Aeon Financial. Remember that name. With the help of some big banks, Aeon has been buying up tax liens right and left in D.C., Maryland and Ohio. What does it do next? Stay with me after the ornage flourish.
The Washington Post published an investigative piece on Sunday focusing on a mystery company that has bought millions of dollars in tax liens against properties in the District of Columbia, Maryland and Ohio. Aeon Financial, which seems to be controlled by Chicago attorney, Alan Schwartz, then threatens foreclosure unless the property owner pays them the amount of the unpaid taxes and legal fees and costs of collection. In some cases, the fees and costs outstrip the amount of the lien by several orders of magnitude. Some owners had no idea they owed taxes.
Aeon is nothing short of vapor. It has no owners listed on it's corporate documents (Delaware). Its business addresses include an office in the Willis Tower in Chicago, which is unoccupied. Other addresses trace to UPS Store locations in strip malls. It is hard to fight back when there is nothing to push against.
Starting in 2005, Aeon bought millions of dollars of unpaid tax liens at auction from some of D.C.'s poorest neighborhoods, then blindsided property owners with systematic lawsuits. The Post reports that Aeon filed 270 lawsuits in a single day in 2009. Most owners paid both the liens and the legal fees. Those that did fight had the fees drastically reduced.
In a series of critical rulings, Superior Court Judge Alfred Irving called Aeon’s charges “extraordinarily high,” while Judge Joseph Beshouri referred to them as “unreasonable” and “excessive.”Where I'm from, padding legal bills with work that wasn't done is called fraud. But what can we expect from Aeon and Schwartz:
Judges found that Aeon billed for legal work that was not done and repeatedly charged homeowners $450 an hour for one top attorney’s time.
A second attorney on the case was Schwartz’s father, Spencer, who had been suspended from practice for a year in Illinois in 2001 for misconduct, including allowing his son to practice law before he was licensed, records show.Although Aeon moved out of D.C. by 2010, it was well established in Ohio, primarily in Cleveland. Aeon ran into some trouble in Cleveland, however. Instead of paying the liens and the exorbidant legal fees, many property owners there simply walked away. Aeon forclosed on hundreds of properties in Cleveland, but couldn't find buyers. Instead of maintaining the properties, as it is required to do, Aeon left them to rot, leading to blighted neighborhoods.
The lead agent for Aeon who signed the deeds was John A. Lord, a former Ohio attorney who was permanently disbarred in 2007 for deceiving and abandoning clients and then keeping their money. He was later convicted of aggravated theft and served one year’s probation, records show.
“The houses are stripped to the bone — no windows, no doors, no walls, no pipes. This is what I’m screaming about,” neighborhood activist Anita Gardner said.Schwartz doesn't care. He is too busy trying to keep up his million + dollar mansion near Veil, Colorado, which is the address listed for his law firm. Schwartz has played the corporate shell game very well, with layers upon layers of corporate ownership protecting him from liability, as the Post reported:
Records in Nevada in 2004 and Maryland the following year show that Aeon Properties — a predecessor to Aeon Financial — was managed by Schwartz’s younger sister, Stacey Lynn Schwartz, a clinical social worker.This has to stop. Many of these home owners were misled into buying properties they couldn't afford using mortgage products that no one understood. Now, it's not just the mortgage foreclosures they have to worry about. It's the tax liens. For those unlucky enough to have Aeon buy up their leins, expect no notice. Expect no sympathy. Expect no time to cure. Expect a formal complaint.
In 2011, records filed in Kentucky for Aeon Financial list Schwartz as a director, along with his sister and a neighbor, Robert Mesch, who lives near Schwartz’s $1.7 million estate in Colorado. ...
In addition, records show that one company, Axis Investment Holdings Trust — which lists the same office as Aeon in Chicago’s Willis Tower — has ownership interest in both Aeon Financial and another company, Axis Capital.
Schwartz is the chief executive officer of Axis Capital, which has a subsidiary, Records Direct, court records show. The office suite in the Willis Tower, where Aeon is supposed to do business, is registered to Records Direct.