Homeowner’s Eviction Hearing Cancelled Due to Bank Fraud, Community Rallies to Celebrate

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Minneapolis– Three days before Connie Gretsch’s eviction hearing, she was shocked to receive good news: The Attorney General’s office had discovered that her prosecuting bank, Pacifica, did not own Connie’s south Minneapolis home, or even have a license to do business in Minnesota. Pacifica’s attorneys quickly called off the eviction hearing.

“I feel so lucky that we caught this in time,” said Connie. “How many people out there lost their home because of a bank error they never knew about?”

Pacifica has asked Citibank, which currently owns the property, not to pursue an eviction.

When Connie Gretsch lost her job as a special ed teacher, she began negotiating with Citibank to adjust her mortgage.  They informed her that she had to be two months behind on payments before they could consider her for a loan modification, and advised her to not make payments for two months.

After a year of consideration, Citibank rejected her application.  They sold her mortgage to Pacifica, which quickly foreclosed on her because she had missed two months’ payments–the payments Citibank had advised her not to make.  This summer, Pacifica filed to evict her.

“Fraudulent  banking practices like these are unfortunately not uncommon, and often go unnoticed in the automatic foreclosure machine,” said David Smith, an organizer with Occupy Homes MN. “We are forced to work around the bank’s mistakes, sloppy paperwork, and unethical practices. Connie’s case makes it clear that we need to be investigating fraudulent practices in all foreclosures.”

When her home fell into foreclosure, Connie thought she would have to leave her home of 17 years where she taught her daughter how to read and cook.  Today she is unpacking her boxes and inviting her neighbors over to celebrate her eviction cancellation.  Along with Occupy Homes MN, Connie is building community support to pressure the bank to negotiate with her.

This Sunday at 6:00pm, she will have a celebration BBQ for her neighborhood.  Her house is at 4112 10th Ave S, Minneapolis, MN.

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South Minneapolis Woman to Defy Sheriff’s Eviction Orders After Bank Backs out of Negotiation

Anita Reyes-Reley planned on moving out of her South Minneapolis home last Tuesday when she received an eviction notice from Hennepin County Sheriffs.  Now she is unpacking her boxes, planting a garden, and building community support to stay in her home.

“All that I am asking is for Woodlands National Bank to sit down and negotiate with me, so I can stay in my community,” said Anita.

Ms. Reyes-Reley, who has owned her home for 17 years, fell behind on her mortgage when her hours were cut and vertigo prevented her from making the 100-mile one-way drive to work. She reached out to Cindy Koonce, Vice President at Woodlands National Bank, to find a solution to stay in her house. Ms. Koonce told Anita she would do everything she could to help her. The Attorney General offered to look over Anita’s loan documents for the bank. Anita returned to work, earning more than enough to afford her mortgage.  To Anita’s shock, however, on the end date of her redemption period, Ms. Koonce called Anita and told her she needed to leave her home.

With the help of Occupy Homes MN, Anita began building a public pressure campaign, including call-ins and a petition, for Woodlands National Bank to renegotiate her mortgage so she could stay in her home. That same day, Ms. Koonce called Anita and made a concrete offer to keep her in her home. But the following day, when Anita showed up to negotiate, she was told that the offer was off the table due to a minor technicality: she had called the bank four minutes too late.

“This is not about four minutes,” said Occupy Homes MN organizer Chris Gray. “The bank’s erratic behavior is disturbing. I can’t imagine a world where the difference between 11:59 and 12:04 should mean a woman gets thrown into the street.”

Occupy Homes MN, which recently garnered media attention from around the country for its continuous defense of the Cruz home after eviction orders were posted, vowed to begin a similar eviction defense and public campaign. The American Indian Movement has also pledged its support.

“This type of pressure has worked multiple times in the past with Bobby Hull, Monique White, and Colleen Mckee Espinosa,” said Chris Gray. “We have a strategy, and we’re going to win.”

“All I want to do is to pay my mortgage and stay in my home,” said Anita. “I am not leaving. I have nowhere to go.”

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Nonviolent Cruz Family Supporters Targeted with Riot Charges Weeks After Arrests

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Minneapolis Police Chief Tim Dolan steps on peaceful protesters outside the Cruz home May 30. Fourteen were arrested that night, and so far at least three have received riot charges.

Yesterday, several activists with Occupy Homes MN discovered that the City Attorney has decided to escalate charges following their arrests defending the Cruz family home. Prosecutors at the City Attorney’s office originally charged the group of Cruz family supporters with trespassing, and have now moved to significantly more serious charges including 3rd degree riot–a gross misdemeanor which carries a sentence of up to one year in prison and a $3,000 fine.

These charges are a clear and disgraceful attempt to suppress the Occupy Homes movement and ‘make an example’ of anti-foreclosure organizers who were arrested while non-violently protesting an unjust eviction. City Attorney Susan Segal, appointed by Mayor RT Rybak, has also made it a point to aggressively prosecute other political defendants, including a group arrested while protesting US Bank’s foreclosure practices last fall.

As of now at least three arrestees (though likely more) are charged with the following:

  • 3rd degree riot (gross misdemeanor)
  • Obstructing legal process
  • Disorderly conduct
  • Presence At An Unlawful Assembly
  • Trespassing

Instead of prosecuting the criminal fraud of the bankers that crashed our economy, or working to give relief to families devastated by the foreclosure crisis, our tax dollars are being spent to evict families at the banks’ behest, and to intimidate and prosecute neighbors fighting to keep more vacant homes out of their communities.

The fight to defend the Cruz family from a wrongful and unnecessary eviction has garnered support from hundreds of thousands of supporters around the country with solidarity actions in over a dozen cities, and has sent a message to big banks everywhere that we won’t stand by and let them steal our homes.

This attempt to silence and stifle anti-foreclosure organizing will not deter us from fighting for our homes, our families, our neighbors, and our futures.

We shall not be moved.

For more updates and ways to support the defendants, follow www.occupyhomesmn.org, http://www.facebook.com/OccupyHomesMN and www.twitter.com/OccupyHomesMN.

Please donate to our legal fund here to help cover the costs of this attack on our movement.

Thanks for your support,
Occupy Homes MN

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