Sheri Delich Added to White Collar Crime Map

I’ve been slacking on updating the White Collar Crime Map I launched last August. Today, I added Sheri Delich after she pled guilty to wire fraud and money laundering tied to the Cloud 9 Skyflats travesty in Minnetonka. That’s the third addition for Apple Valley, which was also home to Trevor Cook ($190 million in currency fraud) and Connie Hanson (Embezzled $1 million in Veterans Funds). On a per capita basis, I think that puts Apple Valley in the lead on a per capita basis.

In Jennifer Bjorhus’ report at the StarTribune, Bjorhus reports that Delich’s lawyer is going to fight for lenience in the sentencing by arguing that Delich was a “minor player”.

That doesn’t seem to correlate with the facts, as I understand them.

Delich was the mortgage broker, which means she was the one who controlled the money. She was the one would could have said no. Or, as Delich’s lawyer concedes, “[Delich] said she did what Trooien told her to do” which means that, rather than doing her job, she committed wire fraud and money laundering.

How Can I Transfer a Mortgage Away from Wells Fargo?

After refinancing my home, the bank that handled the transaction sold my mortgage to Wells Fargo. No big deal. Loans are sold all the time.

However, I’m now discovering that Wells Fargo isn’t the kind of company I’d like to see profiting from my debt.

The five separate investigations were conducted by the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s inspector general and examined Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Citigroup and Ally Financial, the sources said.

The audits conclude that the banks effectively cheated taxpayers by presenting the Federal Housing Administration with false claims: They filed for federal reimbursement on foreclosed homes that sold for less than the outstanding loan balance using defective and faulty documents.

According to the sources, the Wells Fargo investigation concludes that senior managers at the firm, the fourth-largest American bank by assets, broke civil laws. HUD’s inspector general interviewed a pair of South Carolina public notaries who improperly signed off on foreclosure filings for Wells, the sources said.

This is kind of a big deal. In fact, the companies involved in this fraud offered to pay $5 billion (with a “b”) to settle this (without admitting any wrongdoing, of course). The government responded by stating that that’s WAY too low a figure, and that $30 billion (with a “b”) is a more reasonable figure to make up for the pain they’ve caused American taxpayers. $30 billion in fraud is the like stealing $100 from every single American.

So, I’m looking for advice on how I may be able to convince Wells Fargo to sell my mortgage to a more reputable lending institution. Any ideas on how I can convince them to get rid of me would be greatly appreciated.

PS: I believe I was told (and even signed off) at my closing that Wells Fargo would be buying my mortgage. That was before I realized that this company was ripping off taxpayers. Turning back time is tough without a DeLorean.

Jordan Hawkman Deletes Rambling Paul Koenig Denial Post

Back on March 8th, I wrote a post stating that I believe I had seen notorious Minneapolis slumlord, Paul Koenig of PAMIKO Properties, at the Johnny Northside Trial.

Julie commented here that she also saw him there. Apparently, he kind of creeped her out, which left an impression.

OMG, that guy was giving me the stink-eye in the hallway before the opening statements! I had no idea who he was, or why he transfixed by my camera. I guess he was scared of someone documenting his presence and ruining his cover. I should’ve taken his picture but he totally creeped me out!

I then wrote a post outlining 46 reasons why Paul Koenig may be the blogger behind the Jordan Hawkman blog (a blog that harasses community activists with an emphasis in housing in North Minneapolis).

Which triggered one of the most rambling denials I’ve ever seen written. An 1,884 word blog post appeared on the Jordan Hawkman blog that was a supposed interview with Paul Koenig. As the twisted story goes, the Jordan Hawkman blog claims to have gotten in touch with Paul Koenig and interviewed him (while curiously flipping between first and third person accounts) about the accusation that he’s behind the Jordan Hawkman. That post included some real gems, like this:

We decided to contact him today to advise him of The Deets article stating that he was The Jordan Hawkman.

Koening’s reply (which he did give us permission to print) was: “Who thinks I am what?” We reiterated the comment and he said he had not had a chance to read it and was not even aware of who this person was. He said he does not get caught up in that stuff as it does not really matter.

A commenter on The Deets named M. Clinton got a kick out of the Koenig “interview”:

OMG! Did you see the Jordan Hawkman’s “response?” Totally busted. Talk about “He who protesteth too much!” LOL! You don’t even need to read the whole thing. Just look at the length of it – how the rationalization goes on and on and on and on . . . Yup, the online equivalent of Paul Koening getting his pants pulled down just happened today! HA HA HA HA HA HA!!!!

Here is another excerpt from the Koenig denial interview:

JHG asked : “Has Jeff Skrenes ever contacted you?”

Response: No, I never even heard of the guy all of the years I owned properties.

That’s a shocking statement, considering that Jeff Skrenes has written dozens of blog posts reporting on Paul Koenig’s crumbling slumlord empire, Koenig’s legal issues with a bank he borrowed millions of dollars from, and Skrenes was quoted in the StarTribune’s recent article about the destructive impact Koenig’s slumlord empire has had on the City of Minneapolis:

City inspectors recently found problems with all of Pamiko’s 14 remaining holdings. Seven houses are vacant or condemned, the others have delinquent property taxes or unpaid citations, according to city records. Earlier this month, the city moved to revoke Pamiko’s rental licenses for seven properties. Koenig appealed, saying he no longer owns them.

The crackdown happened only after some Pamiko houses deteriorated and were left vacant, boarded up or condemned, said Jeff Skrenes, housing director for the Hawthorne Neighborhood Council. “Property ownership is a right, but renting is a privilege,” Skrenes said. “You should be required to show that you deserve that [privilege].”

Apparently, Paul Koenig also didn’t read the CityPages’ excellent cover story by Andy Mannix from February 2010 about Paul Koenig’s PAMIKO Properties, LLC where Skrenes is credited with breaking the story about Koenig’s crumbling slumlord empire:

So Skrenes did some digging. The more he looked at it, the stranger it appeared.

“This is like the Alice in Wonderland of mortgage,” says Skrenes. “This gets so convoluted …and I get this shit!”

Skrenes discovered that a company called Pamiko Property LLC had taken out at least three multimillion-dollar lines of credit from Minnwest Bank. Owned by a married couple named Paul and Michelle Koenig, Pamiko put up scores of largely north Minneapolis properties on each loan as collateral. Then Pamiko began losing some of the properties to banks—a combined total of more than 40 properties.

That article also included a map of Paul Koenig’s PAMIKO slumlord empire.

Strange, isn’t it? Do you believe that Paul Koenig doesn’t read the press he receives? Are we really supposed to believe that Koenig wouldn’t remember the name Jeff Skrenes, who’s latched onto the PAMIKO mess more ferociously than a pit bull?

As I mentioned in the title, there is yet another twist in this convoluted story of anonymity and denial: The Jordan Hawkman has now deleted their “interview” with Paul Koenig.

Paul Koenig Interview Deleted from Jordan Hawkman Group Blog
Jordan Hawkman’s Deleted “Interview” with Paul Koenig

As I see it, while what someone writes can be interesting, what someone deletes often says even more about them. Why would the Jordan Hawkman delete their exclusive interview with the man behind one of Minneapolis’ largest slumlord empires?

I’d hate for you to miss out on a chance to read this amazing “interview” with Paul Koenig in its entirety so here is a link to a PDF of it I snagged from Google’s cache.

A Former Minneapolis Home Owner Visits His Foreclosed Property

This is quite the buzzkill. A former North Minneapolis homeowner drives by his foreclosed home to see what’s happened to it since he was evicted, only to find . . . an empty lot:

That looks like approximately like the Jordan Neighborhood on Irving or James Ave N to me.

Based on the look of the other properties on the block, chances are pretty good that the missing home has stood for 70-80 years through ups and downs in the economy and the neighborhood, but wasn’t able to make it through the current dip. That’s a shame, since I imagine there was still plenty of life left in the place.

The housing stock in North is pretty solid. The home in that part of North were built with real wood from old growth trees back when 2x4s where closer to 2″ by 4″ than they are today. It would be nice to see banks show more of a sense of ownership in the properties they own. Mid-term, it seems like they’d have more to gain off mortgages of existing homes than vacant lots.

Longfellow Community Has Lowest Days on Market in Metro

The 2010 Twin Cities Area Housing Market Annual Report from the Minneapolis Area Association of REALTORS is out, with a ton of excellent data about what the heck is happening in real estate these days.

Among the stats they publish, (download the full report as a PDF here [via Aaron Dickinson on Twitter]) is a breakdown of how long it takes properties to sell by area. Area, in this case, is how the real estate industry has sliced and diced our metro, although it tends to follow names that people find familiar. Looking at the various neighborhoods of Minneapolis, here’s how it breaks down, sorted by shorted days on market to longest:

Days on Market by Minneapolis Real Estate Area

Yep, that’s Longfellow in the lead with an average of 74 days on market. Longfellow, in this case, includes the Seward neighborhood, so basically the entire wedge of Minneapolis found between the Mississippi River and Hiawatha Ave with I-94 on the north and Minnehaha Park on the south.

It turns out that Longfellow didn’t only have the shortest days on market in Minneapolis. It had the shortest days on market out of the 106 areas within the greater Twin Cities metropolitan area surveyed.

Why are Longfellow sellers having so much success selling compared to other neighborhoods within the city? Because people like me, and Mike, and Moe, and Maggie, and Karl, and Justin want to live here. It’s a very affordable community within the city along the awesome Mississippi River trails, with the Midtown Greenway running through it, with a painless commute to downtown and the airport (without airport noise).

With an average size of 1,381 sq ft, and an average price per sq. ft. of $135, some good deals can be found. For example, our neighbors to the west in Nokomis are buying for slightly cheaper at $130 per sq. ft., but that comes with airplane traffic overhead.

The area of Minneapolis that’s most competitive with Longfellow (but just a half step behind) is Northeast. Their days on market is slightly longer (96) but their price per square foot if a very affordable $106. Northeast has a lot going for it, including a solid pub crawl scene, the Mayslack’s Original sandwich, and at least three cool business districts (13th Ave NE at University, University and Central, and Central Ave NE).

But, Longfellow has the trails, the park, the river gorge, and Merlin’s Rest. It’s hard to beat that.

Cooper: The Hottest Neighborhood in Minneapolis

Well, that’s one interpretation of real estate assessments.

In general, homes in the Longfellow community and nearby Standish-Ericsson held their values better than most other parts of the city. Longfellow’s Cooper section, for example, was the only residential area in the city where the median home value didn’t fall between 2009 and 2010, in the assessor’s eyes.

Cooper is home to The Deets and a world famous pizza blogger. You could rent a place across the street from The Other Mike for $800/mo, pick up a dome home for $350k, or snap up the corner house on 46th at 33rd for $189,900. Very few properties come on the market for under $200k that close to the river.

Banks Should Modify Loans to Keep People In Their Homes

I had a chance to meet Scott Brown in Santa Monica earlier this week. Scotty is a real estate agent working on the higher end of the market with properties in Malibu. One might think that that part of the market would be immune to the foreclosure issues facing lower price points, but that’s not the case.

Scotty breaks down the ridiculousness of kicking people out of their homes rather than modifying their loans. Surely, it would be easier to adjust someone’s mortgage to the market’s realities than to boot them out, only to sell the property for pennies on the dollar.

A Trickle-Up Effect of Mortgage Fraud

Way back in 2007, Alex Steback wrote a blog post about foreclosures in North Minneapolis that set Johnny Northside into motion. As I understand the tale, this is what motivated John Hoff to go to and start a blog of his own.

Hoff went on a bit of a real estate fraud rampage in BtM’s comments, which led to Stenback updating his original post with an interesting nugget that shows how far reaching and damaging white collar crimes like mortgage fraud can be:

Of course, these fraudulent sales distort the market, because they become comparable (albeit inflated) sales for legitimate transactions. Because of the sheer volume of properties involved, it is highly likely that many legit buyers in north paid more than the true market value. This is where mortgage fraud hurts everybody.

How ya like them apples? Credit worthy law abiding citizens of the City of Minneapolis may have overpaid for their homes (and are paying interest on the inflated financing) because they were under the impression that hundreds of recent fraudulent transactions were giving a fair perspective on the value of homes in that part of town.

Is there another level of pain beyond that? Are home owners in North Minneapolis paying more in property taxes due to artificially inflated home values caused by TJ Waconia’s fraudulent transactions?

While the city isn’t exactly flush with revenues these days, it would be rather odd if owners of some of the city’s least valuable properties were carrying a an extra tax burden due to such a high percentage of fraudulent transactions in that part of town.

Transportation Costs in Minneapolis St Paul Metro

Abogo has creating a an interesting illustration of the costs of transportation by address. Looking at the Twin Cities, here is a heat map breaking down the average monthly transportation costs (the house on the map is centered on the 55406 zip code):

Transportation Costs in Minneapolis

Many people look at the cost of inner-city living then decide that they can get more for their money by commuting in from the suburbs. With a certain price point, bed/bath, or lot size requirements, they drive until they qualify.

All that driving has a cost, as the above map illustrates. If you’re spending an additional $200 or more per month on gas and all of the other costs associated with long commutes, you’re losing your drive until you qualify benefits.

Another way to look at this is to realize that you may be able to afford more than you think if you buy in shorter commute location. An extra $200/month could translate into something like $30,000 in additional buying power.

To me, the time cost is even greater. How do much do you value your time? At $10/hour, a 30 minute commute is costing you another $200/month in transportation costs. Chances are pretty high that you value your time at a higher rate than that, so adjust that figure accordingly.

Some of Minneapolis’ highest real estate costs are in downtown Minneapolis near the Guthrie Theater in condos like The Carlyle. Units ranging from $300k-$4.5 million generally come with one parking spot with the option to purchase a second spot for $15k-$20k. Since people buying in areas like that tend to have at least one spouse working downtown, the option of having one less car really helps make the numbers work. When the cost of storing a second car is presented in such blatant terms, people get rational. Of course, you’re not avoiding these costs when you have a 2-3 car garage. They just aren’t broken out in the same way.

How much more home you could afford if you only had one car payment, insurance, etc. And, gaining back 250 or more hours per year of your life to spend doing something other than sitting in bumper to bumper traffic must be worth something.

Blaming Borrowers for Real Estate Foreclosures

The NY Times has a piece out this week titled Borrowers Refuse to Pay Billions in Home Equity Loans that has some really choice quotes from frustrated lenders. The piece is written from the perspective of lenders who are dealing with extraordinarily high levels of home foreclosures. They’re not happy.

Here’s an example quote:

“When houses were doubling in value, mom and pop making $80,000 a year were taking out $300,000 home equity loans for new cars and boats,” said Christopher A. Combs, a real estate lawyer here, where the problem is especially pronounced. “Their chances are pretty good of walking away and not having the bank collect.”

That sounds pretty balanced. The lending market was certainly irrational. However, Combs loses me with his next quote within the piece:

Even when a lender forces a borrower to settle through legal action, it can rarely extract more than 10 cents on the dollar. “People got 90 cents for free,” Mr. Combs said. “It rewards immorality, to some extent.”

I have a lot of problems with that quote.

1. Mr. Combs, the people foreclosed upon don’t have 90% of a house to show for it. They have no house. Working off the $300k figure you used, they probably paid around $1900/month on a second mortgage for years, fell behind, lost their house and ruined their credit.

2. Mr. Combs, lenders were so greedy (or incompetent, or both) that they were willing to offer loans to people who were not in a position to repay them. While you seem to prefer to blame the victim, I would hope that you’d understand that the lends had the information advantage. People working in lending on a daily basis convinced borrowers to take loans they had little chance of repaying. Would you, personally, have lent $300,000 of your own money to someone making $80,000/yr to pay for recreational toys? My guess is, probably not. So you understand the risk that these loans would default, yet you still blame the victims.

3. Mr. Combs, if you were a bit more introspective in your take on the hosed up lending scene, I would expect to see a quote more like this: “We lent money to people who had little chance of repaying it. It turns out that they couldn’t (but we got paid when we convinced them they could!). Now we’re recouping 10 cents on the dollar from this crap that we sold to people. We really were that stupid.”

4. Mr. Combs, borrowers screwed up by overextending themselves, but borrowers know less about lending than . . . lenders. If you’re looking for one person to blame for the high levels of defaults, I think you really need to consider looking at who had the information advantage in this market, abused it, and is not blaming the victims. Find yourself a mirror.