Friday, May 24, 2002

Owners at The Lofts stuck


Erpenbeck condos have liens on units

By Jennifer Edwards, jedwards@enquirer.com
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        WEST CHESTER TWP. — Some are young and excited first-time owners. Others are trusting senior citizens who poured their savings into what they thought would be trouble-free condominiums.

        But now the residents at The Lofts at Wetherington all have one unhappy common bond: Theirs are among the thousands of lives rocked by the Erpenbeck Co fiasco.

[photo] Lumber sits at The Lofts at Wetherington as Barry Tiffany (left), West Chester Township code enforcement officer, and Bill Petty, trustee for The Lofts, talk Wednesday.
(Michael Snyder photo)
| ZOOM |
        At The Lofts, just off Interstate 75 in this Butler County suburb, many owners of two-bedroom condos that range from $80,000 to $105,000 now realize they have two, three or even four liens on their units.

        Some paid for garages they now discover they do not own and might have to pay about $7,000 to repurchase.

        “I am disgusted,” said Shirley Woodington, 68, who has four liens on her two-bedroom condo. “I am retired and I live on a fixed income. All of these expenses are going to make it hard on me. ... I'd like to see him in jail. He has been living large on our money. We feel like we have been taken.”

        A. William “Bill” Erpenbeck, a Northern Kentucky home builder, is under federal investigation for an alleged bank fraud scheme in which millions of dollars in home-purchase checks were diverted into his company's account at Peoples Bank. Dozens of homeowners were left without clear titles to their homes, and the fiasco has triggered scores of lawsuits by banks and contractors who are owed millions by the home builders.

STORY ARCHIVE
Click here for all Enquirer reports on Erpenbeck Co.
INVESTIGATION
If you have any additional information on the business dealings of the Erpenbeck Co. or Peoples Bank of Northern Kentucky - or on the involvement of any parties not yet identified in our coverage - please email Enquirer business reporter James McNair at jmcnair@enquirer.com or Kentucky Enquirer reporter Patrick Crowley at pcrowley@enquirer.com.
        Many condo owners at The Lofts still are trying to sort through the mess, figuring out which units have liens and which don't. The complex is mostly complete, but two buildings remain unfinished. Of the 72 units standing, all of the vacant ones — 25 — have liens, according to The Lofts Homeowners Association Trustee Bill Petty, who lives in a condo there.

        Many of the units that are occupied also don't have certificates of occupancy.

        Meanwhile, the base of a parking garage sits unfinished near a pile of rat-invested lumber that has sat untouched for about a year, rendering it unusable.

        At a Lofts homeowners association meeting Wednesday night, 50 residents packed their clubhouse to elect two new trustees to replace the ones appointed by Mr. Erpenbeck, officially taking control of the board.

        Their first move most likely will be to hire Woodlawn attorney Rex Wolfgang, who also represents homeowner associations in 10 other Erpenbeck communities. Mr. Petty is advocating all unit owners there to chip in $280 to instruct Mr. Wolfgang to sue Mr. Erpenbeck on their behalf.

        Mr. Wolfgang also represents a condominium complex next door, The Fairways at Wetherington. That subdivision was further along in construction than the Lofts; all its buildings are complete.

        Fairways homeowners took control of their homeowners association before the scandal erupted. They filed suit against Mr. Erpenbeck for improper construction and because “he seemed to walk away with all the reserve funds from the association when he turned it over, about $36,000 in May 2000,” Mr. Wolfgang said.

        That suit is scheduled for a September jury trial at Butler County Common Pleas Court.

        Another suit against The Erpenbeck Development Co. was filed Tuesday in Butler County Common Pleas Court, alleging breach of contract. The Wetherington Associates Limited Partnership alleges that the Erpenbeck Co. owes $35,000 in administrative fees. The money was to have been paid in exchange for Wetherington Golf and Country Club displaying Mr. Erpenbeck's marketing literature and promoting condominium sales. But as Lofts residents try to figure out if they have liens on their property, the Butler County Recorder's Office has been flooded with calls for help. All Erpenbeck residents are being urged to either hire real estate attorneys or title examiners, said Butler County Recorder Danny Crank.

        “I feel sorry for these people, I really do. We've got computers here and we'll show them how to do the research, but we're not allowed to tell people what is on their deeds,” Mr. Crank said Thursday. “The recorder's office can't do title exams. We're not allowed to give legal information.”

        The recorder's office receives 300 to 500 documents a day; scrutinizing each one for accuracy is not his employees' job, Mr. Crank said.

        “We trust that whoever sent that document to us sent it correctly,” he said. “We really have no way of knowing if it isn't. If a bank sends me a mortgage on someone, I'm going to assume you really are the person on that mortgage. ... As someone who has spent 25 years in the real estate business before I took this job, I have never seen anything like this before.”

Related stories:
Erpenbeck condos unit files Ch. 11
       



Bengals will collect before mission does
'Taste' leads choices for holiday activities
- Owners at The Lofts stuck
Walls of historic hall to remain
$3M sought for more police officers
Bethesda Hospital to expand
Blue Ash, UC envision mid-size venue for arts
Charter school in audit debacle
Children's gets federal grant for clinical research
City 'growing against itself'
Glick gets 10 years in father's murder
Greetings to Reds decorate last beam
Judge rules man insane in street sweeper theft
Obituary: La Salle's Brandon Roesel, 17
Tristate A.M. Report
BRONSON: Alien nation
SMITH AMOS: Money sharks
WELLS: Mountain Citizen
Homicide trial begins for driver
Police seek bigger players
Stowe's home receiving historical honor
Teachers get ethics refresher course
Tax argued: Long days, short fuses
Commissioner primary Tuesday
Incumbent promised a 2-term run
Ky. lobbyists spent $8.5M during session
More suits filed against archdiocese
Schools told to assume worst