This is the tale of two staggeringly depleted municipalities, the corrupt real estate income investors that are proliferating in both communities and the disparity of recognition and intention between government officials in Detroit, Wayne County Michigan and…
Pottstown Borough, Montgomery County Pennsylvania.
Last week, property taxes in Pottstown were raised by the School Board another 2.9% bringing the rise in property taxes near 75% since 2004. Yet, unscrupulous investors still get away with property tax evasion every single day and it is never acknowledged by district, borough or county officials.
In the first community, Detroit, Wayne County officials have heeded the results of the findings of a powerful investigative report that came out in March, 2014. <<clik to read the article in the Detroit News:
“A Detroit News investigation found about 1 in 4 Detroit landlords paid to rent to poor families through the state’s Housing Choice Voucher program collectively owe the city at least $5 million in back taxes and probably much more.”
Officials of Detroit and Wayne County have aligned to advocate for their constituents and close the “loop holes” that make it possible for unscrupulous, property tax evading investors to prosper from renting unsafe, tax delinquent housing.
One suggestion in Wayne County is to petition the court to allow the county to collect the government rent checks, pay the property taxes, municipal liens, perform maintenance and when the homes are brought back into compliance the landlord will get the rent.
The actions that officials have taken include an appeal from the Wayne County treasurer to Federal Officials of HUD to crack down on landlords who collect government rent and fail to pay their property tax bills. <<<clik to read the article in the Detroit News. We think our government should piggy back off this appeal but more and more it looks like they are comfortable with “things as they are” in Pottstown, and why would that be? We want to know.
“The News found that some landlords collected checks until they faced foreclosure and then sold the tax-delinquent properties to buyers, including tenants.”
In the second community, Pottstown, Local and County Officials apparently don’t speak to each other let alone jump on the same page to even try to address the multiple issues surrounding our housing and tax crisis.
Both government entities are complicit in this scheme by their silence and neglect, at the very minimum…
In fact, the county continues to ply Pottstown agencies with government grant monies to house the indigent in dangerously neglected, very old and badly chopped up apartment homes in our community.
Council President Stephen Toroney is not advocating or leading council to advocate for the resident taxpayers, business owners and conscientious investors in Pottstown, he is silent and ineffective.
Tax evading income investors are lining up at the tax money trough, we see more and more devalued housing stock selling to the usual suspects…. every single day and with it – our property values sink even further as our community becomes increasingly unsafe and unsightly.
Much of the housing is no longer safe for occupancy but still, it remains in the rental cycle with inadequate codes inspections or no inspections at all. Not only are the renters not safe but, in a community where houses are often attached or very close together, nearby neighbors are also at risk.
Codes inspectors are not certified to inspect two of the most potentially dangerous aspects of housing, according to sources in the L & I Department, furnaces and electrical wiring. Sources at the DEP say that, the MontCo Health Department is responsible for issues of vermin, insects and raw sewage – which are also rampant in our rental housing.
Uniform Building Code does not make exceptions nor does PA State Law. It is imperative that the borough carefully consider the qualifications of the people they hire to inspect properties and it IS the responsibility of Council President, Stephen Toroney, to issue those directives and to be informed.
As things stand now, rental inspections are dangerously inadequate. They generate revenue for the borough but they accomplish little else.
It has reached crisis proportions in Pottstown while officials sit idle, we are lacking educated, motivated and innovative leadership. What motivates officials to IGNORE these grave situations?
The question becomes one of “graft” and the connections between these investors, officials and politicians at all levels of government in the county, the borough and Pennsylvania.
The possible answers as to why income investors continue to abuse Pottstown…are not infinite…
Leading to speculation about the Western Montgomery County Real Estate Investors Club and what connections they have with state, county and local officials. We keep seeing the same “players” over & over again despite multi-million dollar foreclosures and tax liens in double digits.
Many of these investors are also licensed Real Estate agents in the state of PA. Ostensibly, the state has an ethics board and it is my belief that these agents need to be carefully scrutinized by this board. Their management practices ARE unethical not paying taxes is ILLEGAL and their illegal acts of not maintaing their properties and strong arm evictions take place every single day in Pottstown.
Clik here to go to the State License website: http://www.licensepa.state.pa.us/ once there, you can enter the names of all the real estate investors mentioned on this page for their license status.
Income investor, Edward Mitchell, Pa license # RS150724A is employed by Platinum First Realty, LLC # $B067749 located at: 460 S. Lewis Rd. Royersford. The agency is owned by Ralph Chiodo.
*we’ll get back to Ed in a few…after we connect the dots for you….
Also employed by Platinum First is Douglas Campbell #RS279349, at one time, his former wife Debra Lacava Campbell also worked for this agency.
Multiple times, in various anonymous newspaper comments someone, (in my opinion, Deb Campbell), stated that the MontCo Investors Club knows how to put the “screws” to Pottstown and they would be “educating” more investors to take advantage of cheap rentals and Section 8.
Now the investors have added the County’s new program to house the homeless, “Your Way Home,” to their roster of free govt taxpayer money they will abuse. Investors are buying depleted properties in Pottstown, right now as I write this, for that very reason alone.
If this investors organization teaches investors how to behave unethically and illegally, it is quite possible that they are engaging in “Racketeering”.
Every effort needs to be made to investigate this group and their practices, to follow the trail.
Deb Campbell #RS289372 is now employed by Reliant Property Management, Inc. located at: 794 Penllyn Pike, Suite 200, Blue Bell PA. Deb is still peddling rental properties in Pottstown.
***A reminder about Affinity Property Management and Brian Patrick who was charged recently with 41 counts of theft and related charges for stealing money from his clients. <<click for the Fox video.
Brian once said that he and Deb are friends. You have to wonder how he went undetected by authorities for his crimes in our own community? Several of his clients were denied when they attempted to file reports with the PPD… that never made sense and it delayed the investigation.
They were casually dismissed by the department: “it’s a civil matter.” One complaint, yes, but they didn’t even care to take reports and build a case. Instead, people reported to my blog and Jeff Cole, investigative reporter for Fox, took it from there – along with Brians victims – to the D.A. The PPD didn’t even refer Brian’s victims to the D.A.’s office.
The newspaper comments, (hundreds of them), in 2012 – 2013 occurred as Deb and Doug were defaulting on $2 mil.+ in mortgages & had ceased paying property taxes. Deb was clearly angry that I was posting about their activites.
I have also recently learned, from former tenants, that as the Campbells were defaulting, Deb and Doug were populating their rentals with people who were dealing drugs and were, in my experience and belief, paying cash rent to Deb and Doug.
Cash rents are easily undetected by taxing agencies and bankruptcy courts. Cash gives investors the resources to start over again without missing a beat.
Negative investors can actually make lifetime careers of ripping people off and get away with it in Pottstown, all the while receiving warm handshakes and smiles from some of Pottstown’s public employees.
You can clik on the MontCo Prothonotary site to view 64 civil suits in Montgomery County, attributable to Douglas and Debra Campbell. The majority are real estate defaults, taxes and municipal liens, many are still “open.” You can also type in Debra Campbell for another view of the civil suits.
*Back to Ed Mitchell who purchased 454, 450 & 448 King St. (side by side REO properties). He’s connected to Doug Campbell via Platinum First Realty. Mitchell’s son stopped on the street, one day, to tell me that Ed bought the properties to house the homeless.
What do the homeless care about living in squalor, living in risky housing or being treated like 2nd class citizens – right? It’s FREE government money…
That’s Ed’s attitude, according to his renters. Earlier in the spring he emptied the 2nd floor at 454 King St. of all existing renters, including a woman who had lived isolated in her room for 13 years. Neighbors say she didn’t leave the room in all that time. Her possessions were few and Ed cleared her room.
He threw everything out, like garbage. He threw her out with malice, along with her identification card, her ATM card and her SS card that were thrown in the trash. This, and many more actions taken against his tenants are in violation of the PA Landlord Tenant Act. But, there is no penalty for Ed, no oversight of his actions or the actions of any income investors in this community.
Neighbors retrieved her vital documents and helped to find her safe refuge. Ed could have cared less.
This group of properties was defaulted on in 2012 by Matt Crouse & Mark Rechkemmer dba Lotus Properties, who stripped the historic contents from 454 King St. and sold them.
Ed Mitchell bought the properties in November 2013 from Malvern Federal Savings, for $85,000. (Malvern is also often seen in civil records for mortgage defaults by investors).
Myself and other community members had the opportunity to tour these buildings before Ed purchased them. An architect and a contractor were among the members of the group. They concluded that to bring these properties up to code and make them attractive additions to the Historical Pottstown neighborhood it would cost roughly:
ONE MILLION DOLLARS.
And, you CAN believe that none of the people in this blog post would ever spend that kind of money to fix up those properties. You can also believe that it is these connections between politicians, real estate agents, and other investors – the incompetence and cronyism in Pottstown – that KEEPS quality investors away…
It’s not residents apathy, it’s not high prices downtown and it’s not even property taxes. Why would local government, (given that everything is on the up and up and officials are competent), FAVOR these destructive investors and the blighting of the town they govern – over good investors that can help build a strong, solid tax base?
WHY do borough leaders keep closing the door on qualified managers from outside their ranks? Think about that.
Ultimatley it was concluded, by ethical professionals, that the right choice would be the demolition of 454, 450 & 448 King St. They would not invest, under these circumstances, so the properties sold to another slumlord…
THESE STRUCTURES ARE NOT SAFE, EVEN NOW.
Each of these buildings are rife with health and safety issues YET, they continue to be approved for occupancy by the borough. This just doesn’t seem logical or straight up.
Within a very short time after buying 448 King St., Austin Morris, a school teacher from Souderton moved voucher renters into the property, (after dark), because he had no license and no inspection – this he admitted to me in conversation.
The tenants have a baby and AUSTIN IS A SCHOOL TEACHER??? Does he care about the health and safety of kids or maybe only some kids? Free government money …
Austin Morris said he didn’t know better, he’s from Souderton, he didn’t know the laws or ordinances in Pottstown. I believe he did know better. I believe he knew exactly how to game the system because of who he bought the property from and the fact his house still has violations and looks trashed from the outside and because I see income investors doing the same things, every day in my neighborhood.
Pottstown rental ordinance states:
§ 103. Penalty for Violation. [Ord. 2078, 10/12/2010] Any person (which shall include any individual, partnership, association or corporation) convicted of a violation of any provisions or requirements of this Part shall be sentenced to a fine or penalty of not less than $250 and not exceeding $1,000, plus costs, and in default of payment of said fine and costs to a term of imprisonment not to exceed 30 days. For the purpose of this Section, the failure to submit the required tenancy report for each apartment building, mobile home park or other rental or leased residential property shall be a separate offense. Enforcement of this Part shall not begin until December 1, 2010.
But, we don’t see these investors prosecuted. Why? This leads to further questions of ineptitude, corruption or a combination of both.
Ed Mitchell also moved people into his properties without the proper inspections and licenses. His decision to do so and the borough’s decision to look the other way, has led to untold hardships for many people including the good neighbors on this block. In the RTK I filed in February or March, Ed had no inspections and no rental licenses yet he had people living in his properties.
Edward Mitchell has NINETY ONE civil suits in Montgomery County and most are real estate related. This man has more mortgage defaults and tax liens in his history than any crooked investor I’ve come across, yet.
And officials have the same access to this information as I do – they either don’t know how to use it or they know but, will not take aggressive measures to stop this activity.
What reasons could there be for taking no action? One strong, aggressive prosecution would send ripples thru the members of the investors club – guaranteed – it would be effective.
Mitchell’s a pro at using heartless, immoral AND illegal tactics to remove renters from his property. At 450 King St. Edward allowed the electric & water to be shut off for non-payment at 450 King St. & 458 King St., after moving people into the “boarding house”, (that does not comply with zoning requirements for boarding homes), Ed Mitchell has been enabled by the borough’s own neglect to aggressively halt his activities.
In the video below, you’ll see some of the problems that are the result of this neglect and, they were compounded by the sale of 450 King St. to notorious Pottstown income investor Alisa Levin aka: NikChad, LLC accompanied by Re/Max agent, Mark Toepel, husband of State Representative, Marcy Toepel…
(GC post/clik on Mercury article written by Evan Brandt re: police services to Toepel’s rental property on High St.).
It’s not clear if Mark is a partner or not but his professional associations are in question. Alisa Levin identified Mark Toepel, to departing tenants, as the “manager”. MontCo property records do not list properties owned by NIKCHAD, LLC or Alisa Levin, unless you know the address. This is the state corporate filing for NIKCHAD, LLC.
Alisa owns 344 Beech St. rented to Daisy’s mini-mart on the main floor. I made mention of this address in a post about access card fraud. On the 2nd floor is an apartment that a former tenant says has serious codes issues.
This is the only property owner/corp. I’ve encountered that cannot be searched in the property records by name or corporate name.
We know only of her <professional> connection to Mark Toepel.
Alisa Levin is listed as a Quakertown MSW LCSW Social Worker in Superpages.com although her state license says “Null and Void” since 2005.
On Monday, 6.30.2014 Edward Mitchell received a post on the door of 454 King St. for his “delinquent water bill”. Prior to the video, he left new tenants stranded in the dark with no electric service for the same reason: non-payment. A new tenant was left sitting on the step, one day, with no key to the front door and no response from Ed Mitchell, for many hours.
The former tenants, that you’ll meet in the video, will attest to the fact that Ed Mitchell shut their water off and either turned the power off or didn’t pay the bill at 450 King St. He called the borough license & inspection dept. to condem the house in an effort to ILLEGALLY evict them. Because of that…
Two women were forced to sleep outside, in back of the house that night, they had no where else to go. One of the women is receiving chemo treatments and has been very ill.
These are NOT isolated events in Pottstown, they are very common. The borough must take responsiblity to do everything in their power to prohibit Alisa Levin from moving renters into 450 King St. without following every letter of the law…
They must aggressively enforce the laws and their own ordinances in the case of Ed Mitchell and Austin Morris (codes violations still remain at 448 King St.).
Update to the video: Monday, as Denise removed the household items from the side porch of 450 King St., one of Ed’s renters at 454 King was “cracked up” – high on drugs and she smacked Denise across the head and shoulder with a shovel. Denise was headed to the hospital after relaying this to me.
Understand that there are many many eyes on these properties, their owners and the borough – due to the despicable antics of Ed Mitchell. We want him held accountable. He should NOT be allowed to make money off of dangerous properties and the hardships he creates for his renters, homeowners and Pottstown. This man has no business doing business in our community.
Citizens Action Committee for Pottstown holds council president, Stephen Toroney, accountable for his laissez-faire leadership, his cronyism and his sneaky appointment of an unqualified borough manager in 2012. A rising crime rate and under motivated police department are NOT recommendations for a higher position in local government.
Toroney continues to enable borough departments to live down to the lowest expectations and business people, like those in this post, to prosper.
It has to stop now.
Pottstown MUST have solid, experienced, honest leadership before it’s too late.
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