BRADENTON, Fla. (WFLA) — It took about four minutes to auction off the Bradenton home of a disabled Army veteran who now wonders where he’ll move if he is evicted from the property he bought about 20 years ago.
When walking upstairs became too painful for John Mckenzie, he moved into a downstairs bedroom and tried to sell his home. That’s when he found out his mortgage was in foreclosure.
Mckenzie, 62, said his health issues, including recent strokes, left him confused about who held his mortgage following several changes in the companies tied to the VA-backed loan.
“My health, yeah. I didn’t know who to pay,” Mckenzie said. “Believe it or not, it’s been very tough on me emotionally.”
Mckenzie hired title researcher Donna Steenkamp who recently filed paperwork known as a quiet title complaint to stall the foreclosure.
But on Thursday morning, Mckenzie’s home went up for auction and was sold for just under $335,000 to the plaintiff in the foreclosure case, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs.
The VA would not comment about whether the agency is involved in the sale but a letter to Mckenzie and Steenkamp indicates the VA was.
In the letter, Tampa-based U.S. Attorney Roger Handberg acknowledged he is representing the VA, and he offered a warning about Steenkamp’s attempt to block the sale.
“I urge you to dismiss that action voluntarily and promptly before you or any other parties incur unnecessary legal expenses or other costs,” Handberg wrote.
Steenkamp said VA agents have told her the documents tied to Mckenzie’s loan cannot be found. She claimed that should be enough to stop the sale if her quiet title action failed to do so.
“I’ve asked for those documents. Just show us,” Steenkamp said. “Show us the VA paid for this loan or paid out this loan. And they have yet to ever provide any evidence of that at all.”
Mckenzie is now exploring other legal action while he waits for the potential eviction process to start.
“I might be able to move in with family,” Mckenzie said. “I don’t know if I will have to leave. I hope not.”
Steenkamp said she has been told by VA agents that the VA was not connected to the plaintiff, “Secretary of Veterans Affairs.” But the U.S. Attorney’s letter seems to trump that.
“The VA is supposed to be protecting our vets,” Steenkamp said. “In this case, they have done anything but. In fact, they’ve contributed to the other side, taking John’s house.”
The house is listed as off-market on Florida Multi-Listing Service, but a purchase and sales agreement indicates it is also under contract with a buyer named as FKH SFR EMD Limited Partnership. According to the Florida Secretary of State database, an entity with that name is owned by New York-based Cerberus Capital. The Cerberus website indicates the company has $55 billion in assets.
Cerberus has bought many homes across the country and offered the properties as rentals.
A Cerberus media contact has yet to respond to requests for comment.
The listing agent for Mckenzie’s property said the company now wants to withdraw due to an inability to inspect the home and she said her brokerage company is trying to withdraw from the listing contract.