Tuesday, August 02, 2011

F'closure Surplus Snatcher Grabs $800K+ In Unclaimed Excess Funds From Forced Sales Out From Under Tenn. Chancery Court; Loot Belongs To Ex-Homeowners

In Memphis, Tennessee, The Commercial Appeal reports:
  • Rickey Beard's hard luck started eight years ago when his wife died of cancer. Then, in 2008, he lost his three-bedroom home in a tax foreclosure. Now undergoing kidney dialysis, the 61-year-old grandfather and Air Force veteran thought he'd finally caught a break when he learned Shelby County Chancery Court owes him $39,900 -- money he needs for medical bills and to pay an IRS debt.

  • When the court auctioned his home in 2008 to pay delinquent property taxes, the sale generated a large surplus of funds that Beard is legally entitled to recover. But when he petitioned the court this month to collect, he was denied any funds -- his money is missing, the court said, along with another $800,000 stolen in an embezzlement scheme.


  • In one of the more ignominious episodes of local public corruption in years, the misappropriation of as much as $850,000 in Chancery Court tax sale funds -- under investigation by the FBI for three months -- is posing tough questions for court officials as well as hardships for families whose money has disappeared.


  • So far, no one has been charged, but the investigation is focused on former court bookkeeper Brandon Gunn, 46, who quit in April as the FBI probe was launched. He's not responded to requests for comment.


  • The court keeps a ledger, however, that attempts to track receipts and debits connected to individual properties sold at tax auctions. That ledger shows surplus funds generated from the sale of [one victim's] home were paid to First Family LLC, a company with no known business office or corporate charter. The payment appears among 32 suspicious checks written to First Family and Sunset Thirty-three LLC, a company Gunn set up.

For more, see Thefts in Shelby County Chancery Court add to Memphis veteran's bad luck (Authorities can't find profit from sale of foreclosed home).

See also, Editorial: Homeowners suffer twice (Chancery Court officials should move swiftly to clear up the legal issues that are tying up money owed to some citizens).