January 29, 2010
On Nov. 19, 2007, Jeanette Dobbs and her daughter, Jessie, went to the El Paso County Public Trustee’s office in downtown Colorado Springs to find out how much they owed to get back the house they’d lost to foreclosure.
Their home at 2924 Drakestone Drive had been auctioned off by the trustee, and a third-party investor had purchased it.
To get back the house, Jeanette Dobbs needed to come up with about $164,000, according to records in the Dobbses’ foreclosure file in the public trustee’s office.
The next day, the pair returned to the trustee’s office, and Jessie Dobbs wrote a check to redeem the property. The check bounced a couple of days later.
The transaction has resulted in a tangle of legal and financial problems that county officials still are trying to sort out.
Meanwhile, the Dobbses, who still hold title to the property, continue to live in the home, located on a tree-lined street near the intersection of North Circle Drive and Maizeland Road.
After a lengthy public hearing recently, the El Paso County board of county commissioners gave the County Attorney’s Office approval to seek ownership to the property and begin an eviction process.
“We’re going to get that house,” said County Attorney William Louis. “The county’s going to win this one.”
Jeanette Dobbs declined twice to be interviewed. “I really don’t care to discuss it right now,” she said.
If the county gains ownership of the property, the house will be sold, and the profit will go into the county’s coffers. “The part that makes me angry is that people are still living in the house who have scammed the county,” said Commissioner Sallie Clark.
The tangled events involving the Dobbses’ case are outlined in brief written statements obtained from three employees who worked in the public trustee’s office and are contained in the foreclosure file.
Additional information comes from a lawsuit against the Dobbses that was filed in Fourth Judicial District Court by the public trustee’s office, as well as a probable cause affidavit in a criminal case brought against Jessie Dobbs. Jessie Dobbs was charged by the District Attorney’s Office with fraud by check and attempting to influence a public servant, as well as fraud by check in an unrelated case, according to District Court records.
On the day Jeanette and Jessie Dobbs went to the public trustee’s office, most of the staff members, including then-public trustee Patricia Thompson, were at a seminar learning about new foreclosure laws.
Someone in the office looked up the property and told the Dobbses how much was owed, records show.
The next day, the mother and daughter returned to the public trustee’s office. Jessie Dobbs gave the public trustee’s office a check for $163,895.98 that was dated the preceding day, according to employees’ written statements and a copy of the check in the foreclosure file.
But there were a couple of problems: For one, the check was written on a personal account. Under state law, the trustee could accept only cash, an electronic transfer of funds, a certified check, a cashier’s check or a teller’s check. In addition, the 75-day period in which a property owner can redeem a foreclosed property had elapsed.
Nevertheless, the check and the foreclosure file were taken to Thompson, the county public trustee, records show. Thompson was appointed to the post by Gov. Bill Ritter in March 2007.
Thompson went to the counter, introduced herself to the Dobbses and said she would accept the check. “Patricia did mention that she wanted to help the homeowner,” one of the employees wrote.
Staff members were then instructed to make out a receipt for the check and backdate it Nov. 19, 2007, two employees wrote. In addition, a document called a certificate of redemption was issued and dated Nov. 19, 2007, according to the civil lawsuit.
That redemption certificate, which enables a party to retain ownership of the property by paying off whomever purchased the home during the foreclosure proceeding, was then filed with the county clerk’s office.
As it turned out, the account that Jessie Dobbs wrote the check on never had more than 28 cents in it, an investigator for the 4th Judicial District Attorney’s Office wrote as part of the criminal proceeding. And on the day the public trustee accepted the check, the account was closed for insufficient funds.
Jeanette Dobbs told an investigator that she got the check from her daughter, who printed it on a laser printer at the downtown public library. “Jeanette said that she believed the money was in the account and the check was good,” the investigator wrote in the affidavit.
Jessie Dobbs pleaded guilty to theft in the unrelated case and agreed to pay $192,308.23 in restitution, including roughly $164,000 owed the public trustee’s office, according to a plea agreement.
More than a year has passed since the agreement was reached.
“We have not received restitution from anybody on that property,” said Tom Mowle, who was named El Paso County public trustee in February 2008. Thompson stepped down from the post after eight months on the job, in December 2007.
“The case,” Mowle added, “has certainly heightened our awareness and reminded us to be careful about our fiduciary responsibilities.”
Call the writer at 476-4825.