illegal operations of misrepresenting their services and charging unlawful upfront fees. The six individual cases that had been announced last Wednesday marked the forty-eighth action that the FTC has made against illegal mortgage assistance companies since 2008.

The announcement by the FTC revealed that the defendants were all being charged with violating the FTC Act and the Mortgage Assistance Relief Services (MARS) Rule, now known as Regulation O. Regulation O essentially bans any and all mortgage, foreclosure and loan modification assistance services from charging fees until the homeowners have a written offer from their lender or servicer that they deem acceptable.

The accusations brought against the defendants of Danielson Law Group allege that the Utah-based defendants advertised a 90% success rate and charged vulnerable homeowners advance fees of $500 to $3,900 after they were drawn in. The return of these fees was supposed to be an honest lawyer negotiation with the party’s lender for a loan modification and reduced mortgage payment plan. The investigation by the FTC however has found that the defendants encouraged borrowers to stop paying their lenders (a common sign of a scam) and also promised full refunds if the loan modification attempt was unsuccessful. Over $35 million was reportedly taken from the distressed homeowners in the form of these fees.

Defendants of the Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based FMC Counseling Services, Inc. are being charged with making false claims of being affiliated with the Making Home Affordable assistance program and being able to reduce borrower’s mortgage payments by hundreds of dollars since February 2011. With titles such as the “Federal Debt Commission,” the “Federal Mortgage Marketplace,” and the “Federal Assistance Program,” the defendants didn’t waste any time in taking advantage of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation’s logo to trick consumers.

The defendant told their customers to stop all communication with their lenders, and to give their mortgage payments to the company. Over $600,000 was reportedly taken from consumers, and in the end none of the defendant’s customers had a single completed promise. Because none of the refunds were ever made, many of the victims have lost their homes. A preliminary injunction with an asset freeze and been ordered against Jonathan L. Herbert due to the work done by the FTC.

From at least 2011, the Jacksonville, Florida based Lanier Law company convinced homeowners that for upfront fees of $1,000 to $4,000, or monthly fees of $500, that they would get them a loan modification due to a prediction that their chances were 85% to 100%. According to information from the FTC investigation, the defendants also instructed their victims that by defaulting on their mortgage payments while their loan modifications were pending, there was the possibility of an audit to be done on their mortgage documents to detect predatory lending practices. Another violation that the FTC is charging the company with is violating the Do Not Call Rule by calling consumers who were on the Do Not Call list and by failing to buy the Do Not Call Registry in any state where they operated.

A U.S. district judge has ordered these defendants to stop all loan modification misrepresentations, and has also froze their assets in order to possibly save consumers from any further harm.

The FTC’s investigation has found that from at least August 2010, the California based Mortgage Relief Advocates sold malicious homeowner assistance services on websites through telemarketing. The advertisements claimed that the defendants had good relationships with lenders, and also falsely claimed that their forensic loan audits had an 80% success rate of uncovering violations in the Truth in Lending Act. For upfront fees of $1,000 to $3,200, these services were promised to bring them the proper relief they needed. The FTC has requested that a temporary restraining order be placed on the company.

From approximately October 2010 to December 2013, the Austin, Texas- based operation known as Home Relief Foundation allegedly drew in homeowners suffering from financial hardships all across the nation by making false promises to lower interest rates and mortgage payments using resources such as their affiliations with lenders, attorneys and federal entities.

These borrowers were also instructed to halt on their mortgage payments. The fees of $500 to $4,000 got the homeowners nothing, but racked in $500,000 for the defendants. Websites that they used to lure in victims included domains like,, and At the request of the FTC, the defendants have been ordered to stop conducted their illegal loan modification business and have also had their assets frozen.

The final company on the FTC’s list comes to the Southern California-based company known as CD Capital Investments. From mid-2011, they promised consumers mortgage relief within two to four months for upfront fees of $495 and claims to be apart of the Making Home Affordable Program. Their trick was telling consumers that they could get them lower fixed-interest rates and overall reductions in their monthly loan payments, or a reduction on their principle balances.

They too promoted an anti lender lifestyle and not only instructed customers to stay away from lenders and servicers, but also told them that by doing so did not mean that they would lose their homes to foreclosure because of the influence of the pending loan modification process. Over $1 million in revenues was collected through this scheme.

It was not uncommon for the victims to find out that the defendants never even submitted a loan modification on their behalf. Because many of them faced foreclosure and other financial consequences as a result of this scheme, the FTC is currently seeking a preliminary injunction to halt defendants’ practices during the pendency of the litigation.

If you are a victim of any of these schemes or of another one that has possibly not been brought to justice, call the FTC at 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). Or visit their online complaint center.


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Gregg Calls on Iowa Attorney General Miller to Stop Raising Campaign …

Tom Miller“Raising money from the targets of open investigations creates the perception that justice is for sale.”

DES MOINES—Johnston attorney and Republican Attorney General nominee Adam Gregg today called on Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller to stop the practice of raising money from the targets of his investigations.

Numerous reports after Miller’s 2010 campaign called into question his practice of accepting large, out of state campaign contributions from firms and individuals directly associated with the targets of his mortgage settlement negotiations:

Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller

Campaign Contributions Rise When Foreclosure Investigation Begins

Even more interesting is that it was the lawyers and donors from the finance, insurance, and real estate (FIRE) sector from outside of Iowa who were largely responsible for this reversal. Out-of-state lawyers and lobbyists gave Miller $261,445 in 2010, which is 88 times more than they gave over the previous decade. Out-of-state donors from the FIRE sector gave Miller $56,150 in 2010, compared to $3,500 in 2006 and $1,000 in 2002.

The out-of-state lawyers who suddenly took a strong interest in Miller’s reelection last fall are among the most prominent litigators and partners from some of the largest and most famous corporate and class action firms in the country, which is not surprising given the numerous high-stakes court cases filed in the wake of the financial collapse of 2008 that could be impacted by the pending settlement.11

Foreclosure-Probe Chief Asked Bank Lawyers for Money

Now, in response to queries from TIME, Miller says he initiated fundraising calls to several national firms that represent big banks after he had announced his intention to investigate the foreclosure mess. “In September and October, I tried to reach out to people that I’d worked with and I thought had respect for me and potential support for me and tried to raise money from them,” Miller says. “And a number of them were from national firms.”

Miller declined to say how many lawyers he contacted who regularly represent big banks and said he “didn’t know until after the election which firms were representing the banks in the foreclosure” case.

Best Way to Raise Campaign Money? Investigate Banks

A hilarious report has come out courtesy of the National Institute of Money in State Politics, showing that Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller – who is coordinating the investigation into the banks’ improper mortgage dealings – increased his campaign contributions from the finance sector this year by a factor of 88! He has raised $261,445 from finance, insurance and real estate contributors since he announced that he was going to be coordinating the investigation into improper foreclosure practices. That is 88 times as much as they gave him not over last year, but over the previous decade.

This is about as perfect an example of how American politics works as you’ll ever see.

Gregg stated, “I find nothing ‘hilarious’ or remotely funny about these reports. What Tom Miller has done is not the Iowa way of campaigning, and certainly below the expectation of the Attorney General. Raising money from the targets of open investigations creates the perception that justice is for sale.”

“Tom Miller should either return all $261,445 to the donors identified in this independent report, or he should donate the equivalent from his campaign to a local charity such as Habitat for Humanity or Iowa Legal Aid,” Gregg stated. “Further, I’m calling on Tom Miller to immediately stop the practice of soliciting campaign funds from the targets of his open investigations.”

“Iowans demand fierce independence from their Attorney General.  Taking hundreds of thousands of dollars from the very targets of his investigation is unseemly and gives the appearance that his judgment is colored.”

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Southern California housing market comeback stalls

Home shoppers take in a model home open house in the new development of Stoney Point Estates, located across from Stoney Point Park on Topanga Canyon Boulevard and just south of the 118 Freeway in Chatsworth. Scant supply is holding down sales in the region.
Dean Musgrove — staff photographer

Sherman Oaks residents Mike Pettit and his wife Tamara are spending the summer turning door knobs. They are looking to buy their first house and so far its been a frustrating, fruitless search.

“It seems like the good stuff goes pretty quickly,” he said one sweltering Sunday afternoon in July while checking out a modest West Hills home priced at $524,950.

It’s within their budget but outside their neighborhood comfort zone.

“I’ve made a couple of offers but I got outbid. Some houses that we see have been sitting on the market for a month or two and others you have to write an offer that afternoon.”

They found an example of the latter last Sunday, a nice one-story 1,500 square foot home on a quiet cul-de-sac in Encino with a good elementary school in the neighborhood.

The seller is asking $643,000 and the Pettits, who both have careers in sales, wrote an offer Monday morning for $620,000.

“We wrote it just to get the seller engaged and to get them to understand we’re serious and like the house. It’s just a little bit out of our budget range so we’re offering $620,000, knowing we have another $5,000 to go. I’m hoping ours is the only one they have.”

It wasn’t.

“We’re still in the house hunt. We found out that the $620,000 offer we made did not go through. Two people offered the full asking price, so there is a little bit of a bidding war going on we can’t afford,” Pettit said Friday.

It’s back to open house for the Pettits, who like many other home shoppers this summer are confronted with a market trying to shake the lingering effects of the Great Recession. From the South Bay through the valleys and into the Inland Empire there are fewer homes on the market, appreciation of home prices has moderated — prompting sellers to hold onto their homes longer — and as a result homes sales are weak.

High expectations for a breakout year for better home sales are fading, although expectations vary from market to market, several realtors said.

In Redlands the number of homes on the market has hit a wall. “We have no inventory,” Redlands Realtor Perrie Mundy, owner of the Perrie Mundy Group and a 30-year industry veteran, said of the Inland Empire market.

The first quarter of the year looked promising, but it has come to full stop, Mundy said, primarily because people are still worried about keeping their jobs.

“It’s just at a standstill. We have no inventory. I think there is just so much uncertainty in our whole economic picture. Everyone wants it (the market) to be healthy and march along but there is a lot of uncertainty and people are wondering if they are gong to have jobs tomorrow,” she said.

Despite the gloom, there have been some success stories for many buyers and sellers.

Riverside residents Poornima and Michael Suiter are in escrow as both buyers and sellers.

They are selling their Riverside home, which they paid $250,000 for two years ago and found a buyer willing to pay their asking price of $324,900.

The Suiters, who have a son and a daughter on the way, are buying a home in Redlands for $379,000.

Both houses are about 1,700 square feet but the family will be moving into a one-story house on a lot with a bigger backyard and a pool.

And it’s also a homecoming for Poornima. She was born and raised in Redlands.

“We’re happy, especially now that we feel like we can move into a new home around the same time ours sells. It worked out good for us,” she said.

Paul Herrera, government affairs director for the Inland Valleys Association of Realtor, believes the market is still adjusting to changes over the last year.

“I think a year ago you had a lot of buyers who were ready and willing but were getting outbid by investors but that is no longer the case. The scenario of having a dozen or 20 or 30 offers come in on a home are gone,” he said.

Inventory began rising about eight months ago, but it has leveled off, along with prices that have settled in the $300,000 range.

“The price increase has stopped,” he said.

And sales of homes has also been affected by new tighter credit standards.

“This slowdown is something we hadn’t expected. We expected about 15 to 20 percent more (sales) on the transaction side,” he said.

Small inventory

One reason for the market malaise is the continued tight inventory across the region. The common refrain from Realtors for months has been that they would be selling more homes if there were more listings.

The supply crunch is happening for several reasons.

The number of distressed properties — those that went into foreclosure — which had been fueling sales for several years has dried up. Earlier this month, market tracker DataQuick reported that foreclosure activity across the state and region is at its lowest level since 2005.

For example, during the second quarter the number of default notices issued by lenders on San Bernardino property owners declined 29 percent to from 2,172 to 1,543 in the 2013 second quarter. In Los Angeles County, the region’s biggest market, default notices dropped 31 percent from 5,525 to 3,836.

And the number of actual foreclosures fell 15 percent in San Bernardino from 969 to 825 and in Los Angeles they declined by 26 percent from 1,646 to 1,222.

Foreclosures are now at levels last seen in 2006.

Median prices dropping

At the same time the median housing prices across the region, which had been steadily increasing, have dropped into single-digit increases percentage wise in a number of communities.

Even though prices are climbing much more slowly, John Husing, economist and head of Redlands-based Economics Politics Inc., a research and consulting firm, said that the Inland Empire remains the most affordable market in the region.

“Using the local income levels, a little under 50 percent of families could afford a home in this market,” he said.

By comparison, affordability in neighboring Los Angeles County is about 30 percent.

That would seem to be a signal to prospective sellers that prices are starting to flatten and thus stimulate an inventory response to buyer demand.

That has not happened yet and it’s surprised some market watchers.

“That’s what I have been wondering for some time. Why aren’t more people putting their homes on the market — and I haven’t got a good answer,” said Michael Carney, executive director of the Real Estate Research Council at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona.

Jeff Loftus, an agent for Keller Williams who works the market from Long Beach through the South Bay, is also waiting for the number of homes on sale to increase and for sales to gain steam.

“There are fewer number of buyers out there, but the buyers who are out there are getting competitive, and they know they are not looking at a lot of inventory,” he said.

Loftus said it is actually a good time to be a buyer or a seller because the economy is improving and the stock markets are doing well.

He does a lot of networking to try to gauge what is in the offing in the months ahead.

“I usually know about three to four months in advance when someone is going to be listing their home,” he said. “I think overall inventory will still be tight. We will see some growth just not significant (growth).”

The sale of homes show the market in stress. During the first six months of the year, sales in Southern California fell 10 percent from 118,641 to 106,354 properties compared to the same time period in 2013. In L.A. county sales are down 12 percent from 39,940 to 35,317. And in San Bernardino sales dropped 7.5 percent from 14,105 to 13,048.

Clem Ziroli Jr., president of Ontario-based First Mortgage Corp. and a member of the board of the California Mortgage Bankers Association, said that qualified buyers can get mortgages, but rising prices are affecting affordability as well as private mortgage insurance, which can be a deal-breaker if it pushes the monthly mortgage payment above the qualifying debt-to-income ratio.

“What’s happened since the meltdown is underwriting standards have tightened up very substantially, Ziroli said. “It also makes lenders take harder looks at loans than they would normally. And first-time buyers are struggling to get in (the market).

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A vivacious owner serves good Thai

If you don’t want to wait, you go to McDonald’s. No MSG. No cans. Everything fresh,” clucks a very vivacious Ubon Herlong, owner of Ubon Thai Victorian Restaurant.

She was explaining to us that we came at a very good time and that during a busy dinner service, there are sometimes people who complain about waiting. She doesn’t mind. She is very proud of her cooking.

We visited sometime between a late lunch and an early dinner and benefited from her full attention, sharing it with one solo diner and a take out order. The tables were dressed to the nines with silk flowers, ornate chairs, Thai fabrics covered in plastics and beautiful cloth placemats (that I chose to believe were swapped out after each diner). The walls were covered with family photos and woven baskets, rich Thai burgundy and gold mixing with the salmon and yellow dining room of the former Belle Grae Inn.

Quirky is an understatement and I was so enthralled by my surroundings that I didn’t realize she was talking to me when she shouted, “You know what you want, Baby Doll?” from somewhere over by the lunch buffet.

I did indeed. We ordered chicken satay with peanut sauce, fresh spring rolls, crispy pork, and panang curry with chicken. Ubon had all kinds of things to say about each of the items I ordered, but I was so tickled by her infectious laugh that I only caught every third word.

She brought out a complimentary basket of shrimp chips, crunchy noshes that look like pastel Styrofoam rose petals. The dipping sauce was slightly sweet, making them hard to resist. To continue the charmingly eclectic nature of this place, the chip basket was lined with butcher paper from “Moe’s Southwest Grill,” frugally turned face down.

Our appetizers arrived shortly after. The spring rolls ($4.99) were loosely wrapped bundles of lettuce, carrots, Thai basil (grown in a large flowerbed behind the restaurant) and rice noodles. They were light and fresh and while some Thai places stuff shrimp or other protein inside, I didn’t miss it alongside the satay and the other main dishes that followed. The chicken satay ($4.99) was gently marinated and grilled, but it was the peanut sauce with its creamy coconut base that made me want to smother every last bite of chicken with it.

The crispy pork ($18.99) and panang curry arrived shortly after we finished the appetizers. The pork was lightly battered and stir-fried with honey, black pepper, onion, broccoli and basil. The piled-high pork was more than enough for two, but so good we couldn’t stop picking at it with our chopsticks. There would be no leftovers making it home with this delicious dish.

The panang curry ($14.99), served with a big bowl of steamed white rice, was a nice broth of coconut, peanut and just enough heat to open up the sinuses with chunks of potatoes, slivers of chicken, onions and carrots, making up one of my favorite Thai dishes. Their version didn’t disappoint.

Ubon Thai rented the restaurant space when the inn was still the Belle Grae. When it went into foreclosure, Ubon and her husband, Dan, bought the whole shebang and now run the inn and the restaurant. The menu includes several chef’s specials, noodle and fried rice dishes, soups, and vegetarian options.

She asked our names and where we were from when we left. “You like? You come back and bring your friends.”

Consider it done.

Kirsten Parmer is the owner of Taste. A Food Company — a small business dedicated to all things food. Email her at

Ubon Thai Victorian Restaurant

515 W. Frederick St., Staunton

Open daily 11 .m.-9 p.m., with lunch specials daily

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