Disabled Vet’s Home Saved: Predatory Home Buyer Cannot Seize Over Mistaken $405 Due in Taxes

By Rachel Alexander Published on July 19, 2019

It’s one of those stories you can’t believe is happening. The home of Jim Boerner, a disabled military veteran, was sold to a buyer over supposedly $405 past due in property taxes. He paid the $405 on June 13, well before the deadline he was given of June 30, but the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office sold his mobile home anyway on June 20 for $4,400. They even put the wrong parcel number on the public notice of sale, which alone should have invalidated the sale.

The nightmare began earlier this year when Boerner received a notice that his taxes were delinquent on his home for 2017 and 2018. He called the Maricopa County Call Center about it on June 13 to make sure he didn’t lose his home. He was told he owed $405 for his 2017 taxes and $236 for 2018 taxes.

Unfortunately, he was not in the veterans’ exemption system, which would have reduced or eliminated the amounts. The call center employees told him he should pay the 2017 taxes immediately, but regardless had until June 30 to pay all of the taxes. So he paid the 2017 amount and put off paying the 2018 taxes until June 30.

However, just seven days later, the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office sold his mobile home to Lester Payne. A man showed up at Boerner’s door saying he was Alex Patron and that he had just bought the mobile home. He asked Boerner when he was going to move out. It turned out his real name was Lester Payne; he had given Boerner a false name.

The Heartless Predatory Buyer

When Payne learned about the unfairness of the situation, he cruelly offered to sell the home back for $15,000 — a nice profit of $10,600 for doing almost nothing. Boerner offered to pay Payne $5,000, giving him a profit of 16%, but Payne refused.

Maricopa County Treasurer Royce Flora was so disgusted, he offered to pay the $15,000 himself.

Maricopa County Treasurer Royce Flora was so disgusted, he offered to pay the $15,000 himself. But Payne raised the price to $26,000 — and then only if Boerner didn’t go public. When Boerner didn’t pay within 24 hours, he raised the price to $40,000 and threatened him with eviction.

Just a few days ago, he raised the price to $52,000 and served Boerner with homemade eviction papers, telling him he had five days to move out. Now, Payne says he will no longer sell the home back for any amount. He told AZ Central, “I’m keeping the home. My grandma needs a house. She likes the (mobile home) park.”

However, the mother, Laura Payne, said that she had put $25,000 into the house and wanted that much for the mobile home.

Boerner told The Stream, “Whenever something unsavory happened to him, the price went up. He was trying to use the price of the home to put leverage on me, because it was his cash cow. When people started criticizing him on Facebook, he would raise the price. ”

Frustrated, Boerner told Payne he would go public with Payne’s criminal history if he didn’t work with him. According to AZ Central, Payne has felonies for aggravated assault, misconduct involving weapons, and endangerment, along with misdemeanors for driving under the influence and shoplifting. Boerner found 50 pages of criminal history on him.

The Predatory Buyer’s Stories Conflict

Payne told Boerner that he really needed the proceeds from this home — but then he got into a brand-new BMW. Some of the time Payne told Boerner that he was giving the mobile home to his mom. Other times he said it was for his grandma.

At another instance, Payne told Boerner he was going to move the mobile home out of the park since “nobody likes that park.” Turns out he never really intended for his mom or grandma to live in the park.

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Boerner says the mobile home park ownership told him that Payne was not allowed there, because he’s tried the same thing on other properties in the park.

Boerner suffered spinal and brain injuries during a training exercise in 1991 at Keesler Air Force Base in Mississippi. Because of them he is unable to work. He was hoping to live the rest of his life out in his mobile home. He’d thought he had enrolled in a program that lowers property taxes for people with disabilities and limited income. But the county assessor’s office could find no evidence of it.

Boerner told AZ Central, “It’s difficult. It’s just difficult. I love my home. I love my neighbors. … This was my nest egg, you know? That’s why I paid cash for it. This is where I was going to retire. And now I don’t have that assurance anymore.”

Help for the Vet

Boerner contacted several news organizations but said no one would respond except ABC-15 in Phoenix. Once they jumped on the story, it went viral. Cathy Mastrangelo, a consumer advocate with ABC-15 who worked on the case, wanted to know just one thing. She told The Stream,

Out of the thousands of overdue tax lien cases, just exactly how did Sheriff Paul Penzone or his proclaimed judicial experts select this one case out of thousands, to be sold at the tax lien sale ten days prior to the exact due date on the Notice of Tax Lien? It’s not like the majority of all the County elected officials and their deputies had not put this sheriff on notice as to this grievous error. It also appears to me that the sheriff has no concerns whatsoever as to fraudulent Certified Purchasers, who have no legitimate right to seize properties offered at even a legitimate lien sale.

State Rep. Bob Thorpe (R) held a hearing last Thursday to look into changes in state law regarding the amount of time mobile home owners are allowed to pay back taxes. They don’t get the five year period that single family homes do.

The Sheriff Could Help But Won’t

The treasurer’s office looked for a way to invalidate the sale but found they did not have the authority; it would be up to the sheriff. The sheriff could reverse the sale. Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone had become sheriff after left-wing billionaire George Soros poured millions of dollars into the election to defeat Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

Penzone held a press conference on Wednesday to address the situation. He said that a call center operated by the county had given Boerner bad information when he was told he had until June 30 to pay the delinquent taxes.

Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone became sheriff after left-wing billionaire George Soros poured millions of dollars into the election to defeat Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

Penzone also blamed a new credit card processing system for the $405 payment not showing up before the sale took place. But does it really take seven days for a credit card to be processed? But that doesn’t matter. It immediately says “pending” when the payment is sent. He admitted that if his office had known about the $405 payment, it would not have allowed the sale to proceed.

The sheriff only has authority to sell homes due to delinquent taxes when directed by the treasurer’s office. He did not execute the warrant as written from the treasurer’s office, which had a date of June 30. 

Finally, a Solution

Sources say that Payne may now be willing to sell the mobile home back for $25,000. Flora offered to put up $15,000, and challenged Penzone to put up $10,000. A GoFundMe was started for Boerner.

But finally, the county attorney worked 0ut a way to save his home. The county attorney will work with Boerner to stop the eviction. And will go to court to get the sale reversed due to procedural errors. Fortunately, the right outcome prevailed. 

 

 

Follow Rachel on Twitter at Rach_IC. Follow The Stream at streamdotorg. Send tips to rachel.alexander@stream.org.

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