by Timothy Chipp
Niagara Gazette — This is Sally Frasca's tale.
As she tells it, the tale is one of suffering and pain due to stress brought on by a costly family illness and the subsequent financial decisions that led to her losing her home to foreclosure.
The 50-year Sanborn resident has had a rough decade, culminating in perhaps the roughest day of all — today is the day she's to leave her home to make way for its new owners.
"It's my whole life, this house," said a tearful Frasca.
The tax foreclosure on her home took place in July. The auction sealing the deal on the Buffalo Street property's transfer occurred in August.
The Frasca family's financial problems date back much farther, as in 10 years ago when her husband, Vince, suffered a series fo strokes and heart attacks and was hospitalized.
Sally lost her husband after a lengthy battle four years ago. He left behind a massive amount of debt, built up largely during his treatment.
As their income started to dwindle, Sally said she and her husband filed for all types of assistance, from disability to Social Security to Medicaid, only to be denied each time.
In the meantime, Sally said she had to make a tough choice: Pay her property taxes or continue to cover the cost of her husband's medical care.
She chose the latter and said it wasn't long before she fell behind on her taxes and deeper into debt.
"I've been in Sanborn for 50 years and I paid 40 years of taxes," she said. "We tried to get Medicaid and we were turned down. We applied for Social Security disability. We took the papers to the Social Security office and they turned him down. We had our tax money but we needed to buy medicine. So we got back on our taxes."
But all was not lost. She worked out a deal with the Niagara County Treasurer's Office to make payments on her back taxes in an honest attempt to get back in the good graces with the government.
Just as everything began to look up for the longtime Sanborn resident, according to her daughter, Diane DeArmond, one late payment caused the entire arrangement to fall apart. DeArmond's mother was once again responsible for thousands of dollars in back taxes, with no way to raise the money needed to pay them.
With the threat of foreclosure hanging over her head, Sally said in June 2011, after watching a television commercial, she decided to try what is known as the Home Affordable Modification Program, an initiative set up under President Obama's administration through the departments of treasury and housing and urban development to stabilize the U.S. housing market by helping homeowners get mortgage relief and avoid foreclosure.
According to Frasca's daughter, her mother's involvement in the program has made her situation worse. She said her mom was directed through the program to Bayview Loan Servicing, a mortgage lending company in Coral Gables, Fla. She said company officials initially told the family they'd take care of the taxes which would eliminate their concerns.
It never happened, she said.
"She did all the paperwork, paid them every month," DeArmond said. "They told us they'd pay the taxes. In March, they said not to worry about it. In April, the taxes hadn't been paid. Same in May and June. In July, we started getting scared. When we contacted Bayview, we were told it was at the underwriters."
But Frasca thinks something else was happening. She now wonders why the company would offer to work on a long-term mortgage repayment arrangement with someone her age. She also regrets getting involved with the federal program and, subsequently, the company at all.
It's all so strange to Frasca, and frustrating.
"I got to thinking: If they financed me at 69 yeas old, I would have been 99 by the time they'd get their money back," she said.
Multiple calls to Bayview's legal department seeking comment about the company's involvement with Frasca were not returned.
This problem between Bayview and Frasca isn't the first time the Coral Gables, Fla. company has been cast in a negative light in the news, though. A 2005 case involving a woman in Rockingham County, Va. found the servicer, which was in line to receive up to $44.3 million from the treasury's loan-modification program according to the Associated Press, never provided adequate notice to the victim.
The case, tried in the Virginia State Supreme Court, awarded the woman $156,809 — the difference between what her home was worth and the selling price at auction — because Bayview failed to provide the woman written notice of the proceedings, the AP reported.
In fact, according to the AP, the woman never knew her home had been foreclosed on until the new owner asked her why she was doing yard work on property she no longer owned.
Back in Niagara County, Frasca's home was recently sold at auction, purchased for more than she owed in taxes, according to county attorney Claude Joerg.
He said Frasca owed the county $65,916. The new owner purchased it for $76,500.
Joerg said this foreclosure isn't the first issue the county has had with the Frasca family. Both DeArmond and Frasca's son have had property foreclosed on, he said, and the county's lost money in both instances.
He defended the treasurer's office and its move to drop Frasca from its installment plan.
"I don't know what the county's response is supposed to be," he said. "There's obviously a problem here, that's the only way the owed taxes get that high. But the decision is well within the treasurer's discretion. In fact, it was probably a good idea because of the money we received."
But that's simply not enough for Frasca, whose future appears likely to be with her daughter, whose moved back into the area after a stint living out of town. She is upset, after all, because she felt she went to the right people for assistance and was promised the world. Instead, those in power, from the county to the federal level, failed at its job, she said.
"(The government's) not doing things to protect the people," she said.
For anyone in a similar situation, the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau does provide some information about protection from scams in the mortgage lending world. For more information, visit the bureau's website at www.consumerfinance.gov.