His practices left a mark on a military veteran, and may have cost each of us as taxpayers. An investor who takes over foreclosed properties, is now accused of stripping homes he can't sell.
We told you about foreclosure victims who say the investor lied to them, and got them to sign one piece of paper, essentially taking the equity out of their homes.
Now, we're been told one investor is stripping some homes---apparently having the carpet, appliances, even the toilets, taken out of properties before he loses the rights to them.
We took a look at a stripped home in Fountain with the man who sold the property, realtor Richard Bailey. The first thing we noticed---the front door. The peephole was popped right out of the door.
Inside the 3,400 square foot home, all the carpeting has been removed---leaving just the pad. In the kitchen, the dishwasher, range, and refrigerator are also gone. Bailey says the toilets also were taken out. So the veterans administration, using your tax dollars, had to install new ones. "They had to do all this because of the odor coming up," says Bailey.
All these valuables were taken without the knowledge or consent of the homeowner Gary Lacouture. We found Gary in Minneapolis, where he's in the reserves and is an Army recruiter. "Violated, that's how it makes me feel," Lacouture says. He went into foreclosure after he and his wife divorced and he no longer could afford the house.
Lacouture also says investor Robert Brzezinski called him, saying he too was a vet, knew how the military worked, and would sell the house for him. That's when Lacouture, like countless others we talked to, signed a quit claim deed---not knowing that essentially it gave Brzezinski his home and all the equity in it.
Only Brzezinksi couldn't sell it in the allotted time, so we're told he stripped it. But Lacouture says Brzezinski lied to him, saying he sold the house and the mortgage was paid.
Lacouture says he was shocked when he learned he not only defaulted on a VA Loan, but now had a foreclosure on his record. "You don't want to default on a VA. I mean that's what you serve in the military for. That's one of the greatest benefits that you get is a VA Loan... And now I no longer have that capability."
VA Loans are co-signed by the Veterans Administration, which typically pays off lenders but doesn't erase foreclosures on veterans' records. Now Lacouture has an $8,800 deficiency judgment against him. "What am I going to do? I can't leave. I can't just get up and go. Well, I'm going over here, find this guy who ruined my life and straighten it out," he says.
And we learned, at least four other homes Brzezinski had rights to were also stripped. Realtor Richard Bailey believes when Brzezinski couldn't sell one of them, he had someone strip it, right before it went back to the VA. Again, carpeting, appliances, and a door were removed.
VA property manager Gayle Caldwell says only she and Brzezinski had keys to two of the properties. She says receiving the property in this condition makes it even tougher to sell. And it means the VA loses money, which in turn costs us as taxpayers.
"Chances are, he's probably actually taking the stuff and putting it into properties he already owns, which means he doesn't have to go buy it. If he's got a refrigerator on the blink, he just puts one of these stolen ones in it," says Caldwell.
El Paso County Public Trustee Holly Williams says it's illegal to strip foreclosed homes. "Once the property is in foreclosure, the homeowner can't be tearing it up, nor can an investor be tearing it up. And there are provisions in the state statute to cover that. It's just it's happening at the very last minute and that makes it so the lender can't came out and stop that from happening," she says.
11 News called Brzezinski and he denied stripping the homes. He says he actually lost money on one house and had 2 buyers for Lacouture's house---but the deals fell through. He didn't think it was up to him to tell Lacouture the final outcome---saying the real culprits are the lenders, not investors like himself.
VA property manager Gayle Caldwell doesn't buy Brzezinski's story, saying it happened too many times to properties in which Brzezinski had deeds.
The VA says 5,300 home loans were taken out last year in El Paso County, That's half of all VA Loans in Colorado. Of those, 85 are now in some stage of foreclosure.
What veterans like Lacouture don't realize is that The VA bends over backwards to help veterans keep a foreclosure off their record. If he had called the regional office in Denver, a solution would've been worked out that benefited him. Remember---don't ever sign a quit claim deed, before checking all your options.
The following is some helpful information from the Veterans Administration
VA Borrower Assistance
If you are, or will soon be, in default on your VA-guaranteed loan, VA may be able to help, but only if you contact us. We will discuss your current situation with you and help you determine the best course of action. We can also help you communicate with your lender. To speak to one of our Loan Service Representatives, call 1-800-319-9446. You should be prepared to discuss:
Some of the options available
VA can request that your loan holder delay the initiation or completion of a foreclosure action to provide you with a reasonable amount of time to reinstate the loan. Generally, you will have to provide some sort of documentation to show that you can, or will soon be able to, reinstate your loan.
VA can help you negotiate with your loan holder to arrive at an acceptable plan to reinstate your loan through equal monthly payments. You will need to provide VA with detailed information about your income, expenses, and cash on hand.
The holders of VA-guaranteed loans have the authority, under certain circumstances, to modify your loans by lowering the interest rate, increasing the amount of time needed to repay the loan, and/or adding any delinquent amount to the principal balance. VA cannot require that your lender do so, however. You should discuss this option with your loan hoIder. If your case does not meet the pre-set requirements, VA can review your situation for the loan holder, and pre-approve a loan modification if you meet certain criteria.
VA has the discretionary authority to purchase your loan from the loan holder and place it in our own portfolio of loans. This allows VA to modify the loan if the previous loan holder was unwilling or unable to do so. This option has some drawbacks, and is available only as a last resort to keep you from losing your home. It is not an option if you do not live in the property that secures the loan. You will need to provide a written financial statement, verification of employment and income, and a letter explaining your situation.
Private Sale/Compromise Sale
VA can request that the loan holder delay the initiation or completion of a foreclosure action to allow you a reasonable amount of time to locate a buyer for your property. If you find a buyer who is willing to pay the reasonable market value for your property, but the proceeds from the sale would not be sufficient to pay off the existing loan, VA can consider paying the difference between the sales proceeds and the total indebtedness to the loan holder to allow the sale to close. If you sign a purchase agreement with this option in mind, you should make sure that the agreement is made contingent upon the approval of VA and your loan holder. Before you sell your home, please see the "Important Information About Selling Your Home" section on this web site.
Deed in Lieu of Foreclosure
If you are unable to sell your property within a reasonable amount of time, or if other factors keep you from selling your property, you may be permitted to deed the property back to your loan holder or VA rather than go through the foreclosure process. While this option will have a negative effect on your credit report, it is generally less damaging, less time-consuming, and less expensive than foreclosure. This option cannot be considered if there are any second liens or judgments against the property.