The following three stories come from three families who are currently dealing with their city’s attempts to take their properties for various reasons including tall grass and brown grass. Each has asked that I not share their personal information, addresses or anything else that may identify them because they believe it will lead to retaliation by Mark Adams and CRG (California Receivership Group).
Although I normally would not proceed without the information being published in order to give others an opportunity to research and help expose the victimization they allege to be experiencing at the hand of various receivers (read Part 1 for a better understanding of “Health and Safety Receiverships.”). But to not report the stories because the victims wish to be protected would go against my better judgement.
Elderly Woman Forced To Live In Converted Garage
“I’m absolutely terrified,” Ms. Smith (not her real name) said during a phone interview with AAL. “Mark Adams and the city have had custody of my home for four years and I’m allow me to live in my converted garage.”
In 2004 Ms. Smith’s, home suffered a broken water pipe, which caused some earth erosion from her property. After working with the insurance recommended contractor and receiving over $225,000 from her insurance company on her claims to cover the repairs, Ms. Smith “claimed State Farm then abandoned her by denying coverage for certain soil subsidence claims and by not paying for damage the construction company had caused. Her court filed cross complaint alleged causes of action against Insurance Company for breach of contract and insurance bad faith, and against the construction company for negligence.”
The city had asked her to turn off her water until the repairs were completed and during this time her lawn went brown. Ms. Smith suspects a neighbor may have called code enforcement about her brown lawn although she does not live in an HOA or knows of any specific ordinance that calls for homeowners to keep their lawns green at all times.
In 2015 things began to ramp up with the city when a code enforcement officer left a notice of violations at Ms. Smith’s home, which included broken tiles, broken windows and open flooring with exposed joists as well as other minor violations. Many of these violations Ms. Smith disputes. “I couldn’t sort out what was the necessity and the desirable,”Ms Smith said to AAL, “so I called contractors to inspect what was needed and received some very high estimates.”
Ms. Smith says she applied for the Sharp program with the city, which is associated with Habitat For Humanity and provides resources including volunteer labor to help senior citizens with home repairs. But according to Ms. Smith instead of a Sharp representative coming to a scheduled interview at her home with a city representative as planned, the city brought an outsourced attorney representing the city attorney’s office. During that meeting Ms. Smith claims the attorney was talking about working with city approved volunteers to help bring her home up to code. He also brought an estimator from a construction company who wrote that she needed her galvanized pipes replaced with copper, which confused her because she already had copper piping throughout her home.
“I didn’t realize that was a dangerous thing meeting with the city attorney at my home,” Ms. Smith said, “but shortly after that I was served with a lawsuit against me by the city for the code violations.”
The court appointed Mr Adams receiver of Ms. Smith’s home in February 2018. When asked why Mr. Adams was appointed, Ms Smith said it was because she had the repair work done without permits. “I had tried to get permits from the city,” Ms. Smith said, “and was told it’s not structural and that I didn’t need permits. My attorney told me that I needed to go back and get the permits. When I went back the fourth time the city noticed my house had a yellow card and that I needed to talk with the city engineer. The engineer told me to hire a structural engineer to tell me what needed to be done. I did and that engineer told me that I didn’t to hire a structural engineer and said he’d go talk to them. He apparently does business with the city all the time. After speaking with them he said he couldn’t help her because the city attorney was involved.”
Ms. Smith also said that Mark Adams has gone beyond the scope of the repairs needed including ripping out all of her kitchen appliances, cupboards and countertops. Most of which were specifically designed for her after an accident left her in need of certain height and lighting requirements. “They claimed they were looking for mold,” she said to AAL, “and started taking off sheets of drywall. They didn’t find any so they kept going until everything had been ripped out. They then bought all new appliances when I have an American Home Shield policy that would have repaired or replaced the appliances for free.
I had a walkway going into my home that was very wide and I had very wide steps built when my parents lived with me that were wide enough to accommodate a walker. I had the the steps built when parents lived with me to accommodate my mom after her knee surgery for her walker. They ripped out the steps and replaced them with ugly little narrow steps.” When asked why they needed to remove the steps Ms. Smith stated, “Because as of January 1st they said the laws changed and in case the city ever wanted to put in a sidewalk they needed twelve feet of clearance to put in a four foot sidewalk. So on January 6th the came and ripped out my walkway.”
Mrs. Smith is still dealing with Adams and his people and said she hopes it will all be over very soon. “When the judge allowed me to live in my garage, Adams’s complained saying that I was bothering his crews and they wanted me out from 7 AM to 4 PM.
“And all that my attorneys have never said anything in court to protect me,” Ms. Smith said. “Every time my attorneys contact me its to tell me to do what the city wants me to do. I mean no decent attorney would put me in this position. I mean people show up here they work a couple of days and then they break something else and I have to pay for it. And now they want me to pay them over $700,000.”
“All I did was not being able to afford $70,000 in repairs and they sold it for $550,000.”
In 2016 Mrs. Jane put up a sign on her property that was about twenty feet wide and four feet high and read “BERNIE’S HOMIES.” There was also a Jewish Star of David on it. “At the height of the primary season,” Mrs. Jane said in a phone interview with AAL, “someone shot at the Star of David and shot out a patio window where a girl was sleeping. They also shot out the windows of a van and shot out the windows of my Lincoln. Then 2 PM in the afternoon a dark skinned man shoots about 20 or 30 rounds into a nearby body shop causing a school to go on lockdown. Then at 2 AM again they shot at our sign again. In my heart I believe these were anti-Semitic people. I reported the shootings to the police and told them this was a hate crime, but they investigated them as gang shootings. That’s when the city started targeting me for code enforcement violations.”
When she and her husband purchased their home, Mrs. Jane said they were aware the home had plumbing, termites and electrical repairs needed but admits she didn’t get them done. “They wouldn’t give us a permit,” she exclaimed, “or a quote to fix it. So I started calling around for a contractor and found Mr. David Cohen.”
Mrs. Jane stated that David Cohen was going to help by taking the property title for rehabbing the house while allowing her to live on the property. But according to Mrs. Jane, Mr. Adams and the city attorney met with her and Mr Cohen and she alleges that they “painted Mr Cohen as a criminal and told him the property was going to be demolished and that not one wall would be left standing and that there was no recourse, but to obey. I was never allowed back on my property even though I was promised I would be able to retrieve my personal items including paintings and kitchen utensils and my art. I built a permitted art studio and it was all taken away.
All I did was not being able to afford $70,000 in repairs and they sold it for $550,000 and they’re putting me in the streets. They’re charging me attorney fees of $560,000, a hundred grand in demolition fees… its all a big scam. They put my husband in a nursing home claiming he was living in an abandoned house. He later died there of pneumonia.
My husband was very wealthy and like an undercover angel. He would hand out thousands of dollars to people who needed it. When I met him he was living on a carpet. His father used to work for AT&T and he would loan people money at work. When they couldn’t afford to pay back the loan he’d say “That’s okay, just give me your AT&T stock.” And that’s how the family made their money.”
According to Mrs. Jane the final decision is going to be made in June about how the money from the sale is split up. Mrs. Jane also stated that a recent audit by the judge in her case judge found that Mark Adams had over charged Mrs. Jane over $30,000. “Mark charges $40.00 a minute and $200 just to listen to my voicemail message,” Mrs. Jane continued. “By the end of it I’ll be lucky to not owe them money for stealing my property. Ill be lucky if they don’t put a lien on any income I make.”
And while Mr Adams continues to charge excessive fees, Mrs. Jane, an elderly woman like Ms. Smith, who had little to no mortgage left on her home, is now living in her car vulnerable to the COVID-19 infection especially at her age.
False Claims of Fire Danger
In 2011 a code enforcement officer was dispatched to the “Thomas” family home in northern California where he noted that their home had high weeds, shrubs, and overgrown trees. A Notice and Order was mailed on that day and additional notices continued until February 2012 when a code enforcement officer went by the home and noticed the landscape had been done.
According to “Robert Thomas” he and his family were never made aware of the code violations because the city never sent them. “Even though they had my email address, phone number and physical address,” Robert said in a phone interview with AAL, “and they were apparently unaware that my father had passed away, we never received the notices.
On September 12, 2017 CRG was appointed as receiver and just an hour after the hearing, Andrew Adams, an attorney with CRG and Andrew Adams’s son, allegedly broke into the home and seized the house by changing all of the locks. “He was appointed receiver,” Robert stated, “but did not file the Receiver’s Oath and Bond until September 14, 2017. So he was not lawfully able to perform the duties of a receiver before he broke into our home.”
From that initial “break in”, Andrew Adams put together a report listing alleged repairs needed to bring the home back to code. And according to Robert the report was fraught with false statements and exaggerations, which caused CRG to be appointed receivership.
The Thomas’s state they were not aware of the complaints having been filed until Sept 18, 2017 after a Default judgment had already been issued.
“There are no attorneys in this state that work in this area of municipal law on the part of the defendant,” said Robert. “You just can’t get a competent attorney to represent you. You try to call an attorney and no one really knows about Health and Safety Receivership law. Our attorney was basically incompetent. We gave him all of the evidence, we told him what the law was, we told him everything. And when we went to court he went in there and he didn’t present any of the evidence he didn’t show us what he was gonna file before he filed it. We didn’t get to read it or approve it or anything and the judge ruled that he had to rule that way because no evidence was presented. Just hearsay from the attorney and not a declaration from me or my mother, the homeowner.”
Robert and his mother were able to get the court to halt the default judgment and submitted their own declarations, which contained photos of their home from 2012 and later showing it wasn’t a fire danger or dilapidated. I have personally seen the photos that are contained in the public record and they do not seem to show a dilapidated home covered in vegetation and a fire danger.
Robert’s declaration also contained a breakdown of the costs to repair the code violations which came to $20,000. Far less than the requested amount by the receiver of $267,000. A review of the declaration showed that California Receivership Group expected to charge $113,654.50. They also wanted to charge $895.00 for changing the locks and $811.27 for postage and delivery among other administrative costs.
A breakdown of the charges show that sending an email or calling or receiving a call from CRG to the respondents (homeowners) he charges a rate of $125 per hour. The receiver, who is charged with helping the homeowner solve the issues they need to to stay in their home is causing a bigger financial burden then all of their home repair problems combined. The charges are so overly inflated yet no legislature seems to care.
Luckily Robert and his mother took action on their own and they’ll probably come away with their home. But had CRG had their way, his home would have also been sold or possibly demolished.
CRG Loses Motion Forcing City To Pay Fees
And thanks to cases like Roberts CRG has been exposed for another fabrication on their website. Because although CRG and Mark Adams claim their work wont cost your city or county a any money, they’ve actually caused a couple of judges to force the city to pay for recommending an overtly greedy company called CRG led by Mark Adams.
But fate may be knocking at Mr Adams door soon enough as victims of this scheme come forward and challenge receiverships in courts all over California and the nation.
The scheme is reminiscent of the ADA lawsuits filed by various attorneys around the state in 2013. One woman in Atwater, CA had filed suit against 22 businesses before her boyfriend came forward and revealed her scam, with an attorney from Stockton. The boyfriend stated that the attorney would drive from Stockton to their house in Atwater with a list of businesses that were not compliant.
Could this be the new ADA lawsuits for lawyers except these suits are worth a whole lot more. And the ties that bind these lawyers seems endless as they start out in a receivership as a receiver before being hired by the city and or county they are supposed to be working on a neutral basis with. But as we’ve seen in the emails regard Jerry’s case, CRG was working with the county of Mariposa in order to steal Jerry’s land.
Receivership has become such a big industry now that judges are literally lecturing attorney’s about health and safety receiverships and there is even a California Receiver’s Forum with a membership and receivership education for those who enjoy taking peoples homes for not cutting their grass. But they don’t just take any home. It has to have very little to no mortgage and an easy grab.
And if you don’t mind throwing elderly ladies into the streets and taking their homes, well this may be a job for you. But I’ve got a feeling that underneath all the excitement about taking people’s homes and charging outrageous fees may soon be coming to a halt and Mr Adams as well as many other receivers will; have some explaining to do.
Until then, just be sure to water and mow your lawn.