Four-Minute Late Phone Call to Bank Could Cost Anita Her Home

Video by Bill Sorem, Text by Jacob Wheeler
Anita Reyes-LeRey’s phone call to the Vice President at Woodlands National Bank, was four minutes late, and as a result, the Native American might lose the south Minneapolis home for which she and the Occupy Homes MN movement have fought.

Reyes-LeRey has owned her home for 17 years and has $50,000 in equity. She endured a series of financial and health setbacks when her job hours were cut and vertigo prevented her from making the 100 mile, one-way drive to work, prompting her to fall behind on her mortgage payments. Anita tried to negotiate a new mortgage with Woodlands National Bank in Onamia, Minn., which holds the mortgage, but was unable to do so.

Woodland’s National Bank Vice President Cindy Koonce, told Reyes-LeRey that she would do everything she could to help the homeowner. Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson offered to look over Reyes-LeRey’s loan documents for the bank. She returned to work and earned more than enough to afford her mortgage. But to Reyes-LeRey’s shock, on the end date of her redemption period, Koonce called and told her she needed to leave her home.

With the help of Occupy Homes MN, Reyes-LeRey began building a public pressure campaign, including call-ins and a petition for Woodlands National Bank to renegotiate her mortgage and keep her in her home. The bank tentatively offered to rent her the home and, after two years, prepare a new mortgage so she could buy it back. The deal required an up-front $2,100 payment — an amount that Reyes-LeRey was uncertain she could raise the money but nevertheless did. But her phone call was four minutes after noon, and Koonce told her the deal was off.

A video from Occupy Homes MN shows a bank official confirming the deal was off because Reyes-LeRey called in “after noon.”


This discussion begins at 4:02 on the above video:

Occupy Homes MN Cameraman Ben Egerman: So can we just note that yesterday we were told by Cindy Koonce, that at 12 (noon) today we would meet with her or talk to her…

Minneapolis Branch Manager Joanne Whiterabbit: What Woodlands bank was negotiating with Anita to do was to allow her to rent her home.

Egerman: Yes and…

Whiterabbit: She needed to let us know by noon today if she had the money that they had discussed for rental purposes…

Egerman: and when did she…

Whiterabbit: the home ownership, the home ownership, that issue is already been done. And that was finalized on April 23rd

Egerman: And when did she call to do that? When did she come to actually do that? It was noon.

Supporter: You needed her to respond to say that she had the money for the deal.

Whiterabbit: Right.

Supporter: And she did.

Egerman: And she did.

Whiterabbit: It was not before noon.

Egerman: When was it?

Whiterabbit: Pardon?

Egerman: When was it?

Whiterabbit: I’m not sure of the exact time. I just heard from Cindy that it was after noon.

Egerman: It was 12:04

Supporter: It was 12:04 when she called.

Whiterabbit: OK

Egerman: So do you think that’s a legitimate thing to say that 12:04 is too far after?

Whiterabbit: It’s not my call to say whether it’s legitimate or not. But the agreement that you had was that it would be done by noon.

Supporter: Why wouldn’t you do a new agreement then?

Whiterabbit: It, it… we’re done.

Egerman: So you’re not going to help?

Supporter: We’re just starting.

Whiterabbit: OK that’s fine. But I just want to acknowledge Anita that I’ve been here for you and worked with you and helped you and I have tried to help you keep your home. And this is not the first time you’ve been in this situation.

While the eviction notice has been put on hold, it could be enabled at any time by the Woodlands Bank. Instead of relenting, Reyes-LeRey has stopped packing as she waits in hope that a solution can be reached.

Contacted by The UpTake, Koonce at Woodlands National Bank said she she couldn’t comment at this time.

Reyes-LeRey says that if she is able to keep her home, she will offer a free room for at least a year to someone who is willing to help people stay in their homes and fight foreclosure. “I just want them to have that time and that energy to be used towards something that’s meaningful.”

Related Links:
Change.org petition to Woodlands Vice President Cindy Koonce: Negotiate with Anita Reyes to stop her foreclosure
American Indian Movement supports Reyes-LeRey in her foreclosure fight

Bill Sorem

Bill Sorem is a longtime advertising professional who started with Campbell Mithun and ended up with his own agency. After a tour as a sailing fleet manager in the Virgin Islands he turned to database programming as an independent consultant. He has written sailing guides for the British Virgin Islands and Belize, and written for a number of blogs. In 2010, he volunteered as a citizen journalist with The UpTake and has stayed on as a video reporter.

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