We were Victims of Con Artists

victimsofconartists

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 attempts to take $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 investers 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 helps first-time home-buyers and “do good” for the community through dubious “non-profit” companies that he acts as attorney for:

IDAwebsite

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 typographic mistake, they said no!

The reason I looked this up is in case I had to serve him with a lawsuit but now think a better place would be his place of work, which is a law office.

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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 Representative. 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 Representative. 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 house-sit.

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 develop 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 $60k profit. The majority lot owners helped us sell our lots to builders with only a 2% commission.

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, a lawyer bought the lots from the bank. 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, labeled, sorted and bundled for mass-mailings thousands of envelopes for Democratic candidates for little or no money and took them to the Cherrybell post office. 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 none of the lot-owners liked the HOA because we were taxed (made to pay dues) by them for nothing and several thousand dollar development liens on our lots even no dirt was turned on those lots and Russo even admitted the development plans were “garbage” and sued them for it. We never got any of the money ad Russo now owns many (if not all) of the assessment liens.

Russo has the activist Democrats on the Board his Industrial Development Authority of the County of Pima. Anything they want, they’re likely to get from the Pima County Board of Supervisors, who must approve the bonds they negotiate with Charter Schools. The Pima County IDA is supposed to support low income families get housing. If Cici and Yrun knew what Russo is doing to us lot owners, I doubt they would associate with him.

Russo started selling his lots in Unit 2. 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. Before the Great Recession, which Bill Clinton caused, 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 sell our lots. They agreed and gave us very good terms — only a 2% commission! That’s how I made the $60k profit, selling three developed lots in Unit 8.

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

I spent almost $100,000 in legal fees and lost! I lost about 45 lots, my retirement plan!

Russo still refuses to help us sell even though it’s against the HOA CC&Rs, Article 10, which say the purpose of the HOA is to develop the lots and help us sell.

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Update

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!

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

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

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Building Firm Pleads Guilty to Defrauding Its Customers

“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. . . .

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“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.

 

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

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.
lotflipstudy2

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

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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.

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