Land Fraud Arizona

21 Oct
In the 1970s low owners were promised roads and utilities would be put in theNew Tucson/Sycamore Vista Subdivision. This is a page from their sales brochure given to buyers. A long-term lot owner sent it to me.In the 1970s low owners were promised roads and utilities would be put in theNew Tucson/Sycamore Vista Subdivision. This is a page from their sales brochure given to buyers. A long-term lot owner sent it to me.
New Tucson is now called Sycamore VistaNew Tucson is now called Sycamore Vista

About Me and the Current Situation

14 Oct

Raquel Baranow

January 1, 1980 is the day I arrived in Tucson. Spent the summer in Fort Collins, Colorado working on my Samizdat — famous people who believed in abolishing money. I camped out near the University. In the summer a few years earlier I saved up a lot of money setting ribbon rail in the Sandhills of Nebraska for Burlington Northern — I set spikes with a 5-pound hammer and later operated a bolt machine. Spent weeks camping out in the National Forest. Winter drove me to warmer climates.

Previously I wintered in the National Forest east of Huntsville, Texas but was told by a judge to get out of town. If it wasn’t for the judge’s wife who operated the dog pound and hated to hear my dog cry, the judge told me, I’d spend some time in jail for trespassing, swimming in a rancher’s pond. The second or third time my dog saved my life.

I studied at the University of Arizona and lived  under an Aleppo Pine in a 1970 VW bus on a vacant lot adjacent to the Rillito River at 3812 N. Country Club Road (now it’s Racket Club Condos) — even had a mailbox. Several neighbors liked me there because I kept people from partying.

Discovered without a doubt that the CIA killed JFK. It was coincidental. Pol Pot believed in abolishing money. I read Noam Chomsky’s book about the Cambodian civil war. Near those books were the Kennedy assassination books. As I was walking the stacks I saw a book “Coup d’Etat in America”. I thought that’s weird, the Warren Report (which Gerald Ford, before he became President served on) was conclusive. I read the book and checked the references. (Robert Kennedy was assassinated to prevent him from exposing the coup d’etat.)

The University library had all the Warren Report volumes as well as the House Select Committee on Assassination volumes and the Rockefeller Commission Report on CIA Activities in the United States of America, which Ronald Reagan before he became President served on. All the facts in Coup d’Etat checked out.

My heart sank. We no longer have a democracy.

I sewed (by hand) the dress and backpack. Every weekday I made a new sign and demonstrated downtown. (The twin Superior Court Judges Roylston liked me and I made many friends downtown.) One day I collected all my signs and went to the university. My pic was on the front-page of the Daily Wildcat.

I sewed (by hand) the dress and backpack, I was homeless by choice. Every weekday I made a new sign and demonstrated downtown. (The twin Superior Court Judges Roylston liked me and I made many friends downtown.) One day I collected all my signs and went to the university. My pic was on the front-page of the Daily Wildcat.

I began demonstrating at the University. Got falsely arrested several times, spent time in jail. A judge (Robert B Donfeld) told me to get on SSI (government disability). He also told me to get a lawyer and sue the University. I did. I don’t think the psychiatrists thought I was crazy. I felt like I was on sabbatical. At the time I didn’t smoke or drink, all my expenses were documented in a notebook. I showed them to the psychiatrist. My Lawyer, Jeffery J Buchella sued the University and won. I got about $2000, he got much more.

Rented a duplex apartment from Don Rollings at 908 E 10th Street. There I was able to make better samizdats.

Rollings kicked us all out of his apartments and bulldozed the homes. He owned almost the whole block, including his car dealership, bulldozed.

I moved to another place and have lived there ever since. If it wasn’t for Carmine Cardamone and County Supervisor Ed Moore, I never would have been able to pay the liens off on the house and own it. My landlord abandoned the property due to healthcare liens from the former owner, Alice Frantz who built the house in 1924 and was put in a County nursing home.

CIA_Killed_JFK-1181x894 (1)

Me passing out Samizdats downtown at Stone & Pennington. Note my Samizdats pasted to the window of the building. I dyed my hair platinum blonde.

One day while passing out samizdats downtown I met Larry Cardamone, twin brother of Carmine Cardamone, who later became a State Representive. We were very good friends. Carmine told me about property tax liens. I invested and eventually was able to make a good living, getting properties and selling them.

While downtown passing out samizdats, the twin judges Robert O. Roylston  and Richard B. Roylston took a liking to me.

Carmine introduced me to John Kromko, who was a former State Representive. I did a lot of work for the Democratic Party. I learned how to make silkscreen signs. Didn’t make much money but it was fun meeting people.

One of Kromko’s girlfriends was Alison Hughes, she let Carmine, Larry and I housesit. I offered to do work for her but didn’t do a very good job, I didn’t really need the money.

I started getting a lot of vacant lots and eventually fell out with Carmine and Larry over an argument with Larry about religion (I think all religions are irrational but love Jesus, the radical, who told his disciples to go forth without money). I remember him telling me, “You think you know everything”! I agreed.

One place I really liked was a bankrupt subdivision on the far SE side of Pima County called New Tucson (renamed “Sycamore Vista”). People in the 1970s from the rust belt bought vacant lots there thinking the lots would be developed and they would make a lot of money. Nothing happened and they let their properties go by not paying the taxes. I had 50 lots there. I knew, eventually someone would buy up the other 1000 lots and develope them. Eventually someone did. I thought I was going to be a millionaire.

The people who bought the majority lots convinced us to join an HOA. I resisted at first. What they did would be against the law now. I saw no way out, it was kind of like Stockholm syndrome or being raped, you go along to avoid worse things.

Amelia Craig Cramer, a deputy County Attorney sued the HOA on our behalf to require unanimous consent to join the HOA but at the time development was booming, I wanted to be fair so I went along with the developers. That was the biggest mistake of my life. The judge sided with the developers.

Normally, when you own a vacant lot, you don’t pay to help your neighbor develop their lots. I thought when I bought the lots a developer would do all the work and we’d get a free ride.

I sold three lots and made a huge profit, like $60,000. The majority lot owners helped us sell our lots to builders.

After the economy collapsed they defaulted on the loan causing National Bank of Arizona to lose $35-million – the biggest loss in the bank’s history. Our lots were encumbered with development liens.

I never expected these liens to stick. Figured I could swing them when we sold them. The liens never expired. It was a stipulation I insisted on: the liens could not be collected until the lots were finished and we could sell them to pay off the liens.

At one of the HOA meetings Bob Bambauer told us we were being overcharged for the work. Bambauer was the local head of K.B. Homes. He said KB sued the majority owners because they reneged on an agreement to sell lots and lost. We later found out that some of the work was not adequate either.

A new majority lot owner, Steve Russo, an ambulance-chasing lawyer bought the lots from the bank. He turned out to be a big hypocrite. He appointed Ceci Cruz, Virginia Yrun and other community activists to the HOA board. Ceci was good friends with Alison Hughes. Together they formed the Tucson/Pima County Women’s Commission. Yrun eventually took the State Senate seat of Hugh’s boss, the late Dr. Andy Nichols. I made political signs for Nichols. Met him several times. Met Yrun a few times too at Kromko’s house. Kromko was the guy to know to get elected. He had a skill with mailing labels/lists targeted to people who voted. I stuffed, stamped and labeled thousands of envelopes for Democratic candidates for little or no money. Also helped gather signatures to get democrats on the ballot.

Russo, realizing his mistake quickly took them off the HOA board because he knew the HOA was a fraud.

Russo has them on his of the County of Pima board for the only reason they are community activists. Anything they want, they get from the Pima County Board of Supervisors. The Pima County IDA is supposed to support low income families get housing. If Cici and Yrun knew what a rat and hypocrite Russo is, I doubt they would associate with him.

Russo started developing the lots. I owned two lots in Unit 2, which I paid $26,000 per lot to develop. I was excited. I expected Russo to help us to sell our lots. I waited until most of his lots were sold in the west half of Unit 2. I asked him at one of the HOA meetings if he would help us sell our lots. He said he would.

I’m very good at selling lots but quickly learned that major builders like KB Homes would not buy from individual lot owners. Small builders wanted us to subordinate the value of the lots to them so they could get a loan. I realized this was a stupid idea. They would just squander the money and leave us with no equity. That’s why I asked the former majority lot owners to help us. They agreed and gave us very good terms, like only a 2% commission!

As almost all the Unit 2 lots were sold, Russo sued me on the liens in Unit 5 and refused to help us sell in Unit 2.

I spent almost $100,000 in legal fees and lost! I lost almost all my lots!

Russo still refuses to help us sell even though it’s against the HOA CC&Rs which say the purpose of the HOA is to develop the lots and help us sell.


30 Sep

Sorry I haven’t updated this in a long while, lots happened . . . been waiting for a happy ending, trying to sell my two lots in Unit 2. Russo refused to help me sell them even though prior majority lot owners offered to help us sell (they sold three of my lots in Unit 8) and Article 10 of the CC&Rs say the HOA is supposed to help us sell.

No builder except the ones there want to build in this cookie-cutter subdivision. They can find much better lots at the price DR Horton is buying for ($40k).

All I and the other 6 lot owners in Unit 2 want to do is sell and get out of this mess!


Why did Steve Russo appoint Cecilia Cruz and Virginia Yrun to the HOA board then remove them?

14 May

Southern Arizona Land Trust (a 501c3 non-profit) was a defendant in this $500,000 HOA lawsuit against me by Steve Russo. SALT transferred it’s Unit 5 lots to a Russo-controlled LLC — I wonder if Ceci Cruz, the President of SALT knows this? Someone gave the lots to SALT (tax deduction) out of despair. Two people in Unit 9 gave me their lots. Russo is statutory agent for SALT, his law partner Bob Schwartz who appears in this video, is more deeply involved with SALT.

In 2010, Cruz and Yrun were on all the Sycamore Vista HOA boards then next year they were not. The 2010 annual report says they were appointed 01/01/2009.

Ceci is a good friend of a friend of mine, Alison Hughes. Both are community activists. Ceci founded the Tucson/Pima County Women’s Commission, Alison was the President of the Commission. I met Alison through mutual friends and former State Representatives, John Kromko and Carmine Cardamone.

I’d like somehow to make Cecilia Cruz aware of the terrible situation Russo has put me and other lot owners in, I don’t believe she would approve!

Russo is paid $131,000. Construction kickbacks, maybe?

Russo is paid $131,000.

Why did Russo sue me? I was in the process of quieting title to the construction assessments on my vacant lots. I sent notice to Mr. Sullivan who was CEO of Title Security Agency of Arizona and First Magnus, that the assessments he allegedly bought from the prior majority lot owner’s shell company, Western Associates had expired due to statutes of limitations. First Magnus went into bankruptcy for $1-billion (yes, billion) and was one of the causes of the housing crisis. Sullivan’s lawyers contacted Russo who allegedly bought the assessments from Sullivan. I say “allegedly” because we have no evidence any of them ever paid the HOA or anyone any money. Once Russo owned the assessments, he sued me attempting to foreclose on the assessments. Every lawyer I’ve spoken to, including the judge does not think selling the assessments is legal. There is a law against it in California. Mr. Sullivan and the prior majority lot owners were Navy SEALS, friends.

SALT website

Pima County Industrial Authority website:  (Ceci Cruz and Virginia Yrun are board members but Russo really runs it.)

Daily Star article showing Russo runs the Industrial Authority and how much money he makes doing it.

Article by someone in Ohio who doesn’t like the Pima County Industrial Authority investing in Ohio schools.

Daily Star raising question about Industrial Authority funding out of state projects.

More info on SALT, Sasse, Sorensen and the Industrial Authority.

Link to the Sparlin Complaint.

Sparlin Complaint Index:

The inept management of the Corona (New Tucson/Sycamore Vista) Project, which led to National Bank of Arizona losing $35-million, pages 53-56

Indictment against PAUL Y. SORENSEN (an employee of SALT): pages 96ff

Indictment against GREG T. SASSE (An employee of SALT): pages 85ff

How Sparlin lost money investing in Sycamore Vista (“Corona”/New Tucson): pages, 19, 37, 38, 40, 41

Western Recovery Services (managed by prior majority lot owners) had no cash and was maybe using liens on our lots as assets: pages 53ff

Building Firm Pleads Guilty to Defrauding Its Customers

6 May

“The opportunities to steal and the incentives to cheat are so huge in construction that fraud has always threatened every single building project in our city.”

New York Times, 30 April 2014

Structure Tone, one of the nation’s largest construction firms, pleaded guilty on Wednesday to corruption charges and agreed to forfeit $55 million for a scheme in which the company defrauded a roster of prominent financial institutions, law firms and ad agencies out of tens of millions of dollars.

The company arranged for electrical, plumbing, drywall and other subcontractors to falsely inflate their bills for Structure Tone’s clients, investigators say, adding millions of dollars to the cost of building office space for Bank of America; Moody’s; Bloomberg; Proskauer Rose, a law firm; and other major customers between 2005 and 2009. . . .


“The opportunities to steal and the incentives to cheat are so huge in construction that fraud has always threatened every single building project in our city,” said Mr. Thacher, chief executive of Thacher Associates, which provides a monitoring service for companies engaged in construction projects. “Corruption adds many, many hundreds of millions of dollars to the cost of construction each year in this city, and that cost is passed on to the public.”

Structure Tone specializes in building office space, or interior construction, as opposed to erecting the core and shell of a skyscraper. In some instances, it acts as a construction manager for a firm, overseeing the work, negotiating contracts and hiring subcontractors, on behalf of a corporate client.

Unit 5.1 Roads

How much did it cost to build the one road in this picture? (Sycamore Vista Land For Sale, Lc is my company.)

On other jobs, the company serves as a general contractor hired to perform the work for a fixed price, or “lump sum.”

According to investigators, when Structure Tone acted as a construction manager it would tell subcontractors to raise their prices to account for unnecessary “contingencies” under an addendum known as “Rider B,” whose existence was never revealed to the client. At the same time, the executives would demand a discount from subcontractors on “lump sum” contracts.

“Rider B was the vehicle for the fraud,” Mr. Szuchman said.

Unit 5.1 Budget for Road

How are we lot owners supposed to know if this is a fair price? HOAs aren’t supposed to be putting in roads. Square footage swimming pools, buildings, roofs are all easy to estimate but roads?

How much did it cost to build these roads?

How much did it cost to build these roads? (Total 1708 feet, curb-to-curb about 25-feet; including sewer lids and curbs.) Russo says, $792,077. I think it included the little east/west cul de sac on the left.


Why would National Bank of Arizona lend these guys $35-million?!

15 Nov

Here’s the 2nd Amended Complaint by Derry Dean Sparlin, Sr., they dropped the Barnitt’s, who were victims too. (Morris Family Trust lost $1-million too.) Added Hadrianus Terra, LLC, which is also a defendant in my lawsuit another mutual defendant is Tucson Acquisition & Development Corporation, both affiliated with Michael N. Figueroa and Jeffery S. Utsch, who were the prior majority lot owners, Utsch was head of the HOA too.

2nd Amended Sparlin Complaint (PDF), Why would National Bank of Arizona lend them $35-million?! 

SPARLIN Complaint Index:

The inept management of the Corona (New Tucson/Sycamore Vista) Project, which led to National Bank of Arizona losing $35-million, pages 53-56

Indictment against PAUL Y. SORENSEN: pages 96ff

Indictment against GREG T. SASSE: pages 85ff

How Sparlin lost money investing in Sycamore Vista (“Corona” = New Tucson): pages, 19, 37, 38, 40, 41

Western Recovery Services (managed by prior majority lot owners) had no cash and was maybe using liens on our lots as assets: pages 53ff

Sparlin has an interest in Hadrianus Terra, I’d like to have him join our lawsuit, his lawyer has written a serious indictment against the prior majority lot owners — securities fraud! Like to also see the lot owners who lost their lots to Hadrianus and Tucson Acquisition because of the bogus Assignments (they intimidated the prior lot owners) join our lawsuit. The prior lot owner of Russo’s associate Southern Arizona Land Trust lost their lots due to despair.

List of new defendants in my case (PDF)

The Assignments of Special Assessments, which are the focus of my lawsuit are securities. From reading this Amended Complaint, it appears that Western Recovery Services had no real cash assets and from looking at the HOA budgets (See Unit 5 for 2006, page 36) it looks like WRS never paid the HOA any money for the Assignments. The budgets consider the WRS “Purchase Agreements” as liabilities — whatever that means? These budgets are very confusing to me. The HOA gave? the assessments to WRS and then WRS sold them to friends and investors, not sure if any of that money went to the HOA.

(Copied from Arizona Corporation Commission, unfortunately, they’re not in order, click right or left side of the page in full-screen to advance or go back.)

EDIT: This explains how they got the loan, they got Carl F. Pepper to apply for it. Pepper is well-known builder and real estate investor. He and Utsch are still friends and business partners. Not sure of Pepper lost any money, I think they appointed him head of Sky Island, which was the vacant lot holding company. Also involved in the foreclosure was CORONA ACRES L.L.C. and PALATINE PROPERTIES FUND L.L.C. both Figueora and Utsch entities

April 20, 2008 — Acres of empty new-home lots marked by evenly spaced power hookups lie along Camino del Toro, west of South Houghton Road in Corona de Tucson. Nearby stands a sign: “Financed by National Bank of Arizona.”

In 2005, the development group Sky Island Properties Inc., led by Carl Pepper, took out a $32 million loan from National Bank of Arizona to buy land and make improvements there. Last November, the bank took the developers to court for defaulting on the loan and had the land placed under another developer’s supervision, court documents said. Read more.

The $22-million and $9-million lot flip was between Title Security 862 and Sky Island.


From the National Bank of Arizona Foreclosure in Pima County Superior Court.  1338 lots cost $6,826,000 = $5101/lot. Not sure how much NT Properties paid.


Unit 5 Lots Finished

11 Nov
I own a few lots around the cul de sac, eight total in the finished area. The lots where I'm standing are very much higher than the rest and have wonderful views.

I own a few lots around the cul de sac — eight total in the finished area. The finished lots where I’m standing are very much higher than the rest and have wonderful views. I’ll bet the rock wall, which is HOA property, will fill with Tumbleweeds & Desert Broom. Wonder how many dump-truck-loads are under my feet? (Prior majority lot owners said they dumped 10,000 loads of dirt on Unit 5.)

Lots in the SW corner of Unit 5 were finished sometime before September 23rd, 2013 when I went out and inspected my Unit 2 lots prior to cleaning them up. I looked through my emails and blog posts, looks like I never told anyone about this!?

Also, November 1st, when I paid property taxes, I went to Recorder’s office and verified that Russo sold 51 lots in Units 5 & 2 to DR Horton for 33,600/lot (corrected in posts below). Two of those lots sold to DR Horton (in Unit 2) belonged to the prior majority lot owners (Tucson Acquisition and Development Corporation, which is being sued for securities fraud involving this subdivision), online Recorder’s/Assessor’s records show they (prior majority lot owners) sold two lots to NT Properties for $70k, which doesn’t make sense. According to those same records, one of Russo’s shell companies, PRD Investments sold six lots to NT Properties for $180,000 = $30k/lot.

Looks like a Fishhook Barrel Cactus tagged on Unit 5

Unit 5 looking SW, March 2003 with tagged barrel cactus.

As you know, Russo has offered me and another Unit 2 lot owner $20k-$25k/Unit 2 lot so he can turn around and sell them for $33,600. I also told Russo several months ago of two Unit 2 lots for sale for $15k/ea, they were free and clear of liens. I could have bought them but knew I could not sell them. Russo bought them and did not thank me for the tip.

Lot cleanup: the HOA and Russo are unconscionable

29 Sep
Johnny helped me last year cleaning up Unit 2 Lot 313, a few months later he committed suicide.

Johnny helped me last year clean up Unit 2 Lot 131, a few months later he committed suicide. The weeds on the far right, against the wall are on a 15-foot wide HOA easement.

I paid about $10,000 in HOA dues because I was afraid they would steal my lots, I quit paying now that I realize the HOA is illegal and unconscionable. They make me clean up my lots or threaten to charge me $85/lot to do it. Johnny needed the money, I’d rather give it to him. The friend who helped me this Sunday morning (I got up at 6am) did it as a favor (he teaches children for TUSD, some of the children are very disruptive and disrespectful) but we only finished one lot before we felt too tired and he didn’t have good gloves. Got home started crying and took a tranquilizer.

Lots of sweat on my shirt

Lots of sweat on my shirt — Lot 189. Rincon mountains in the background.

Russo helped the prior majority lot owners (who are being sued for securities/land fraud) sell three lots in Unit 2 but wouldn’t help me or another person who wants to sell. Major builders won’t buy less than 10 lots . . . we have been asking Russo for several years to help us, he said twice he would help me but then this lawsuit came up where he undermined my foreclosure of the expired/unlawful assessment liens. Russo loves money, not god only a rat would do what he’s doing . . . even the prior majority lot owners did not treat me like this. (At an HOA meeting, Mr. Figueroa got froggy when I accused him of flipping lots among his shell companies to boost their assessed value.)


I wouldn’t doubt that the prior majority lot owners and National Bank cooperated in losing $35-million developing these lots — the biggest loss in NB’s history. . . such theft was common in China:

In China, ventures may be spectacularly unprofitable, yet enrich everyone lucky enough to get a piece. Developers, for example, construct vacant office buildings as an excuse to borrow from state banks. They rake off a cut for themselves, pay bribes to the party officials who deliver the land and reward bank functionaries with sumptuous banquets and trips to Macao. Soon enough, the trophy skyscraper descends into financial disaster, but the developers, bankers and party officials have already extracted their riches, and for long afterward they will still enjoy them. “Lessons the Teacher Forgot,”New York Times, 16 May 2009.

HOA Threats, Intimidation & Extortion

27 Sep

HOA is threatening me again. God knows what they are trying to do but it’s like extortion and feels like a threat. As you know, Unit 5 consists of vacant lots, Unit 2 has only a few lots left. The prior majority lot owners agreed to help us sell our lots to builders because they knew builders would not buy from us unless we had ten or more lots to sell; current majority lot owners will not help us sell but they recently helped the prior majority lot owners (who are being sued for securities fraud involving these lots and others) sell lots they got through threats/intimidation to foreclose bogus assessment liens.

Over the years I have paid over $10,000 in HOA dues. Part of the reason I paid was I was afraid they would steal my lots. I wanted to wait until the assessment liens expired so I could clear the liens off my lots and then sell them. Upon sale I would pay the dues under protest. Some of the dues are over three years old, which means they are uncollectible under statutes of limitations.

I know several lot owners who were intimidated by the HOA and assessment lien-holders into giving up their lots. One person gave a lot to me and said, “if they come after you for the money, let me know.” Theoretically I think the lien-holders could steal everything I worked hard for all my life to collect the value of their bogus liens.

Here’s an example of how useless this HOA is (note that lots in Unit 9 and 10 will not be developed for 10 years, yet they still expect us to pay HOA dues):

Under new management.

Under new management.

This HOA is unconscionable, no one in their right mind would tolerate this. I asked them once, “what benefit does the HOA provide” and they said, “insurance.” I told them my homeowner’s insurance policy insures vacant land I own and I know no one who insures their vacant land.

I just do not know what to do!

EDIT: Lawyers said to wait until we finish litigation.

Just got more notices today for my lots in Units 7 and 8.

Causes me to think: The only other person I met who is as evil as Mr. Russo was someone who would go to the courthouse and undermine my tax lien foreclosures. I confronted the underminer and told him what he was doing was rotten. He said he undermines his friends too!

That tax lien underminer worked for the prior majority lot owners who also got most of their Sycamore Vista/New Tucson lots through tax lien foreclosure. Technically, undermining like what Russo and the other person did (Russo undermined me when I was in the process of foreclosing Mr. Sullivan, one of the assessment lien-holders) is not illegal, it’s just rotten, like the looting on Wall Street wasn’t illegal because Bill Clinton, in the last daze of his presidency signed legislation that legalized the looting.

The HOA is illegal, Dreamland v Raimey, 224 Ariz. 42, 226 P.3d 411:

Deed restrictions for residential community without common areas, containing only restrictive covenants pertaining to each lot owner’s personal residence [this is what we had before the HOA was established], could not be amended by majority vote of lot owners to require membership in homeowners’ association and imposition of assessments, and thus amended declaration of restrictions requiring lot owners to pay assessments to association was invalid.

One could also say tax lien foreclosure is rotten but you choose to not pay your property taxes . . . I did not choose to be a member of this HOA, it was forced upon me (I objected and the County forced the prior majority lot owners to sue) and its consequences (incompetence of the prior majority lot owners, dumping 10,000 truckloads of dirt on Unit 5 and liens on vacant land that will not be built on for many years, etc.) were unforeseeable.

Statements of fact

25 Sep

Something I would submit to the court if I was my own lawyer. It will probably be revised with more links added.

  1. All of my 49 lots are worth $843,200; with liens they are worth less than $0, a liability.
  2. Liens on lots are over 6-years old hence, they are invalid due to statutes of limitations. (Contracts expire in six years, A.R.S 12-548 and, liens for assessments expire in three years, A.R.S. 33-1807.)
  3. Contract says payment not due until lots are finished, lots have not been finished before statutes of limitations, any contract lasting this long is unconscionable (interest on loan and decrease in value creates negative equity). (Unconscionable contracts are invalid.)
  4. Prior majority lot owners agreed to help us sell our lots to builders. Turned out I could not sell lots to builders because they would only buy 10 or more lots at a time and small builders wanted me to subordinate the value of the lot to them so they could get a loan against the lot . . . not a good idea. Current majority lot owners have helped prior majority lot owners sell lots they obtained through threats & intimidation of foreclosing the Special Assessment Assignment liens; Russo will not help me and another Unit 2 lot owner sell our lots.
  5. Prior majority lot owners are being sued for securities fraud. The liens can be used as securities, buyers of these liens/securities were suckers. Russo made a big mistake buying the assessments from the suckers. (See also #8, below)
  6. Prior majority lot owners did not sell as many lots per year as they anticipated (or as many as neighboring developments) and went bankrupt causing National Bank of Arizona to lose $35-million, the biggest loss in the bank’s history.
  7. It is illegal in California for an HOA to sell assessments to a 3rd party.
  8. I sent one of the assessment lien holders (Mr. Sullivan) a letter demanding a quitclaim deed pursuant to a quiet title action in court, a few weeks later Russo allegedly bought the lien (not sure he actually paid anything) and then sued me.
  9. In the 1960’s and 70’s people bought lots in the subdivision as an investment, sight unseen expecting there to be roads, the Federal Trade Commission held hearings on land fraud in this subdivision and others sold by Horizon Land Company.
  10. Principle of buying vacant land is anticipating where development (roads, utilities) will be and then buy there. Someone brought electricity and water to one of my lots in Unit 4 (around the golf course, adjacent to Sycamore Vista) and never contacted me. Russo is saying I was “unjustly enriched” by the development.
  11. The people who bought the assessments on our lots made a bad investment. Those people were friends of the prior majority lot owners who are being sued for securities fraud.
  12. The HOA is charging dues on vacant lots that the current majority lot owners admit (see HOA meeting summaries) will not be built on for many, many years. (See also what the HOA dues are being spent on . . . maybe kickbacks, like attorney fees going to Russo for suing me?)
  13. There were about 40 lots excluded from the Unit 5 HOA, these lots had houses built on them in the 1960’s-70′, they did not want to be in the HOA, neither did Unit 6 or Unit 4 want to be in an HOA and they are doing fine without it.

Russo sues to steal almost $1-million worth of land from me: Abusing the court $ystem, bankrupt me

18 Sep

This article was revised . . . I made a mistake, Russo sold 51 lots to DR Horton (10 lots were in Unit 2), so each lot is worth $33,600, per the affidavit of value for sequence number 20132140169 divide by $1,715,000.00. A few of the Unit 2 lots he sold for the prior majority lot owners and a shell LLC of Russo’s (PRD Investments) that got their lots through threats or intimidation to foreclose the disputed Special Assessment Assignments.

Russo was supposed to help me and another lot owner in Unit 2 sell our lots too but reneged.

A year or so ago I told Russo that two lots in Unit 2 were selling at a loss (they were free and clear of liens) for $15k/ea. I would have bought them myself but knew I wouldn’t be able to sell them — large builders only buy 10 or more lots at a time, small builders want you to subordinate the value so they can get a loan against the lot, which is not a good idea.

Subsequent to the original Unit 5 lawsuit, I was separately served lawsuits for my lots in Units 8 and 9.

In the Unit 9 lawsuit they’re asking for a jury trial . . . no doubt this is Russo’s way of bankrupting me — jury trial will add thousands of dollars in costs. Note that the judge in Unit 5 case allowed Russo’s Motion to Join, which will cost me at least $500 to serve about 20 people. (It costs $10 to mail certified, restricted, return receipt, plus photocopy and paying someone to do it.) If judge allows joinder in Unit 8, costs of serving will be many times that amount because there are at least 210 other lot/homeowners in Unit 8.

My attorney says Russo’s lawyer asked him if I was paying cash or was he taking the case under contingency, my lawyer said “cash and she always pays on time.” That was before they asked for jury trial in Unit 9.

I could tell the jury what rats Russo (his LLCs) are for trying to steal a Million dollars worth of lots from me, how I used to be homeless, etc.

Here’s my webpage that shows where the lots are etc:


Click pic to enlarge. My lots are highlighted in yellow. The lots that were excluded from the original Unit 5 are the ones with electricity (the blue highlighter), the legal description of these excluded lots is “New Tucson Unit 5.”

map0002 Stitch

Click pic to enlarge. My lots are highlighted in yellow.

Here’s map from Google showing info on the subdivisions:

My two lots in Unit 2 are complete and free & clear of liens, they are worth $33,600 each. (Russo recently sold 51 lots in Unit 5 and Unit 2 to DR Horton for $33,600/ea.)
(All the lots except Units 5 & 2 have $12k liens, Unit 5 liens are about $72k ea, Russo recently added $16k/lot on the Unit 5 lots that he put the roads and curbs in.)
One of my Unit 7 lots is an acre, I think it’s worth $30k. Another Unit 7 lot is 1/2-acre worth $15k?
See also this blog post showing unplatted (unapproved) lots in subdivision adjacent to ours: 274 unimproved lots near Sycamore Vista sell for $6200/lot
  • So without the liens on any of my lots, the Unit 5 lots are worth 8 x $33,600 = $268,800
  • plus two other Unit 5 lots at $18k = $304,800 (Russo recently sold his lots in phase 5.2 unfinished for $18k, these two are in phase 5.3.)
  • plus two finished Unit 2 lots at $33,600 = $386,000
  • plus 36 (or 37) unfinished, platted lots with water & electric nearby, $10k each = $746,000
  • plus the two oversized lots in Unit 7 ($45k) = $791,000
  • plus two finished lot in Unit 8 (along Del Toro Road) = $33,600/ea = $836,400
I sewed (by hand) the dress and backpack. Every weekday I made a new sign and demonstrated downtown. (The twin Superior Court Judges Roylston liked me and I made many friends downtown.) One day I collected all my signs and went to the university. My pic was on the front-page of the Daily Wildcat.

Me homeless: I sewed (by hand) the dress and backpack. Every weekday I made a new sign and demonstrated downtown. (The twin Superior Court Judges Roylston liked me and I made many friends downtown.) One day I collected all my signs and went to the university. My pic was on the front-page of the Daily Wildcat, 1983.

Could this be the End of the HOA?

7 Sep

My lawyers wrote up a Motion for Summary Judgment that may cause the HOA to remove all the liens on our vacant lots and never collect another penny from us.

I also have a hearing Monday, September 9th in regards Russo’s Motions to Dismiss my counterclaims (see below). I don’t understand how the Judge could dismiss my counterclaims; if he did, he would still have to face the same arguments in my Answer to their Complaint.

Hearing is at 11am . . . I will amend this blog-post.

EDIT: After the hearing

Bottom line is: We have to join other Unit 5 lot-owners in the Complaint and join the other assessment lien-holders to the Complaint. Russo’s Motion to Dismiss was denied. . . . I think we all need to tell Mr. Russo: “You’re not going to cheat us out of our investments!”

If you have a lot in Unit 5 you will receive a copy of the Complaint and will be asked to sign an Acceptance of Service. You will then have to file an Answer to the Complaint telling the Court your side of the story. (Liens/contracts expired per statutes of Limitations, etc..)

Russo says we are being “unjustly enriched” by the improvements to our lots. Any lot will improve by development next door, that’s how Dennis Deconcini made all his money — except for the CAP canal where he had prior knowledge of the canal’s route.

 In Unit 4 (where the golf-course is), someone brought electricity and water to my lot-line without ever contacting me.

The Judge kept mentioning settling out of Court, especially since I “only paid no more than $1000” for my lots and got them through tax liens but the prior majority owners got most of their lots for $1000 through tax lien foreclosure.

He also expressed doubt that Special Assessments can be assigned by the HOA to 3rd parties — in California, a statute prohibits an association from assigning liens:

Under Civil Code §1367.1(g) an association may not “voluntarily assign or pledge the association’s right to collect payments or assessments, or to enforce or foreclose a lien to a third party. . .” There is an exception to this rule when the association assigns or pledges the right to collect or foreclose to a financial institution or lender as security for a loan obtained by the association. (Source.) (It’s now Civil Code 5735.)

The Judge also mentioned Rule 1 of the myriad Rules of Court, which says to settle in a timely, inexpensive and just manner:

These rules govern the procedure in the superior courts of Arizona in all suits of a civil nature whether cognizable as cases at law or in equity. They shall be construed to secure the just, speedy, and inexpensive determination of every action.

The Judge made a long ruling (see below) ordering the Plaintiff to provide us with names of Unit 5 lot-holders as well as the names of assessment lien-holders, I will have to serve each of them a copy of the Complaint; hopefully, they will sign an “Acceptance of Service” form and mail it to the Court and I won’t have to spend a bunch of money serving lot-owners & assessment lien holders. You will then have 30-days to tell your side of the story or allow my lawyer to represent you.

 It’s disappointing. I’d rather the Judge denied their Motions and prepared to hear our Summary Judgment but the Judge will have a status conference in November round election time.

 I didn’t get to ask any questions of Russo about the Board Meetings, I’m not going to pay the Unit 8 assessments or dues. It’s like: the purpose of the HOA is to steal lots from you.

 Judge asked a lot of good questions and seemed to be fair about the burden imposed by having to join these other parties.

On August 2nd, PRD Investments (Russo), Tucson Acquisition (A company owned by prior majority owners) and NT Properties (Russo) sold 51 lots in Unit 5 and Unit 2 to DR Horton for $1,715,000 = $33,600 ea. (Recorder’s office Sequence number 20132140169).

 I think it would be a good idea bringing in other parties but I also think: if you want an HOA fine but leave me out of it!


Oh Dear, Russo (the HOA) Files 2 Motions to Dismiss

9 Jul

The Motions seek dismissal because they allege others in the HOA, who are not a party to the lawsuit will be injured if the Court rules in my favor. This issue of “joinder” was addressed in the Unit 8 vs Pima County lawsuit.

The other Motion seeks dismissal allegedly because it is barred by statutes of limitations. (This is the one with my Big Secret, lol.)

I told you who Russo was in the post below . . . here’s a little something about me: I once got a person’s house for $300 and then sold it back to him for my costs + $1000.

I bought a Tucson City Improvement District lien (Special Assessment) for around $300, sent the person a First-Class letter warning them they would lose the property if they did not pay the $300, they did not pay so the City gave me a deed to the house (link to the law). I never looked at the house except on Google — it looked good (not abandoned) so I paid the property taxes on it thinking I would do nothing until the house was abandoned or??? About a year later the occupant called me and said, “You have my house!” I said, yeah, I’ll sell it back to you,” which I did. I could have legally kicked him out! I’m sure some people would-have!

My Lawyer’s Response:

There’s no statute of limitations on an invalid contract or CC&Rs, i.e., an invalid six year old contract or CC&R does not become valid with time.

Who is Steve Russo?

19 Jun

Who is Steve Russo?

He manages all these Limited Liability Companies.

His law firm manages and makes a profit from the The Industrial Development Authority of the County of Pima:

The Authority is empowered to issue its bonds to provide funds for the financing or refinancing of the costs of the acquisition, construction, improvement, rehabilitation or equipping of a “project” as defined in the Act.

The Authority’s interest include the promotion of economic development and the development of affordable housing.

Russo and his firm have a financial interest in the work of both the Pima County IDA and the Community Investment Corp.: It acts as the attorney for both.

“We make more money if there are more deals done,” Russo acknowledged in an interview last week. However, he added, “There’s no incentive to push a deal that shouldn’t be done.”

His firm began representing the Pima County IDA in 1978, when Russo’s father, Russell, became its lawyer. Steven Russo has represented the IDA since 1987, though his partner Michael Slania has taken over most of the work, Russo said. IDA work takes up about half of Slania’s work time and a quarter of Russo’s, said Russo, who is semi-retired.

In 2008, the most recent year for which tax records are available, the Community Investment Corp. paid Russo, Russo & Slania $146,166 for its services.

Their work on out-of-state projects hasn’t prevented the Pima County IDA from doing them in-state. So far this year, the IDA has completed eight in-state bond deals, most of them for charter schools, worth $44 million.

Read more in the Arizona Daily Star, 12 September 2010.

Bonds for Charter Schools that can’t write English

This means that the tax-free bonds that Montgomery County is about to issue- are to help pay a foreign investor off. Can I sign up for that deal? And- even more confusing is that according to the article- which is clear as mud- the Industrial Development Authority of the County of Pima, Ariz is issuing them? Huh? Right on their website under the non-profit area it says:


The Industrial Development Authority of the County of Pima (the “Authority”), in conjunction with Wells Fargo Bank, is committed to supporting the development and expansion of the local community by awarding low interest rate loans (“Non-Profit Loan”) to nonprofit organizations in Pima County.

via Pima County Industrial Development Authority.

Is Pima County breaking its own rules?

. . . .

I took a breath- and then dug a little deeper:

The IDA does not act as a lender but as a “conduit,” allowing a lender to issue tax-free bonds on behalf of the borrower, Russo said. The conduit role earns the IDA fees and brings money to its partner in many projects, the Community Investment Corp.

The IDA receives a $3,000 fee for each successful application, and gets a fee of one-tenth of 1 percent of the principal of each bond issue every year. That money can help the IDA with other programs it runs, such as a nonprofit loan program and a program that helps single-family home buyers, Russo said.

The Community Investment Corp. acts as the administrator of the IDA’s charter-school financing projects. For its services the corporation charges a set-up-fee of $1,000 and an annual fee of $8,000 or $12,000, depending on the size of the bond issue. That money can help the corporation’s charter-school-finance program and other activities, such as investments in local start-ups, said executive director Frank Valenzuela, also a director of the IDA.

via Financing group’s practices questioned.

When you look at the site for “The Community Investment Corp” you find a shell of a site- with pages still under construction- even though this non-profit was set up in 1996. From their “Site”

The Community Investment Corporation (CIC) was founded in 1996 as a non-profit 5O1(c)3 agency to assist small businesses and provide public purpose services. Working in collaboration with other agencies, CIC has provided investment in new and existing businesses for start up and business expansion.

Once again, smoke and mirrors. So what we have is the Montgomery County Commissioners, voting to approve a tax exempt bond issued by a development authority in Tucson AZ that subcontracts to another Tucson non-profit to administer the bond, which is floated by a Wall Street bank (like Wells Fargo) to an Ohio non-profit, for a Chicago based firm, owned by Turks to put a school in Dayton.

And we wonder why the country is about to head into default?

Read more HERE.

I have two Unit 8 lots along Camino Del Toro that are ready to build on, they are worth $35,000 once the bogus liens are removed by my lawyers.

274 unimproved lots near Sycamore Vista sell for $6200/lot

4 Jun

23 May 2013 — Petrus Partners of New York (Frank Walter, President), doing business in Tucson under the name of Crown West Realty, (Dean Wingert, VP) acquired 155 acres under an affiliate, Santa Rita Ranch III, LLC, for $1.7 million. Located off Houghton and Camino Del Toro in southeast Tucson, the seller, Arizona Equity II, LLC (Eric Abrams, manager) had platted the property tentatively for 274 residential 50′ x 110′ and 60′ x 110′ lots ($6,200 per lot). . . .

The tentative plat is under review by Crown West to determine whether it will develop or resell the property. There were no brokers involved in the transaction. OK Rihl of Crown West says several builders are eyeing this area for expansion.

Read more.

Lots are located SE of Sycamore vista and are undeveloped.

More info with aerial maps.

Better info and maps from LandAdvisors.

Here’s another one for sale by Land Advisors, Santa Rita Foothills Estates, south of New Tucson/Sycamore Vista.

Fagan Ranch Bankruptcy / $16M ~ 550-Acres

Fagan Ranch, Vail AZ (Southeast of New Tucson/Sycamore Vista)

After putting his $16 million Fagan Ranch project through a voluntary Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization, developer Jim Campbell hopes other owners of distressed commercial property can benefit from his experience. . . .

To avoid foreclosure on Fagan Ranch, a 550-acre development in Corona de Tucson, Campbell sought reorganization in September [2009]. The intervention of his attorney, Michael McGrath of Mesch, Clark & Rothchild, brought lender National Bank of Arizona to the judge’s court and the negotiation table. Read more.

Fagan Ranch sales PDF from Land Advisors (no price listed).

EDIT (27 June 2013) — From Land Advisors Facebook page:

Meritage Homes closed 79 – 50’x105’ platted [i.e., undeveloped] lots at Chandler Blvd. and McQueen Road in Chandler, Arizona (map-link). Seller was SMV Financial, L.L.C., an Arizona limited Liability Company. The deal was closed for $3,425,000 ($43,354/platted lot). Sales are projected to start at the end of the 2nd quarter 2014. Meritage Homes will offer floor plans ranging from 1,200SF to 3,000SF. Pricing will be released at the Grand Opening. The sale was brokered through Ryan Semro and Bret Rinehart of Land Advisors Organization in Scottsdale.

My Lawyers Respond to the HOA’s Motion to Dismiss

24 May
My lawyers have asked for suggestions for witness list, I have questions about the following:
  1. I thought our HOA dues covered lawsuits and that the HOA had their own lawyer on retainer, so why is Russo’s law-firm representing the HOA and why are we being assessed for defending my lawsuit?
  2. Isn’t what they are doing a conflict of interest?
  3. I doubt there are any private lot owners that approve of the HOA anymore . . . wonder if we should request mailing list from HOA to survey lot owners?
  4. Looks like the HOA and Russo have no defense, what are they trying to do, do they think the Judge is corrupt or are they trying to drain all my money?
  5. I wonder if we should add Derry Dean Sparlin Sr to the witness list . . . he’s the one who is suing Utsch & Figureoa, etc. for securities fraud. In his lawsuit (click link, above) they mention Sycamore Vista/”Corona”/New Tucson.

Other witnesses:

Bob Bambauer, the Tucson KB Homes Vice President who came to our HOA meeting to tell us we were being ripped off by the prior developers/majority lot owners.

Steve DeGregorio, to testify how he got permits to build on his lot. (Prior majority lot owners would always lie about our ability to use our lots “as is.”) Mr. DeGregorio has a lot in the new development in Unit 5. He is also a board member of Unit 5. He’s upset because the prior developers bulldozed his house and septic system without compensation. It’s his cabin and old Studebaker in the header-picture.

Thomas W. Sullivan, the one I sent Notice to pursuant to quiet title against the Special Assessments which are the subject of this lawsuit. This whole lawsuit developed out of me sending Sullivan a Notice pursuant to a Quiet Title action to remove the Special Assessment liens on my lots that he was assigned. I sent his lawyers a quit claim deed and a few weeks later Russo said he owns the assessments and he paid $12,500/lot. Why did Russo do this to me????

Maybe (call as witnesses) some of the original buyers who believed there would be roads and infrastructure on their lots at no extra cost.

I received a call from a man who said he has talked to Steve Russo about buying all the lots but Russo is asking for too much. The person who called is a local builder/developer. I told him how in Unit 4 (where the golf course is), someone installed water and electric to my lot and never asked me for any money. He sounded kind of stunned by that. I wasn’t . . . all it is is cheap wiring and pipe plus a few metal/fiberglas boxes, not more than a few hundred dollars worth of materials and labor.

Russo & the HOA Respond by not Saying Much

4 May

They must think Judge Cornelio (the comments on article support the Judge) is a good-old-boy and he will dismiss my case.


So Russo’s law firm represents the HOA? Two lawyers from his law-firm (none of them on the HOA Boards) respond.

Link to Russo’s website.

He wants members of Unit 5 to pay his law-firm $500/lot?? That’s what he said at the last HOA meeting. He wants me to pay $5000 for my ten lots to fight myself!
EDIT (after the hearing on the Motion): I liked Judge Cornilio’s style, he seemed very fair and asked good questions.

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