First National Bank of Wellston, Ohio is arguably the worst "person" in the world for wrongfully foreclosing on Katie Barnett's home and refusing to reimburse her for her possessions. Well, this past weekend it issued what has so far been its only public statement since WBNS-TV in Columbus broke the story. View it here.
According to bank president Tony Thorne, the reason for this colossal snafu was a malfunctioning GPS locator.
On June 18, 2013, two representatives of the First National Bank of Wellston were assigned to clean and refurbish a bank-owned residential property. Regrettably, the GPS locator they used to find the property led them to the wrong home, which was located on the same street as the target property (we have since retraced their route using the same GPS, and it again took us to the same wrong location). As we discovered later, the property to which they were directed actually belonged to another individual.Thorne, as most of you know, is being incredibly petty about reimbursing Barnett. After reading this letter, I have to wonder why. Thorne just admitted that his bank's process for foreclosing property was a bad joke. Using only GPS to verify that you're at the right house? Given that a bank is required to demonstrate it has the legal right to seize a home and that most states make corporate officers responsible for reviewing foreclosure files, you would think there would be a lot more than that. If I'm Barnett's lawyer (and yes, ten to one she's probably retained one) and I see this statement, I'm salivating at the thought of cross-examining Thorne if First National is dumb enough to let this go to trial. And if you seriously believe Thorne's claim this hasn't happened before, there's a bridge in Brooklyn I'd like to sell you.
When our representatives arrived, they noted that the grass was overgrown, the door was unlocked, and the utilities had been turned off. The home was also nearly empty, with two dressers being the only furniture inside the premises, and a neighbor indicated that the home had been vacant for some time. Therefore, not knowing that the GPS was incorrect, our employees had no reason to doubt that they were at the right location, and they proceeded to change the door locks, clean the property, and discard what they assumed to be trash and abandoned items. Unfortunately, we did not discover our error until the clean-up process was nearly complete.
This statement may also cause problems for First National on another front--at the regulatory level. Seems to me that the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency wouldn't be too pleased to find out how lax First National's procedures were at the time. While a civil suit will probably drag out for some time, it's a safe bet that a "what the hell is going on here?" letter from the OCC will make First National cough up the $18,000 Barnett is seeking in a hot hurry. I'm seriously thinking about drafting a petition--but I want to make sure that I'm petitioning the right agency. One thing is beyond dispute, though--this release does First National no favors.