Picture by: Max Whittaker for The New York Times
Column by: Paul Muschick, Contact Reporter with the Watchdog - March 18, 2017
John Barber of Easton is suing Wells Fargo, alleging that the bank let contractors into his home just before a scheduled short sale and that Barber, who subsequently was locked out, climbed through a window to find the premises ransacked, and a large quantity of personal property missing. Owner alleges home was ransacked, items stolen by company hired by bank to secure home before short sale. The end of John Barber's unpleasant foreclosure process seemed to be in sight.
Barber had arranged to sell his Easton home through a short sale, which occurs when a bank approves a sale for less than the mortgage balance.
He started packing in anticipation of moving out but said some treasured items, including a coin collection and an antique firearm, were stolen when the bank took the premature step of sending a company to secure the home while he still was living there.
Barber notified police and sued Wells Fargo. The lawsuit alleges he "discovered that his home had been broken into, the locks changed, the premises ransacked, and a large quantity of personal property belonging to him was missing."
The case is pending in Northampton County court, with a settlement conference scheduled for later this month, according to his attorney, Robert Glazer of Easton.
Wells Fargo told me in a statement that the home was determined to be vacant at the time it was secured and the bank "did not direct or authorize our vendor to remove any personal property."
"Any such alleged action by the third-party contractor would have been inappropriate," Wells Fargo said. "We hold our property preservation vendors and contractors to high standards of honesty and integrity, and we take any claims like those being made in this case very seriously."
Barber is not suing the companies involved with securing his property. The only defendant in his lawsuit is Wells Fargo, which the suit alleges failed to "properly supervise and monitor" the contractor's and subcontractor's activities.
Easton police investigated Barber's complaint and closed the case without filing charges because leads were exhausted, according to a report provided to me by Glazer.
In court documents filed in response to the lawsuit, Wells Fargo denied liability for any loss to Barber and said it "acted with due care" at all times. It argued that it cannot be held "vicariously liable."
Barber's allegations are not unique.
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