MFI-Miami Helps Detroit Cancer Mom Take On A Corrupt County Government To Get Her Tax Bill and Mortgage Wiped Out
Steve Dibert, MFI-Miami
Well, its official. Kelly Parker has beaten Bank of America and a corrupt county government
Detroit cancer victim and single mom, Kelly Parker and her two sons are not being forced to move from their home for a very long time.
MFI-Miami, along with attorneys, Anthony DeMatteis and Kelli Meeks of Level One Legal Services, were able to get Kelly Parker’s Wayne County tax bills from 2009, 2010 and 2011 reduced from a total of $9300 to $500. We then negotiated with Bank of America to dismiss her outstanding mortgage of $79,000 on the property and to pay the $500 tax bill.
The key issue in this dispute was to determine if Kelly Parker’s taxes were paid by First Franklin (now owned by Bank of America). Kelly did pay into her escrow account through 2008 which should have covered her 2009 tax bill. Her mortgage statements from this period reflect that the taxes were deducted from her escrow account.
In December of 2010, Bank of America made the determination that it would cost them more to foreclose on Kelly’s house than it was worth and simply walked away from the servicing of the loan with no notice given to Kelly.
It is during this roughly two year period where the confusion over the tax bill stems from. Normally, if a home is in foreclosure, a lender will continue to pay the tax bill in order to keep it’s lien interest. In this case it wasn’t clear if it was due to a corrupt county government or the incompetency of Bank of America.
Last month, Jumana Bauwens from Bank of America, told the Huffington Post,
“Ms. Parker stopped making payments in October 2008,” she said in an email. “The servicing on the loan file stopped in October 2010 prior to the transfer into our portfolio. Since then, Ms. Parker no longer received any bills from the servicer.”
Well, there were a few problems with this quote. The first being that under federal privacy laws, Ms. Bauwens is not allowed to disclose this information without written consent. Kelly never gave Bank of America permission to discuss the contents of her file to the Huffington Post. The second issue is that this information contradicted the seven year payment history MFI-Miami received from Bank of America which was nothing but a blank form. The blank payment history also contradicted the mortgage statements Kelly had from First Franklin. Thus making the above statement to the Huffington Post potentially libelous.
After this piece appeared, I immediately sent Ms. Bauwens the following email asking for an explanation,
I have been retained by Kelly Parker (Account #************) whose residence is 17754 Salem St., Detroit, MI 48219 . In the below Huffington Post article dated September 24, 2012, you stated the following: “Ms. Parker stopped making payments in October 2008,” she said in an email. “The servicing on the loan file stopped in October 2010 prior to the transfer into our portfolio. Since then, Ms. Parker no longer received any bills from the servicer.”
However, this information contradicts the payment history from Ms. Parker’s mortgage statements and the copy of the payment history that was sent to me today by Bank of America Customer Service(see attachment). So this leads to multiple questions: 1.Where did the information you were quoting come from? 2.Why is the information from Bank of America blank and the information given to the Huffington Post not the same? 3.May we have the contact information for this person? We are trying to determine if 1st Franklin and/or Bank of America as servicer and owner of this note and mortgage paid the property taxes. Bank of America had an interest in this mortgage due to it’s acquisition of Merrill Lynch(1st Franklin’s parent company) until Wayne County took possession of the property in March of this year. Since Bank of America also assumed servicing rights for this loan after the acquisition of Merrill Lynch and serviced this loan through 2010, wouldn’t it be logical that Bank of America would have a complete payment history on this account? Feel free to contact me at the below telephone number or Kelli Meeks, Ms. Parker’s attorney at 734.274.4329.
Steve Dibert President,
To her credit, within 15 minutes of receiving this email, Jumana Bauwens was on the phone with financial blogger, Martin Andelman and other financial journalists asking about me and within the 30 minutes, Bank of America corporate counsel was on the phone with Attorney Kelli Meeks asking what they could do to help Kelly Parker.
Bank of America immediately agreed to do whatever they needed to do to correct this situation. One of the problems facing Bank of America was that they couldn’t find Kelly’s file. They agreed to pay the tax bill even though they agreed with MFI-Miami’s assessment that they may have already paid it. However, without any proof that it was paid, if push came to shove, neither Bank of America or Kelli Meeks felt they would not prevail arguing this in court. One problem solved on to the next.
Dealing With One Of The Most Corrupt County Governments In The Country
For nearly a generation, Wayne County has had the reputation being a corrupt county government and for its poorly trained staff. As easy as it was dealing with Bank of America, the Wayne County Treasurer Raymond Wojtowicz’s office couldn’t have been more different. You can never get through to anyone using the main telephone number. When you do get through to someone after being on hold for 45 minutes, the operator disconnects the call or you get some ghetto fabulous diva who you can’t understand. Trust me when I say the call center for the Wayne County Treasurer’s office makes Pakistani or Bengali call centers that mortgage servicers use look professional.
One of the first things my staff did was call several real estate agents to pull comparable sales in Kelly’s neighborhood going back to 2007. What we found was so shocking we believe it may be criminal. Wayne County was overcharging Kelly nearly 800% on her tax bills by using property values from five years before the beginning of the financial crisis. A perfect example of a corrupt county government.
So after about a week of trying to get through to someone at the Treasurer’s office, I drove down to the Treasurer’s office and I get was the run around. After nearly an hour, all the woman behind the counter can give me are blank tax bills going back to 2007.
Now I’m getting pretty pissed because no one will give me an answer. So I reached out to my friend, radio host Tony Trupiano on WTDW, who puts me, Kelly and her sister, Lisa on the air to talk about the run around we are getting at the county. Tony also reached out to his colleague from down the hall, Mojo from “Mojo In The Morning” on WKQI who put Kelly on the air.
The night before we went on the radio in Detroit, I remembered what one of my old political mentors, the late Tom Lawton told me when I first got involved in politics:
“If you want to get a local politician’s attention call him up and tell him that if he doesn’t do what you want, you will tell all your friends and relatives in his district to not only vote against him in the next election but you’ll encourage them to place his opponent’s yard signs in their lawn.”
I told Tony’s audience to call Ray Wojtowicz (who is up for re-election in November) and tell him to stop Kelly’s tax auction or they will tell all their friends and neighbors in Wayne County to vote against him. Well, it worked better than I thought. Bless you, Tom. You were a smart man.
Nearly 1500 people called or stopped Wojtowicz on the street to tell him. Congressman Hansen Clarke even made repeated appeals to Wojtowicz. Because of this and Fox2’s continual coverage, Kelly’s story went viral and soon 150 international media outlets were calling Wojtowicz’s office and the office of Deputy Treasurer, David Szymanski.
All this attention must have forced Wojtowicz to blow out his Depends because both he and Szymanski went silent. They refused to respond to the media or talk to Wayne County voters about it. It was if the two of them went into hiding and were trying to hide the fact they were part of a corrupt county government.
After about a week, I finally was able to reach Szymanski. I’ve worked with a lot of people with big egos like, politicians, lawyers and sales people my entire adult life. I can say I’ve never met a more arrogant and condescending political appointee. Not only did he keep referring to Kelly Parker as, “The Taxpayer,” (I have the voice mail to prove it) he also came off like he thought he was the Finance Minister for King Louis XVI of France. This conversation was interesting because Szymanski actually expected me to kiss his ass during this phone call and he even made the point of telling me, “you are not winning friends in my department!” to which I responded, “My job isn’t to be your friend. Besides, the last time I checked the only way to win friends in Wayne County was with a briefcase full of $100 bills!”
Szymanski did grant one interview to a wannabe mortgage fraud fighter and self proclaimed, “celebrity blogger” in San Jose, California. This guy claimed he was friends with Oprah Winfrey and that he had access to housing non-profits that would be willing to pay Kelly’s tax bill. Yes, Szymanski fell for this guy’s string of bullshit and granted him an interview for his blog. Szymanski was so caught up in this guy’s bullshit that he didn’t bother to do a Google search on the guy. Google showed that not only was this guy an unemployed real estate agent but he is also currently being sued for extortion in Wayne County for allegedly posting false information about someone on his website and then demanding $200,000 from the person to remove it.
So after two weeks of people hounding Wojtowicz and Szymanski like bill collectors and shattering Szymansi’s fantasy of meeting Oprah Winfrey, Kelli Meeks was able to negotiate a deal that would allow Kelly Parker to buy back her house for $500 which Bank of America gladly wrote a check for.