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:
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: