Unit 2 lot cleanup & lawsuit


Unit 2 Lot 131, the grass wasn’t bad but the weeds (a few tumbleweeds and several Desert Broom) were hard to get with a lawnmower.

Lot cleanup time, hopefully the last time. All I could think about while cleaning the lots was how rotten Russo is and how things went wrong in this subdivision. Plus how hard it was, how many bruises I’d get and if I was going to die of a heart attack, dehydration (temp was about 90 and I have hyperhidrosis) or drinking bad water. (I forgot the bottled water so I drank from a clean six-gallon plastic jug filled from garden hose that was for mixing into a weed-killer sprayer but it tasted like plastic.)

If you own a lot in Unit 2 or 5 and you asked Russo to help you sell your lot or, if Russo offered to buy your lot (at a huge loss to you) please contact me (Raquel Baranow), I’m preparing a lawsuit against the HOA and Russo for not helping us sell our lots, breach of contract, Article 10 of the CC&R’s.

Thought of my friend who once (or twice) helped me clean these lots and committed suicide – or got drunk and fell onto the train tracks and got run over – I’m still not sure what to believe.

Thought of another Unit 2 lot owner who sent me many emails, their last email said they both just got out of the hospital (they’re in their 80’s) and if I didn’t hear from them again . . . .


Lot 131 finished (10-second timer, drenched in sweat), with ticky-tacky houses. Note the Desert Broom on the 15-foot easement on the right. Pretty sure that’s Mica Mountain (elevation 8666-ft, in the Rincon Mtn Range, Saguaro National Park, if not, it’s Tanque Verde Peak, el. 7049) on the far, left.

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296 undeveloped lots for sale adjacent (south) of Sycamore Vista


Land Advisors is selling 296 platted lots south of Sycamore Vista for $4.4 million, that’s $14,864 per lot. Dimensions of the lots are Approx. 115’ x 135’ – a little bigger than most of the lots in Sycamore Vista.


Development Cost Estimates: Approximately $40,000 (Based on current bids and additional consultant review). Homebuilder to be responsible for individual lot pad development, i.e., sewer, water, electric, streets, (cost to vary).

Read more at Land Advisors website (PDF).

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How much does Russo get paid for legal service to non-profits and the Industrial Development Authority of the County of Pima?

Unfortunately, I have been unable to obtain a recent, complete budget for the Industrial Development Authority of the County of Pima (IDA), for which Russo is essentially CEO. The IDA is considered independent of Pima County so it’s not part of their accounting and it’s a government entity so it does not file an IRS Form 990 for non-profit corporations.

I went to the IDA website and in an Excel spreadsheet added up all the bond amounts from 2001-2015 (there’s probably many more from before 2001) and found that the IDA received $3,248,709 over those years and is receiving that approximate amount every year. (The IDA receives .10% of the bond amount annually plus, large fees that cover the costs of the application and administration.) How does the IDA spend this money?

What kind of assets does the IDA have?

In 1993-94, The Industrial Development Authority of the County of Pima (“Pima IDA”) bought sixteen apartment complexes in Maricopa County, which had full cash values totalling $14,585,636 and claimed that they were exempt from ad valorem taxation because Pima IDA was a political subdivision of the state and, therefore, its property was “state” property, which is constitutionally exempted from taxation. The tax court upheld the tax and the Arizona Court of Appeals affirmed.

The Arizona Corporation Commission required primitive budgets whenever a Corporation filed its annual report. I found very strange budgets for the IDA from 1995 to 2007, which didn’t change much or show any large assets like those, above.

When County Supervisor Reg T. Morrison lost his seat in 1992, he became Treasurer and a Director of the IDA.

How ventures like the IDA bribe officials and rip-off banks 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.


Gross receipts $923,231 / Bob Schwartz (Russo attorney), CEO, 40hrs/wk, $86,949 (no time for other legal work?); Paul Sorenson (worked as chief financial officer for the prior majority lot owners in Sycamore Vista, which ended up causing National Bank of Arizona to lose $32-million!), COO, 40hrs/wk, $88,294 / Family Housing Resources, Independent Contractor received $333,596 in compensation / Management $86,208, Legal $7,348 / Loans from IDA $2,053,214

Gross receipts $6,250,680 / Russo, Russo & Slania, PC, Independent Contractor $125,567 / Management $69,038, Legal $90,442 / Forgiven loans $2,000,000

Gross receipts $4,233,400 / Russo, Russo & Slania, PC, Independent Contractor $131,000 / Management $81,830, Legal $127,147


Gross receipts $1,674,986 / Frank Valenzuela, Executive Director (also serves on the IDA), 40hrs/wk $123,400  / Other salaries & wages $223,603 / Revenue from: Charter School Loan Adm $318,965 / Legal $53,529 / Bad debt (expense writeoff) $452,955 / PTHS due (liability) to IDAS (of Pima County?) $540,639

NOTE: Russo is not mentioned this year but in 2011, below.

Gross receipts $1,666,088 / Frank Valenzuela, Executive Director (also serves on the IDA), 40hrs/wk $121,128  / Other salaries & wages $174,985 / Revenue from: Charter School Loan Adm $316,617 / Legal $54,493 / Bad debt (expense writeoff) $162,491 / Exchange of assets with IDA Pima County $72,000

NOTE: Russo is not mentioned this year but in 2011, below.

Gross receipts $2,370,896 / Frank Valenzuela, Executive Director (also serves on the IDA), 40hrs/wk $141,481  / Russo, Russo & Slania, PC, Independent Contractor $114,000 / Other salaries & wages $129,000 / Revenue from: Charter School Loan Adm $304,464 / Legal $110,911 / Bad debt (expense writeoff) $110,440 / Performance of services with IDA of Pima County $87,000

Similar local non-profits

My next blog post will be about the IDA selling bonds to fund charter schools — most of which aren’t in Pima County and whether or not the Board of Supervisors should approve those IDA bonds.


84% of charter school funding comes from the State, vote NO on Prop 123!

Visit SycamoreVista.org for more information.

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Someone trying to sell their Unit 2 lot for $14k, half of what we invested in it


We paid $27,000 for improvements (sewer, streets, electric, water) on our lots and now we can’t sell them. Only major builders would build in such a subdivision and HOA president Steven Russo would not help us sell to builders, in violation of the CC&Rs and law!

It breaks my heart how (Steve) Russo the Rat has screwed Unit 2 lot owners and all the other Unit lot-owners paying HOA dues and improvements ($27k/ea in Unit 2) for nothing, like he’s the only one to benefit while he screws us all over and steals our lots. This is unconscionable. If an elected official was doing this, it would be front-page news.

Russo’s law form represents and drives the Pima County Industrial Authority. This Authority had only one “Regular” meeting the entire year, every other meeting has been “Special” almost without Notice, you would have to check their website every day to find out if they’re having a Special meeting and appear every month to see if they’re having a Regular meeting.

The HOAs Russo is president of in Sycamore Vista have not had regular meetings in years! he originally appointed Ceci Cruz and Virginia Yrun (liberal Democratic activists) to the HOA boards (the same two on the Industrial Authority board, probably so Russo could ram anything he wanted through the Pima County Board of Supervisors) but soon realized we lot owners are NOT happy!

Russo was supposed to help us sell our lots in Unit 2, Article 10 of the CC&Rs says that’s one of the purposes of the HOA. Major builders will not buy individual lots, custom builders will not build in DR Horton ticky-tacky stucco-sheet-rock+2×4 subdivisions. We did not know that at the time we were forced into the HOA. Being forced into an HOA is illegal now, it is prima facie unconscionable that we’re forced into this HOA. Russo is self-dealing in violation of Corporate rules. Russo promised to help me sell my Unit 2 lots but maliciously refused after he sued me to steal $450,000 worth of property in Unit 5.

After the Monsoons in August the Unit 2 HOA will send us lot owners Notice to clean weeds off our lots. If we disobey, they will hire someone to do it and bill us hundreds of dollars. It is usually 100-degrees F in August. One of the other lot owners is 85-years old and is forced to clean weeds. This is unconscionable!

Me after cleaning up Unit 2 Lot 189

Lots of sweat on my shirt from cleaning (mowing) weeds!

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We were Victims of Con Artists


During the March 3, 2016 GOP Presidential debate, Fox News moderator, Megyn Kelly confronted Donald Trump about Trump University

This is essentially what happened to us. Although I was against joining the HOA at first, I found out it wasn’t illegal at the time to force us into an HOA, it is against the law now. Eventually we all hoped the developers knew what they were doing. I always thought of it as Stockholm Syndrome or to avoid further injury, cooperating.

My lawyer was the one who established the illegality in the Dreamland appellate court decision.

There was never a forensic account by National Bank of Arizona into their $35-million loss from the first majority lot owners.

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Unit 8 HOA sues Russo, Russo seeks to oust HOA Board

While preparing a potential lawsuit against Unit 2 for not helping us sell our lots in violation of Article 10 of the CC&Rs, I noticed a lawsuit by the Unit 8 HOA against the Master Association.

Apparently, the Unit 8 Board and members of the HOA did not know that about a quarter of their HOA dues goes to the Master Association, which was setup to manage all the other HOAs. According to the lawsuit the CC&Rs never mention anything about a Master HOA and the homeowners and Board feel like they’re being ripped-off!

After Russo found out about the lawsuit, he sued the Unit 8 HOA forcing them to have a meeting where he will probably fire the Board and change the CC&Rs to force home and lot-owners to pay the Master Association. Russo owns about two-thirds of the lots in Unit 8. Note that the Judge, Richard S. Fields, said Russo should “exercise power with due restraint” to “balance declarant/homeowner interests.”


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Russo steals $1M retirement investment from me

As I explained below, I came to Tucson, January 1, 1980. Was homeless (by choice) for several years. Got illegally thrown into Pima County jail several times for demonstrating at the University about the Kennedy assassination. Donated a lot of time helping Democrats (and a few Republicans, like Ed Moore) get elected. (I made silkscreen signs, stuffed, labled and bulk-mailed envelopes with John Kromko.) And eventually learned how to invest in property tax liens. I ended up getting fifty vacant lots in the Sycamore Vista subdivision. I did all the work myself, including foreclosing the liens in Superior Court.

Then along came some crooks who bought up the majority of lots and forced us into an HOA. They owned about 1300 lots, private lot owners, some of whom bought their lots in the 1970s expecting their lots to be developed shortly after buying, owned the remaining lots, about 1500 in total.

If they tried to force us into an HOA today, they couldn’t because it’s against the law. We got tricked, trapped and ripped off. They put liens on our lots and wouldn’t help us sell. The person who owned the liens on my lots was Thomas Sullivan, CEO of First Magnus, which was a cause of the housing crisis and a $1-billion bankruptcy. He was friends of the majority lot owners, who ended up causing the National Bank of Arizona to lose $35-million. Russo bought Sullivan’s liens (there was no evidence Sullivan paid anything for the liens), sued me and stole all my lots.

Russo is such a hypocrite! He pretends to help first-time home-buyers and “do good” for the community through dubious “non-profit” companies that he acts as attorney for:


The Industrial Development Authority of the County of Pima. http://www.pimaida.com/

The Pima County Industrial Development Authority has been helping build charter schools in Ohio, Nevada and Delaware.

It’s pitching in on a new police headquarters and jail in Las Vegas.

And it’s refinancing the debt of a private school in Charlotte, N.C.

Since 2008, the authority – primarily tasked with financing local projects – has gone national, enabling $556 million in tax-exempt bond issues for seven out-of-state projects, two of which are still awaiting final approval. Although the practice is legal, the Pima County IDA is the only one of the state’s big four – the others being from Maricopa County, Phoenix and Tucson – to finance projects that are strictly out of state. . . .

By law, IDAs must show an in-state benefit for out-of-state projects, and Authority attorney Steve Russo points to the fees that the IDA and Community Investment Corp. earns as a local boost. . . .

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. . . .

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.

Read more, “Financing group’s practices questioned,” Tim Steller, Arizona Daily Star, 12 September 2010.

No word on how much Russo’s law form gets for managing:


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Russo pays $1.6M for his house, tells Assessor it’s worth $238

I asked the Assessor if this was a mistake, they said no!

What kind of disrespectful joke is this?

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Land Fraud Arizona

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 lot owners were promised roads and utilities would be put in the New 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
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About Me and the Current Situation

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.

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