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You knew that, I'm sure. But did you know they're doing it with tax liens too?

Have dementia? We'll take your house and leave you on the street.
Dying of cancer? We don't care; we're the people who bought up your lien.
Alzheimer's? Not our problem. We don't have problems. We have eviction notices.
In a coma? All the better to steal your home from you.

It's happening just miles, perhaps even blocks, from the White House. Wherein lives someone who could have demanded legislation making much of it stop five years ago and in fact could have put a stop to some of it with executive action. But he didn't. And so the thievery goes on - with new and better schemes to force people out onto the street.

Bennie Coleman was ousted from his house two years ago in a flurry of foreclosures that swept the poor neighborhoods of Ward 7.

The retired Vietnam veteran bought the tidy brick duplex in Northeast for $57,500 with life insurance money that he received when his wife died of breast cancer in 1988.

... in recent years, Coleman began showing signs of dementia - he would forget to pay bills or buy food. His next-door neighbor would often bring him plates of chicken and carrots.

In 2006, he forgot to pay a $134 tax bill, prompting the city to place a lien on the home and add $183 in interest and penalties. His son paid the $317 bill in 2009, records show, but that wasn't enough. The Maryland company that had bought the lien had already gone to court to put a foreclosure in motion. To lift the lien, the company's lawyer was demanding steep legal fees and expenses: $4,999... The court approved the foreclosure in June 2010.

That night, he slept in a chair on the front porch...

"He had no clue what was going on," said neighbor Patricia Johnson. " ...

"He had no chance," said attorney Robert Bunn. "He has dementia. He did not understand the ramifications of what was going to happen to him."

The Washington Post reported today on a massive scam to steal people's homes in the District of Columiba created by a combination of idiots in local government who opened up a Pandora's box then failed to regulate foreclosure due to tax lien, and unscrupulous (to say the least) investors who then bought up tax liens so that they could charge insanely outrageous fees ransoms (thousands of dollars in fees on a few hundred dollars of tax bill) or, when the fees could not be paid, took title to the houses via foreclosure.

It's a despicable tale but I urge you to read the whole thing.

Here's another excerpt:

One of the most aggressive investors was Heartwood, whose lawyers were investigated and disbarred as a result of Maryland's criminal bid-rigging case. Formerly a subsidiary of Florida's BankAtlantic Bancorp, Heartwood has taken more than 20 houses through foreclosure and sold them all, including a brick duplex in Northeast Washington with a $535 lien for $169,610.

One of the houses was owned by Michael McRae's brother, Thomas, a flower-shop owner, who was in and out of a coma and under hospice care while Heartwood was pressing to take his house over what began as a $1,025 tax debt. Thomas McRae died in June 2006 - three months after a judge approved the foreclosure...

Family members found out and fought back, saying no one told them about the lien or foreclosure. Heartwood eventually paid the family $80,000 to settle the case and quickly sold the brick house on a bustling corner of Sherman Avenue NW for $175,000.

"Were just regular people, and we dont have $200,000 to fight a big organization from Florida," his brother said.

Originally posted to jpmassar on Sun Sep 08, 2013 at 09:06 PM PDT.

Also republished by Occupy Wall Street, Progressive Policy Zone, and Hellraisers Journal.

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