Bank Robs House By Mistake, Refuses To Pay Up

from the because-we-can dept

Cross-posted from

Imagine returning home from vacation and finding your home cleaned out. The thieves grabbed all the furniture, all the gadgets, all the kitchenware, and left you nothing. That’s what happened to an Ohio woman recently, and the police are refusing to help.

That’s because the perpetrator was First National Bank. Except Katie Barnett was not behind on her payments; the bank just repossessed the wrong house.

Fair enough. Mistakes happen. The bank is going to pay her back though, right?


The housing crisis has generated all manner of outrage and gnashing of teeth. Municipalities and pension funds were swindled, homes were lost, and taxpayers had to bail out the very entities that helped the crisis spiral out of control. But robbing (OK, burglaring, I’m being colloquial) completely unsuspecting bystanders is a new low:

Katie Barnett says that the First National Bank in Wellston foreclosed on her house, even though it was not her bank.

“They repossessed my house on accident, thinking it was the house across the street,” Barnett said.

Barnett, who had been away from the house for about two weeks, said she had to crawl through the window of her own house in order to get in after she used her own key that did not work.

Some of the items in her house had been hauled away, others were sold, given away and trashed.

How can something like this happen:

It turns out the bank sent someone to repossess the house located across the street from Barnett’s house, but by mistake broke into hers instead.

“They told me that the GPS led them to my house,” Barnett said. “My grass hadn’t been mowed and they just assumed.”

Damn you Apple Maps! Seriously though, this is why banks should only work with quality repossession agencies like Helping Hand Acceptance Corporation. Anyone get that? Pat yourself on the back.

I get why the police backed off the case — the bank made a mistake and presumably would set things right. Except the bank considered that, and opted for cartoonish supervillainy instead:

Barnett said that according to the bank president, this was the first time something like this has happened.

She presented him with an $18,000 estimate to replace the losses, but the president refused to pay.

“He got very firm with me and said, ‘We’re not paying you retail here, that’s just the way it is,’” Barnett said. “I did not tell them to come in my house and make me an offer. They took my stuff and I want it back.”

The shock of having her house broken into and belongings taken by mistake has now turned into anger.

“Now, I’m just angry,” Barnett said. “It wouldn’t be a big deal if they would step up and say ‘I’m sorry, we will replace your stuff.’ Instead, I’m getting attitude from them. They’re sarcastic when they talk to me. They make it sound like I’m trying to rip the bank off. All I want is my stuff back.”

Apparently, the bank thinks it lives in the world of The Purge. But no, you can’t steal people’s stuff and get away with it. This story is the most bipartisan thing ever, with DailyKos and The Blaze getting riled up over it.

Now an observer might be tempted to say, “Well, the bank has a right to protect itself from someone making an inflated estimate of the damages,” and that’s fair. Except that’s not what the guy is quoted as saying. When he says, “We’re not paying you retail here, that’s just the way it is,” he’s recognizing that the estimate accurately reflects replacement value and claiming that the bank is not willing to pay to replace the stuff they stole.

It’s all about not making the victim whole.

But the worst thing about this story is that it’s not as rare as one would hope:

Sadly, stories like this are all too common. In September 2012, subcontractors hired by Wells Fargo mistakenly foreclosed on the wrong home in California, destroying a man’s vacation home in the process.

A review of court records in 2012 by The Huffington Post revealed more than 50 lawsuits have been filed against banks and subcontractors who have entered and “foreclosed” on the wrong properties. Most of the suits are tied to two largest property management contractors in the U.S.: Safeguard Properties and Lender Processing Services.

Meanwhile, a petition has started to demand that the bank pay her back.

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Comments on “Bank Robs House By Mistake, Refuses To Pay Up”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: And this is why I'm so cynical...

But throwing people in jail for screwing others over with their bad business decisions would be anti-business!

You don’t want to hurt poor businesses like BP and Wall Street do you?!? We don’t want to hurt the First National Bank in Wellston either by making them pay up for their own mistakes!

Bergman (profile) says:

Re: And this is why I'm so cynical...

If a bank makes a mistake to the little guy’s benefit (most commonly by giving them cash) and the little guy doesn’t immediately return the money to the bank, the little guy gets charged with bank fraud or even bank robbery. Even for as little as $1, you’d go to prison if you didn’t make nice FAST.

If the situation is reversed, and a bank breaks, enters and burglarizes a house they have NO ownership interest in and harms someone to the tune of $18,000 (to say nothing of any sentimental value), the police don’t care and nobody else with any power does either.

I know that if I did what the bank did, even as an honest mistake, I’d do time for B&E and burglary. So why do corporations get a free pass?

The reason a CEO originally got paid so much was he was the legal incarnation of the corporation, the guy who went to prison if the company turned into a criminal enterprise.

Perhaps we need to return to those days, even if only for a year or two, so that corporations can have an incentive to get their heads on straight again.

McCrea (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

right, “only”. I can’t imagine someone owning a house to store so little. I guess I’m assuming someone old enough to spend 20 or 30 years acquiring shit while paying off the mortgage.

And banks are some of the first ones that should now about insurance value being inflated. If the bank doesn’t have insurance, it’s not the victim’s fault.

Anonymous Coward says:

I used to work for one of those companies that cleaned out foreclosed homes. The banks gave us addresses and we went and secured and winterized them. I know that one of the requirements for our company was a million dollars in liability insurance. Also the banks don’t care. I’ve seen a bank pay $20,000 to re-roof and re-floor a double wide trailer but they will let a million dollar house sit with 4 ft of water in the basement. The banks will use any excuse to not pay up or will just not pay and there is not much you can do about it. I know of 3 sub-contracting companies that went under because of that.

LVDave (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

I’ve stopped doing business with banks. My household accounts have been in credit unions for over 20 years. I finally completely severed any connections to any bank when I refinanced my house away from Bank Of America back in February. Having said that, I see where the banking cartels are again pestering congress to pass legislation to castrate credit unions. They tried back in the 80s, but I have a bad feeling they may succeed this time..

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Our litigious society

Before a civil suit she should swear out a criminal complaint against the banker who was the criminal mastermind of this larceny and the other parties involved. Insist on an arrest with news cameras running. Preferably a Friday afternoon of a long weekend to give the banker plenty of time to marinate in our prison system. A settlement should come fairly easily after that.

Anonymous Coward says:

Is the bank a corporation? Isn’t a corporation a person?
Forget just arresting those who actually committed the breaking and entering? Forget just arresting the person who ordered it? After all, with a person you don’t just arrest the bodyparts that committed the acts, you arrest the whole person.

The police should arrest the bank and take it downtown for questioning before pressing charges.

Anonymous Coward says:

What’s really bizarre here is that the crime was reported to the police and when the police found out who had committed the crime they did and continue to do none of the things they’re supposed to do.

Why, when an actual crime was committed (by mistake we’re to believe) the police stop all activity once the person responsible for the crime has given a statement.

Why is it left to the victim of the crime to negotiate with the criminals or sue them?

John Fenderson (profile) says:

If only

?They told me that the GPS led them to my house,? Barnett said.

If only houses had some kind of identifying mark attached to the front of them in a visible place to allow ready identification. That would make it much easier to get the right house. As a pleasant side-effect, it would also help people visiting you for the first time to know which house is yours and facilitate the correct delivery of mail and packages.

I think I need to patent this.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: If only


With your invention I can finally keep the neighbor out of my wife’s bed!
These markings would make sure he stops mistaking my house for his which seems to happen every time I am at work.

You should so totally put this up on kickstarter!
Imagine the various tiers:
$5 for plastic markings
$10 for wood markings
$25 for brass markings
$100 for gold plated markings

You could sell these in hardware stores across the nation.
Soon you will be richer than the pet rock inventor and when your on the cover of Fortune I will be all “I replied to that dudes comment on some dirty tech site!”

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Check out the first(#5, not #1) entry in this article:

That is what I’m hoping happens here, bet they’d suddenly find out that the $18K she was demanding to replace the items they’d stolen and sold wasn’t such a hardship if something like that happened…

Anonymous Coward says:

These cases are strange, how does the bank get away with this?

One would think that in a foreclosure there would be several if not many correspondences required by law between the lien holder and the mortgagee.

One might further imagine that the first correspondence declaring foreclosure proceedings would require registered mail.

So how is it that these people are blind sided by the incompetent and or corrupt banksters?

It is also interesting how many of these cases involve residences which are unoccupied at the time. Imagine the result of such a procedure where the residence was occupied … say in Florida, Arizona, Texas … you get idea.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Imagine the result of such a procedure where the residence was occupied

I am informed that Ohio has no special procedures for eviction following foreclosure on mortgage. Rather, all evictions from residential premises seem to be governed by Ohio code chapter 1913.

If the residential premise is occupied, then Ohio contemplates the assistance of a constable, police officer, sheriff or bailiff.

1923.13 Writ of execution.

(A) When a judgment of restitution is entered by a court in an action under this chapter, unless the plaintiff or the plaintiff’s agent or attorney proceeds under division (B) of this section, at the request of the plaintiff or the plaintiff’s agent or attorney, that court shall issue a writ of execution on the judgment, in the following form, as near as practicable:

“The state of Ohio, …………………… county: To any constable or police officer of ………………. township, city, or village; or To the sheriff of …………………………. county; or To any authorized bailiff of the ………… (name of court):

Whereas, in a certain action for the forcible entry and detention (or the forcible detention, as the case may be), of the following described premises, to wit: …………, lately tried before this court, wherein …………… was plaintiff, and ………. was defendant, ………….. judgment was rendered on the …….. day of …………, …………, that the plaintiff have restitution of those premises; and also that the plaintiff recover costs in the sum of ………….. You therefore are hereby commanded to cause the defendant to be forthwith removed from those premises, and the plaintiff to have restitution of them; also, that you levy of the goods and chattels of the defendant, and make the costs previously mentioned and all accruing costs, and of this writ make legal service and due return.

Witness my hand, this ……. day of ….., ……… …………………….. Judge, ………. (Name of court)”

Laroquod (profile) says:

Re: Re:

” how is it that these people are blind sided by the incompetent and or corrupt banksters?”

What the hell are you talking about? The clean-out crew went to the wrong address. All of that paperwork you were talking about presumably went to the right address, so how are the victims supposed to have not been blindsided? Somehow be aware that their neighbours were getting mail warning of foreclosure? And even if they had broken the law to read their neighbours’ mail, why would they ever imagine that this would endanger their own property?

Some people will defend anything.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Not defending anything, certainly not this.

The cleanout crew went to the wrong address, yes I can read too. And most of these cases involve unoccupied homes, either vacation homes or the occupants are on vacation elsewhere. Statistically these do not look to be simple mistakes as the banks would like us to believe.

Point being, there would be ample documentation of where said property is located and the foreclosing entity did not ensure their contractors had this documentation in hand, pictures would be beneficial, when they go out to repossess said property. This demonstrates negligence on the part of the bank and, as I understand it implies liability.

Thomas (profile) says:

The cops..

aren’t going to do a thing; from their point of view no laws have been broken.

The banks firmly believe they do not have to pay attention to doing anything right or even legal. They know that as corporate entities they can’t be thrown into jail. Besides, the banks would much rather pay $ 50K to fight it in court rather than actually pay the woman.’

Besides, the banks have the money to bribe the courts and cops and the victims do not.

Anonymous Coward says:

Banks practically own the US, we need to just admit this right now. There is no right or wrong in the United Staes of Bankistan.

This really isn’t uncommon either, the one for me that got my attention was around 2010 when foreclosures broke into a house while a woman was still inside of it, said nothing to the woman, and proceeded to wreck the house and try to change all the locks. All the while the woman was cowering under her coffee table crying and calling the police. The police showed up, determined there was “no wrongdoing”, and let them go on the spot.

We’ll really see how powerful the banks are when someone gets killed doing this. It’s only a matter of time. I suspect we’ll start to see charges of insubordination against banks once people start trying to defend their homes.

Anonymous Coward says:

I bet if she sued in court, the court would ask her for receipts for everything in the house, as proof of value.

What should really happen is, the Bank be held liable for their employees criminal actions ‘Grand Larceny’ and he either pays what the victim requests, or goes to prison for a felony charge.

Naaa, justice like that doesn’t happen for common folks.

bshock says:

not pay retail, eh?

This bank should be forced to pay at least times times the modest amount Ms. Barnett demanded. Representatives of this bank robbed her house, then sold, discarded, or destroyed her possessions. This is the sort of case that lawsuits were designed to handle. This is the sort of situation that responsible businesses should never fall into.

Anonymous Coward says:

They're Just Asking For It

There was a case of Bank of America’s wrongful foreclosure on a home that was fully owned. Judge ruled quickly in their favor because they didn’t even have a mortgage with them and ruled in their favor and awarded them their legal fees. Bank didn’t pay up after five months and the sheriff locked the bank branch up and basically started lawfully pillaging the place to collect on what they owed. That got them the check quickly.

Keep the popcorn makers readied, this has one has potential for a great show.

me says:

To start in response

1) File lawsuits
2) File criminal charges against the repo company, the bank, the specific president that said no
3) Go to any and all press outlets
4) Involve any other Federal or like relevant agency and make the bank’s life hell until they captulate
5) then repeat the above soley for spite
and salt their lawn so nothing ever grows there ever again


Rob says:

Heck of a business to be in

1. Open Bank
2. Rob^b^b^bBurglar^b^b^b^b^b^b^bSteal stuff from houses
3. Sell stolen stuff
4. If caught, say you might repay at garage sale value (and write that off as business expense!)
5. Repeat as necessary

Seriously, if you can steal stuff, fence it, and the worst case scenario is you have to make restitution at pennies on the dollar, how can you lose?

Anonymous Coward says:

“First National Bank”?

I wonder if this is the bank that inspired the level “First World Bank” in Payday: The Heist.

It gets even funnier when there is an official video for the sequel of the game depicting a heist on the bank…

The four guys get in and after everyone is on the ground they say “We are not robbing you. The First World Bank is robbing american citzens and we plan to make things right. Don’t try to be a damn hero”.

Next thing we know, the bank will blame the game for the idea of robbing american citizens.

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