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One Occupier's Sad Story Of Foreclosure Is A Bit Less Sad Than Reported By The Press

The reality behind the often reported story of an ACORN member who is part of the San Francisco Occupy movement is far more complex than the mainstream press has told the public. Donna Vieira, a frequent spokesman for the 99% who tells the heartrending tale of having her home foreclosed on, is actually referring to a second home in another state that she and her husband paid nearly $750,000 for. It’s an example of how the press has been negligent in doing even basic checks to get to the reality behind the media myths of the Occupy movement and how a disparate group of people with their own agendas have glommed onto the Movement.

While researching the recent Occupy/Union/ACORN shut down of Wells Fargo and Bank of America in San Francisco’s financial district, I noticed that two different newspaper articles quoted the same woman: Donna Vieira.

The San Francisco Examiner identified her as a member of the renamed ACORN group ACCE:

But Donna Vieira, 42, a member of the statewide Association of Californians for Community Empowerment, welcomed some of the more provocative tactics, barring violence.

“I was sitting on the floor chained up with two teachers,” said Vieira, who spent Friday morning occupying Wells Fargo’s headquarters. “When injustice becomes law, resistance becomes duty.”

And Reuters reported:

Donna Vieira, 42, a real estate appraiser, said she was protesting because the bank had “unfairly” foreclosed on her home in Reno, Nevada, last year.

“Nobody is going after the big banks. And loss and pain and suffering doesn’t matter to the regulators,” Vieira said.

My first thought was probably about the same as many people reading those articles – here’s a middle-aged woman taking desperate measures against big banks that got bailouts while her home was foreclosed on. I noticed that the home was in Reno, Nevada and wondered for a moment if she might’ve been reduced to homelessness on the streets of San Francisco, hundreds of miles away; a victim of the cold injustice of capitalism.

But my second thought occurred about five seconds later. What I’ve learned in the past few years is that you can’t take stories like this at face value. It didn’t take more than about 30 seconds of research using publicly available, free Internet search tools to discover just how many “facts” have been neglected in the story about this activist/spokesman for the 99%.

According to this story entitled “Faces of Foreclosure: Family Won’t Give Up,” the home was foreclosed on in Reno was not the Vieira family’s place of residence. It was, in fact, a second home of the family, who actually live in San Leandro, a medium-size residential community just across the bay from San Francisco.

The reason that Wells Fargo foreclosed? Apparently it wasn’t hardship on the part of the Vieiras family. They simply stopped making payments to Wells Fargo because they felt that an appraisal conducted by an independent firm was “fraudulent.”

The case is still stuck in Nevada’s court system. In the meantime, Wells Fargo foreclosed on the family’s Reno home for nonpayment.

“Knowing the mortgage was fraudulent, we just couldn’t keep on paying,” Nuno (Donna’s husband) said, adding that they stopped making mortgage payments in September of 2009.

The family still resides at their house in San Leandro, which they bought in 1997, but the foreclosure on the Reno property has made it harder to refinance and get a better mortgage interest rate on their current home.

“Despite the foreclosure, both of us still maintain near perfect credit scores,” Vieira said, “but due to something that is completely not our fault, we can’t take advantage of the low mortgage rates now and switch to a 30-year fixed. It just creates so much uncertainty in our life.”

While boasting about the couple’s “near perfect credit score,” the article also reveals the fact that the family sends their son to private school, despite the good public schools in the area.

“We can’t send Leo [to the public school], because I don’t have the time to help him with his homework or to track his progress in school,” she said.

Thankfully, Mrs. Vieira has put up a website at WellsFargoMortagoFraud.com that provides a number of legal papers that shed even more light on the story.

The heart of the Vieiras’ complaint is about an appraisal that they claim was fraudulent. The District Court points out in this 2009 Motion of Summary Judgment that both Donna Vieira and her husband are–wait for it–licensed real estate appraisers. The court also points out that the contested appraisal was performed four months after the Vieira family had already entered into a contract to buy the home. Both the Vieiras also testified that they did not rely on the appraisal when they agreed to buy the house for $715,000 because they had experience in valuing real estate and believed the asking amount was fair. They never even inquired about the results of the appraisal in question until a year after escrow closed on the house.

The “Faces of Foreclosure” article puts the value of the house at $565,000, but the district court documents says that the Vieiras agreed to pay $715,000. As this chart shows, they bought the home at the very height of the housing bubble, when many people thought the value of homes would continue going up.

In other words, it seems that the Vieiras made a bad investment on a second home and now would like to be bailed out for it.

There are many people who have been affected by the bad economy. With their near perfect credit score, their son in private school, and apparently ample time to protest, the Vieras do not appear at first glance to be one of them. It’s also questionable whether not being able to do a refi on your house because you intentionally stopped making payments to the bank on your second home qualifies somebody as a prime example of the 99%.

However, people glancing at the newspaper over their breakfast will learn none of this. They will only pick up the snippets that the mainstream media spoonfeeds to them in order to create a picture of hard times and economic injustice sufficient to possibly justify rioting in the streets and the violent shut-down of private businesses.

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