Alexander Toia & Company subscribes to numerous commercial databases specifically designed for Private Investigators, Law Enforcement, Research Professionals, Attorneys, Paralegals, and Insurance Companies. We also maintain a vast network of outside legal service and resource contractors that assist with particularly difficult assignments anywhere in the nation and beyond its borders.
Foreclosure investigations for law firms representing banks or funding companies require a good deal of creativity of the private detective and staff. Initial property inspections to determine condition and livability are very important. However, identifying every person that lives in the building is where the job becomes tricky. Not everybody wants to release personal information, and some people become hostile about supplying family names. ATC is adept at handling these situations.
People must be reassured the bank is not going to immediately throw them out. In addition, because residents may not be there legally, they must still be identified for future legal proceedings. A good deal of street sense and finesse are involved to elicit this information. Sometimes people feel threatened because of contact from a lawyer and a large institution, which they have no control over because someone else owns the building. Situations can become unpredictable, and that is where ATC’s experience and composure come to play. A sample case is below.
Foreclosure investigations are not as easy as they might seem. The client and the bank usually do not have any idea what the property looks like, and before Google GPS provided a 3-D view of the house and neighborhood, it was best to visit in daylight and first to obtain a general assessment of the building, the types of tenants, their schedules, and complete an exterior inspection with photographs. The type of entry area was also important because future visits would depend on how easy it was to get inside.
On one bright, sunny day, Alex Toia was in Phillipsburg, NJ conducting 11 property inspections for a law firm that specializes in foreclosures. Most of the buildings were one and two story houses and it was surprising so many people were home. Usually it takes two or three trips, depending on the size of the structure before getting the layout and residents to answer questions.
Everything was going very smoothly, tenants were cooperating, supplying all necessary information, and Alex moved from property to property around town quickly. Around five o’clock Alex found the last neighborhood. At that time, cell phones were in their infancy and Alex rarely carried it with him outside the car when on a job. He had been on the phone moments before leaving his truck to approach a house and realized it was still in is hand when he exited the vehicle. He slipped it into his jacket pocket rather than reopen the door.
A very pleasant, friendly lady answered the door, and Alex quickly learned she and her husband rented the entire house from the landowner, who was in arrears on all of the other properties Alex had inspected that day. Alex presented his State Police Picture Identification and introduced himself and the reason he was there, saying it was a routine property inspection for the bank that held the mortgage. Leaving the screen door closed, she asked him to wait on the front porch while she called her husband to be sure it was okay to release information. A lot of time passed and she was not coming back. It must have been 10, 15 minutes. Alex called through the screen, but she made no reply. He took the opportunity to get some pictures of the property and waited on the porch.
This was a quiet street in a working class neighborhood where the speed limit was posted at 25. No one was on the street, even though the weather was a perfect 80 degrees. Alex heard the roar of a fast approaching engine, looked up the street and saw a black pick-up truck racing through a stop sign, turn left, and come barreling down the street, screeching to a halt in front of the house where he was standing on the porch. A very large, well built, construction-type worker jumped out of the truck and headed straight for the porch and right up to Alex. This guy was a good four to five inches taller and outweighed Alex by 40 pounds. He jammed his hand into Alex’s chest and ordered him off his property.
This guy was unhappy. His face was definitely too close, and his demeanor was very threatening. Alex backed up as much as he could, and by this time, the woman had returned screaming about being afraid. The scene was a little chaotic, but Alex maintained his cool. The guy kept screaming, and Alex was trying to reassure him this was only a bank inspection. Trying to maneuver away from his guy, Alex still did not know who he was, husband or landlord. As he was moving to one side to step down, the man pushed him off the porch. Alex maintained his balance, and tried to work his way back to the truck, but the man kept preventing him from doing so. Alex remembered his phone and hit 911 before this guy knew what he was doing. He immediately told police dispatch the address, and that a man was threatening his life, preventing him from escaping, and had already physically assaulted him. By the time the man realized Alex had made the call, he was even angrier and walked to his truck for what seemed to be retrieval of an ax handle.
For being in such a threatening situation, Alex remained surprisingly calm and told the guy there was no reason to be upset. The police would be here shortly to help him sort it out. Apparently, that changed his mind, and he threw the handle back in the bed and sped off.
Alex made hasty retreat to his truck, turned, and found a crowd of about 50 people now in the street. One old guy yelled in a very gruff voice, "We buried one guy in this neighborhood; we’ll bury you, too.”
Just as Alex got in his truck and locked the door, another car came racing up the street, faster than when the pick-up first pulled up to the front of the house. This car pulled into the driveway of the woman’s house and she rushed outside crying and pointing. It was a little clearer now that this man was her husband, who she had called at work, and the other guy had to have been the landowner with 11 outstanding foreclosures on his plate. Just as the husband turned to focus on Alex in his truck, squad cars came from both sides of the neighborhood with lights and sirens, moving even faster than the other two chaps. The crowd had grown considerably.
One cop went to the driveway where the wife was wailing, and the husband had come to her rescue. The other officer made a bee-line for Alex, who held up his State Police ID. As soon as the officer saw it he relaxed. They had a brief chat, and the officer shook his head in disgust, saying he would be right back and to stay in the vehicle. He walked across the street to where the wife was shrieking, while her husband could be heard complaining to police. The crowd was yelling and threatening, and most of them looked to be half drunk. This was probably the most exciting thing to happen in the neighborhood since they buried the last guy.
While the women Alex initially approached was still crying to her husband, now standing in front of his vehicle comforting her, the other cop walked back and said to Alex she had been afraid she would be sexually assaulted. Alex explained what he said, having presented picture ID, her mood, and showed the officers all the files on the foreclosure cases he had obtained throughout the day. They got the message quickly. The officer that had been with the man and his wife said the guy was fuming. Alex asked if he could talk to him. They said it was not a good idea, but Alex explained the man would be reassured. If the officers were present, he was certain them man would not react negatively. All he wanted to do was tell him the reason for the visit.
There was some hesitancy from the husband, more shrieking from the wife, but he eventually trailed the officer over to Alex’s truck. After viewing the paperwork, showing the checklist forms used for inspections, having obtained personal information from folks throughout the day, the man could see this was a legitimate investigation. The cops were in the process of dispersing the crowd, and Alex and the man were now talking like two guys that had just met on his front porch. The man gave him all the information he needed.
As Alex was preparing to enter his vehicle, the husband was across the street cursing and screaming at his wife for causing an unnecessary problem and scaring him almost to death. An officer looked at Alex and shrugged. He said, “We experience this type of thing regularly. Have a safe trip home.” Alex never looked back and never forgot this foreclosure assignment. All the others we have had were routine with a lot less drama.
Content copyright . Alexander Toia & Company, LLC. All rights reserved.