Wood River home lost in tax sale, suit claims

Kelly Holleran Jan. 14, 2010, 5:00am

A Madison County couple says they lost their home after a company deceptively misinformed their daughter regarding the redemption of their home after a tax sale.

Carrie Lieberman claims she visited the Madison County Clerk's office on Sept. 23 in an attempt to redeem her parents' home at 502 East Ferguson Ave. in Wood River from being sold.

According to the complaint filed Jan. 7 in Madison County Circuit Court, Lieberman brought a money order for $7,028.19 and about $950 in cash to use toward the redemption. However, when she got to the county clerk's office, Lieberman learned the redemption amount had increased to $10,242.34, the suit states.

Because Lieberman did not have the remaining money needed available that day, she called defendant Raven Securities, which held the tax certificate, from her mobile phone in the parking lot of Madison County's municipal parking lot, the complaint says.

"She was informed by a Raven employee that Raven was not out to take her mother's house," the suit states. "The Raven employee said, at least three times, that Raven's goal is 'to keep you in your home.'"

During the conversation, the Raven employee also told Lieberman that the company did not have the required paperwork and would only be able to obtain additional information when they appeared in court. The employee instructed Lieberman to hold onto the money order she brought with her to the county clerk's office because more fees may be applied to the redemption, she claims.

"Ms. Lieberman then asked numerous times if this was something that we needed to go to court for," the suit states. "Each time, the Raven employee answered, 'no.' When Mrs. Lieberman asked if there was anything that she needed to do at this time, the Raven employee said 'no.' Mrs. Lieberman was then told that Raven would call her, probably in early-December 2009, and that she should remember to pick-up or call-back right away."

Relieved after the phone call, Lieberman called her mother, Stephanie A. Hogan, to assure her that the property tax payment was under control and that everything would be okay, according to the complaint.

However, Lieberman realized she was mistaken when she received a phone call from Raven President Scott Sieron on Nov. 9, informing her that the Hogans' house now belonged to him. Sieron demanded the Hogans either pay rent to Raven or buy the house from the company at its full market value, the complaint says.

"Mrs. Lieberman (and the Hogans) believed the statements made by Raven to be true, and she and the Hogans, relied on them," the suit states. "Had the truth been told, plaintiffs would have acted to redeem or to defend. As a result of the deception, the time for redemption ended without action to redeem and/or the opportunity to defend at hearing."

In their two-count suit, Lieberman and her parents allege fraud and intentional infliction of emotional distress against Raven.

They are seeking actual and punitive damages, plus pre- and post-judgment interest and other relief the court deems just.

Bradley M. Lakin and Paul A. Marks of LakinChapman in Wood River will be representing them.

Madison County Circuit Court case number: 10-L-13.

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