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Retiree Comes Home To Find All His Belongings Gone After Bank Forecloses On Wrong House

A Florida retiree has filed a lawsuit against a company that cleans out houses in foreclosure, after they mistakenly emptied his home.

Eighty-two-year-old Benito Santiago Sr returned to Tampa from vacation in 2009, and found his residence padlocked, and his life’s possessions gone.

But as public records show, the home was not in foreclosure.

The retired antiques dealer claims Field Asset Services Inc took his property and changed the locks at his single-family home at 4205 W Humphrey Street in autumn, 2009, according to a lawsuit filed this month in Hillsborough Circuit Court.

Mr Santiago has filed suit against the company, and mortgage lender Countrywide Home Loans, owned by Bank of America, for damages.

A police report obtained by the St Petersburg Times shows Mr Santiago had returned to his home with his son, Benjamin, after spending time in New Mexico.

But they arrived to find a sign on the house that read Field Asset Services; the home was padlocked and his belongings – including pictures of his deceased wife – were gone.

He called the number on the lock and spoke to representative there.

Mr Santiago’s son said the company at first acknowledged a mistake was made.

However, in February, an attorney representing Field Asset Services sent Santiago’s attorney a letter denying the matter.

Company attorney Chris Helling wrote: ‘FAS has found no record of servicing the property belonging to your client.’

But Santiago’s attorney, J Scott Murphy, claims in the filings agents from Field Asset Services were hired by Countrywide Home Loans to carry out cleanup services to a condominium next door that once used the address 4255 W Humphrey Street before the alleged mix-up occurred.

Mr Santiago’s son believes his father’s mailbox could have contributed to confusion. He noted the address had been mistaken before by landscapers and unwanted visitors, as one side displays the number ‘4205’ while the other is missing the ‘0’.

Mr Santiago valued the furniture, an antique wagon wheel and other belongings that were taken at ‘at least’ $100,000.

Hillsborough County sheriff’s Deputy David Feenaughty estimated in an October, 2009 report, however, that Mr Santiago’s possessions were worth $29,100.

The report reads: ‘At this time, it appears that a cleaning company for foreclosures (Field Asset Services) may have mistakenly arrived at the residence in error on 9/17/09 and removed its contents.’

The retiree said the issue has upset him so much he has moved in with a friend.

He told the St Petersburg Times: ‘Everything was taken out of the property. I feel nervous. I’m not going back.’

Carlin Phillips, a Massachusetts attorney who specialises in cases of wrongful ‘lock-outs’, said she has taken on hundreds of cases in the last year as foreclosures sweep the U.S.

Based on his experience, it appears unlikely Mr Santiago will ever see his possessions returned.

‘We have never gotten one piece of property back,’ he told the Times.

Field Asset Services Inc and Countrywide Home Loans have yet to issue comment on the case.

The Heat Reporter
The Heat Reporter
Known in entertainment circles as "LA Dre", the Editor of The Heat Magazine works tirelessly to bring you the latest & greatest in entertainment news. He spent years in the industry & now brings some of that insider knowledge to his readers.


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