Published Date Written by David CarkhuffTimothy Mark Cason said he won't go quietly into foreclosure and eviction from his home at 371 Main St. in Bowdoinham.
A remodeling contractor who said he has lived at the roughly one-acre rural property for 19 years, Cason said he was served with foreclosure in 2010, and "since then it's been a back and forth paper shuffle."
The situation changed on Thursday night when officials issued a writ of possession, giving Cason 48 hours to vacate. This foreclosure proceeding by Bank of Maine, formerly Savings Bank of Maine, has sparked pushback from Cason and members of Occupy Maine, who argue the bank doesn't have legal grounds to evict him.
Heidi J. Vierthaler, Occupy Maine member, joined Cason at his home Monday morning to draw attention to the looming eviction. Vierthaler said supporters have garnered more than 160 signatures on a petition opposing the foreclosure.
The 48 hours notice was served on Thursday night around 8 p.m. and expired on Saturday night, Vierthaler said. Now, Cason is subject to eviction.
"Up until this month they've continued to send the monthly payment with late fees," Cason said.
The current balance he owes is about $125,000. A $25,000 payment would bring him current, Cason said.
"We're not looking to remove Mr. Cason from his residence," Sagadahoc County Sheriff Joel Merry said Monday.
"There is a foreclosure, and it's a civil matter between the bank and the property owner, in this particular case Mr. Cason," Merry said. "He has been properly served notice with a writ of possession which would forbid him from being on the property after 48 hours. That 48 hours has come."
The conflict between Cason and the bank would become a criminal matter if Cason refused to comply, Merry explained.
"The bank would need to call and seek to take possession," Merry said.
It's unclear when the bank may press the issue. Efforts to reach Bank of Maine in Gardiner on Monday were unsuccessful.
Merry said foreclosures are not unusual, due to the economic times.
Maine has 2,264 homes in foreclosure, according to Bank Homes Direct, a real estate website (http://www.bankhomesdirect.com/bhd). The site lists 74 bank-owned properties in Sagadahoc County, 463 in Cumberland County.
"We've seen a lot of foreclosures," Merry said. "A lot of times people have just given up and willfully vacated the property."
Cason is not giving up, based on his legal battles and the amount of research he's conducted. At issue is a promissory note, the document of the buyer's written promise to repay a loan under specific conditions
"I do not owe Savings Bank of Maine any money," Cason argued. "If I owe anybody anything it's the investors. When they sold their note to the investors, Savings Bank of Maine sold their right to foreclose. They may have retained their right to be the servicer and collect the payments, collect the money, but they don't have the right to foreclose."
Cason, who said he has been divorced and alone in the home for the last nine years, said he was given no leniency by the court, when he represented himself in a legal challenge to the foreclosure. But he's gained insights into the country's banking system, all the way up to the Federal Reserve.
"Ninety-nine percent of the people don't understand how the banking system works," Cason said, calling his situation a "travesty."
Cason hinted at a larger fight to undo foreclosures.
"I'm not the only one that's arguing it. Many people are arguing it. And the knowledge is getting out there exponentially," he said.
Merry said, "Mr. Cason has had this legal battle with the bank for some time now, it's my understanding."
Notwithstanding Cason's legal arguments, the sheriff's office, Merry said, is not in a position to allow Cason to stay in the house.
"Our job is to uphold directives from the court," he said.
"I've been inundated with emails and phone calls," Merry acknowledged. "I've looked at some of these cases they're talking about."
Some of the other cases involved apartment buildings where tenants were being evicted even after paying their rent in good faith. Those cases don't jibe with Cason's situation, Merry said.
"This particular case I'm going to make sure before this sheriff's department does anything, before I do anything that we're on good legal standing and that this is a bonafide court order," Merry vowed.
Cason said he wants Bank of Maine to provide records to prove that the bank still has his promissory note.
"We need to dig right into their books," he said.
Merry said he can't delve into the bank's activities.
"How they got the court order is not really my concern, my concern is that if it's a legitimate case and the judgment has been passed by the judge, then I'm really bound by my directive by the court," he said.
Cason said he supports LD145, a state bill that was put before the Maine House and Senate to mandate that a bank produce the original promissory note in order to file a foreclosure action. The bill passed in the House and Senate but was vetoed by Gov. Paul Lapage. This legislation would strengthen the hand of homeowners like Cason when they go to court.
"The bank is supposed to show the original note to be able to foreclose on a property," Cason said. "The bank has not been able to produce that original note."
On the state level, Cason's situation is one of thousands found in Maine statistics.
"Increases in the foreclosed property inventory and number of IPF (mortgage loans in process of foreclosure), coupled with the very lengthy foreclosure process, suggest that the recovery will continue to be slow and drawn out," wrote Lloyd P. LaFountain III, superintendent of the Maine Bureau of Financial Institutions, in his annual report at the beginning of 2012 on the $15.1 billion financial industry his agency regulates. "The evidence continues to suggest that the MSFI (Maine's 32 state-chartered banks and credit unions) are not rushing to initiate foreclosure proceedings and, once proceedings are initiated, they are willing to work with their borrowers to avoid foreclosure whenever possible. MSFI delinquency and foreclosure ratios also continue to compare favorably to national data."