Monday, June 06, 2005

Bank of America v. La Jolla Group (Cal. Ct. App. - May 19, 2005)

Enthusiastic capitalism is sometimes both excessive and amoral. This case is a perfect example.

Micheal and Ruth Selesia own a tiny little house in Fresno. (The opinion doesn't mention any of the underlying facts, but a little investigative digging reveals the following. The house is at 1925 W. Michigan Avenue in Fresno. It's a 3 bedroom, 1.75 bath house with 1294 square feet of living space that was built in 1956. With one fireplace and a two-car garage.) They apparently get a $15,000 credit line on the house, which is worth over $100,000, but for some reason, fall behind on the payments. (The opinion again does not mention that the $15,000 lien was for a credit line, or why the Selesias fell behind. Public records show that Michael Selesia originally owned the house with Claude J. Selesia -- perhaps his brother (?) -- and that these two took out a $15,000 credit line from BofA on January 5, 1999, and that two days later, Claude J. Selesia filed a gift deed transferring the house to Michael. So presumably Michael used the $15,000 credit line to buy Claude out. Anyway, that's my guess.)

So in late 2002, BofA decides to foreclose on the house. The foreclosure sale is scheduled for November 12, 2002. But on November 8, 2002, the Selesias (or some person acting on their behalf) paid BofA all the overdue amounts, and BofA reinstated the loan. But, for some reason -- almost certainly, a mistake by someone at BofA -- BofA didn't cancel the foreclosure sale. So, on November 12, 2002, a dude named Alan Boyajian -- acting on behalf of a partnership called the La Jolla Group II (which, by my best guess, is the name of a partnership between Boyajian and some of his buddies, perhaps including a guy named Leroy Klein) buys the $100,000+ property for a whopping $15,500.

Shortly thereafter, everyone realizes the mistake. They explain to Boyajian that the house really wasn't in foreclosure since the loan had been reinstated, and try to give him his $15,500 back. But, like any excited capitalist who's just stolen a $115,000 house for $15,500, how does Boyajian respond? He says: "Go to hell. The house is mine." And promptly files a lawsuit against the Selesias to kick them out of their house. Nice.

Fortunately, as a result of Justice Wiseman's opinion, Boyajian's conduct -- which really exemplifies the type of quality ethical and moral behavior that I'd love to see my children display, that I hope is taught daily to our nation's youth, and that I definitely wish is mimicked by every person and corporation in America, for our world and community would indeed be a better place for it were this to be the case -- doesn't pay. 'Cause the Court of Appeal holds that since the overdue payments had been paid and the loan reinstated, BofA couldn't foreclose. Which they didn't really intend to, anyway. And, as a result, that Boyajian didn't in fact steal the Selesias' home. Which means he can't kick them out of it. Which is, parenthetically, why, to this day, you can still find Michael and Ruth Selesia at 1925 West Michigan Avenue. May they live there in peace.

So some good news. Plus, I gotta say that it brought a smile to my face that the opinion ends by making sure that Boyajian has to pay costs. Yes. 'Cause being sleazy doesn't pay.

Okay, so maybe I only wish that was the total moral of the story. And, yes, being sleazy didn't pay here. Which I'm definitely happy about. But, on the other hand, Boyajian is still totally rich. He's got almost 300 different propery records in California that I can find, and these include a $3,000,000+ apartment complex at 435 Powell Street in San Francisco. So apparently being sleazy -- or at least amoral -- does pay.

Oh well. At least it didn't pay here. Which is better than the alternative. Let's at least be happy for that, eh?

P.S. -- Kudos to Glenn Wechsler -- a graduate of the fine University of San Diego School of Law (note the newly designed website!) -- for this big victory on behalf of his client. And the opposite to Harry Puscuzzi and Susan Moore -- both graduates of the San Joaquin College of Law -- for representing their high quality, good guy client, Alan Boyajian. Always good to see a USD graduate both fighting for good and winning. Makes me smile.