Cromwell man bought condo, finds out he never owned it - WFSB 3 Connecticut

iTeam Investigation

Cromwell man bought condo, finds out he never owned it

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A Cromwell man bought a condo, but found out he never actually owned it (WFSB) A Cromwell man bought a condo, but found out he never actually owned it (WFSB)

It's a home buyer's nightmare.

Purchasing a property, then finding out years down the road that you never really owned anything and all that money you put into it is gone.

One local family got much more than they bargained for buying a foreclosure.

For someone that works day in and day out, having an opportunity to get into real estate is enticing and a foreclosure can sometimes be one of the best options. 

Sometimes these properties can carry baggage like a bad relationship that will haunt you.

It was a bargain deal gone bad.

“We bought the condo, the judge approved the sale, and now we lose everything,” said Tai Vuong.

 A three-year legal battle with no end in sight.

“The bank doesn't want to settle, so they just want to take the condo,” said Vuong.

Now a family that spent over $100,000 on a piece of property is locked out.

“On top of that they put a padlock on the condo and the case is not settled yet,” said Vuong.

Tai Vuong is a first-generation American from Vietnam. 

He grew up in Texas but has lived in Connecticut for 27 years, working in the restaurant business, most recently opening Wang’s restaurant in Cromwell with his uncle.

 Vuong has been married 12 years, his boys, 3 and 5-years-old. 

To keep the family together, he sponsored his in-laws to come over from Vietnam and live with them but then they needed more room.

“Two and a half years ago we bought a condo for my father-in-law and mother-in-law to stay and we bought it at a foreclosure auction,” said Vuong.

The Country Squire Condominiums in Cromwell were convenient, down the road from the restaurant, and a fixer upper for $45,000.

“We won the auction, we paid $45,000 for the auction and with the closing and everything and there was few liens at Cromwell town hall,” Vuong said.

In September 2015, Vuong bought the condo, or at least he thought.

The homeowner’s association for the condo got $10,000 from the sale.

And the remaining $35,000 went to the New Britain courthouse for the bank who owned the property.

“We thought we owned the condo because we had an attorney do the closing and we bought it and the judge approved the sale,” Vuong said.

After waiting a couple months, Vuong moved ahead with renovating the condo for his in-laws.

“To clean it up we put hardwood floors, granite counter tops, hardwood floors, we did everything so it came out to about $42,000,” said Vuong.

He’s into the condo for $100,000 total, plus he’s been keeping current on the town taxes.

“We never thought in a million years that we would be in the situation now that we're going to lose a condo to a bank,” said Vuong.  

Vuong is talking about a big bank, the bank of New York Mellon, the plaintiff in a case now against him.

It was in June 2016 that he first caught wind of the problem.

“Mellon Bank said they weren't notified of the sale, because they said if they were they would've been there,” said Vuong.

Vuong says the problem arose because the attorney for the condo’s homeowners association who started the foreclosure, Alan Rosenberg, notified the wrong bank about the sale.  

Rosenberg’s signature is on the foreclosure complaint.

Channel 3 called, emailed, and went to attorney Rosenberg's office in West Hartford.

Rosenberg and the HOA called Channel 3 back this week to say, ‘no comment.’

“I talked to my attorney who did the closing, his name is John Cechini, and he told me not to worry about it, we bought it outright,” Vuong said.

According to an invoice, Vuong paid his attorney at the time, John Cechini $1,681.53 for dealing with the foreclosure, with $194 of those dollars to go toward the title insurance.

“We thought we were covered because you know when you buy a property or something you always buy title insurance to cover yourself but he charged us for it and he didn't buy it for us,” Vuong said.

Since Vuong says the premium never went in, there is no title policy, if there had been this whole mess would have been the title insurer’s problem, not his.

The iTeam verified with the title insurance company that no policy ever existed and discovered Cechini was terminated as an agent in 2016.

Channel 3 called and knocked on the door of the house attorney Cechini works out of in South Glastonbury, but there was no response.

“Now the judge said that we have to buy the condo again from the bank,” Vuong said.

It’s a little more complicated, BNY Mellon is the trustee for a group of investors, but they don’t own the property.

A company called Ocwen, a service provider, has a lien on the property.

And Vuong was told it would take around $182,000 if he wanted to buy the condo again.

“I told the judge if we can just get the $35,000 out of the court then we will walk away, but we can't even do that because we're not entitled to it,” Vuong said.

He’s not entitled to the money he paid because Ocwen is the first lien holder.

Vuong hired a new attorney, Harris Appelman, to help him.

“We’ve spent tens of hours trying to make this work out for them and resolve their dispute,” said Appelman from The Upton Law Firm, LLC.

With $100,000 already invested, Vuong offered another $57,500 to the bank in December 2017 as a last-ditch effort.

“When we conveyed the settlement proposal that the judge recommended to the Bank of New York Mellon's attorneys, and it's been many months now and we have yet to receive a response,” said Appelman.

In February, a padlock was put on the door before any resolution was met in court.  

Once the iTeam got involved BNY Mellon pointed a finger in Ocwen’s direction, John Lovallo, a spokesperson for the service provider said in a statement, “We are aware of Mr. Vuong's unfortunate situation and are in communication with his counsel.  We are currently working to find a potential resolution."

Vuong most recently offered $65,000 to purchase the condo and is waiting to hear back from Ocwen and the bank.

As for the attorney’s involved with the initial foreclosure sale, Vuong says even if he were to refer them to the commission that oversees lawyers or sue them himself, it would just be more time and money taking him away from his family.

Purchasing the condo in the first place was supposed to bring them closer to him.

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