Eric P. Newcomer, St. Petersburg Times
After going out of town, an 82-year-old man returned home to find his house emptied out. Even the trash was gone.
He found a padlocked door and a sign for a company that cleans out properties in foreclosure.
But Benito Santiago Sr.’s home wasn’t in foreclosure, public records show.
In a lawsuit filed this month in Hillsborough Circuit Court, Santiago claims that Field Asset Services Inc., took his property and changed his locks in the fall of 2009. He sued the company, along with Countrywide Home Loans, for damages.
A Hillsborough County sheriff’s deputy estimated in an Oct. 5, 2009, report that the Santiago’s possessions were worth $29,100.
In an interview, Santiago, a retired antiques dealer, guessed they were worth $100,000.
“At least,” he said.
Pictures of his deceased wife were among the items taken. He lost everything, including his furniture and an antique wagon wheel. The incident upset him enough that he moved in with a friend.
“Everything was taken out of the property,” he said. “I feel nervous. I’m not going back.”
Neither Field Asset Services nor Bank of America, which now owns Countrywide, commented on the incident when contacted by the St. Petersburg Times. Field Asset Services said it doesn’t discuss client cases. Bank of America requested a copy of the suit.
In February, an attorney representing Field Asset Services sent Santiago’s attorney a letter denying any wrongdoing.
“FAS has found no record of servicing the property belonging to your client,” company attorney Chris Helling wrote.
But Santiago’s attorney, J. Scott Murphy, said in the complaint that agents from Field Asset Services were hired by Countrywide Home Loans to carry out janitorial and cleanup services to a condominium next door — at 4255 W Humphrey St.
Santiago lives in a single-family home at 4205 W Humphrey St.
In the fall of 2009, when Santiago and his son, Benjamin Santiago Jr., returned to the northwest Tampa home after spending time in New Mexico, they discovered a big sign posted on the house that read Field Asset Services.