Wermuth and his firm seemed more than happy to sweep our home out from under us -- the home Carol and I had pretty much sweated and saved for all our lives. That includes my days of mowing yards, hauling hay, cleaning a drive-in movie theater parking lot, helping to create V-belts in a rubber-products factory -- and other glamorous tasks too numerous to mention. (Did I include transporting rabbit poop from a neighbor's pens to my mom's rose garden? You haven't lived until you've taken in the aromatic wonders of rabbit poop in mass quantities. I'm not sure a gas mask could quell such a stench.)
But Wermuth seemed less than ecstatic when I contacted him via e-mail and essentially said, "Show me the money." When I contacted Wermuth on March 1, 2016, I was pretty sure the surplus funds derived from the foreclosure belonged to us, as the mortgagors, but I had not done enough research to be certain about that. Plus, I had planned to work on this issue long before I did. In my defense, our plate was overflowing in the months following the foreclosure, and our forced move to Springfield, Missouri -- and I figured the money wasn't going anywhere.
I sure turned out to be wrong about that last part. Here is my initial e-mail to Wermuth:
Your firm conducted a foreclosure on the above-referenced property on the Shelby County Courthouse steps on April 29, 2014. My wife, Carol, and I owned the property for 25 years, and we believe we are owed money from the foreclosure process, and we never have received it.
Prior to the foreclosure, Carol sent you a note and asked how much was needed to pay off the mortgage. My memory is that your answer was roughly $66,000.
We never received a copy of the foreclosure deed from your firm, but a friend looked it up recently and sent us a copy. The document shows that the highest bid for the property was almost $75,000.
Our understanding is that if the bid is higher than the amount required to pay off the mortgage, the difference is equity due to be paid to us, the original owners.
If our math and understanding of the law are correct, that means we are owed almost $9,000. We further understand that it is your firm's duty to ensure that all funds from the foreclosure process are disbursed to the proper parties. That has not happened with us.
We ask that you send us a certified check (or other appropriate form of payment) in the proper amount -- roughly $9,000, plus interest accrued since the date of the sale -- as soon as possible.
Since we did not receive a copy of the foreclosure deed from your firm, we also are concerned that we might not have received other documents. Would you please send us copies of all documents related to the foreclosure. . . .
Please let us know if you have questions. Thank you.
Roger and Carol Shuler
It took Wermuth less than an hour to respond -- and he had some bizarre news. Our money had been sent to Liberty Duke, co-plaintiff in a defamation lawsuit filed against me by Rob Riley. From Wermuth:
Thank you for the email. Since the property was sold to a third party, we do not have a copy of the recorded foreclosure deed. You should be able to obtain a copy from the Jefferson County probate office. The surplus from the sale (the amount in excess of the total indebtedness) in the amount of $7,112.00 was paid to subordinate lienholder Liberty Duke, per Alabama law, per the attached judgment.
Copies of correspondence sent to you are also attached.
If you have additional questions, please let me know.
I was none too pleased with that reply. Our money had been sent to Liberty Duke? I suspected, and later confirmed, that Circuit Judge Claud Neilson had issued no final judgment in the Riley matter, and he had unlawfully awarded attorney fees against a pro se litigant (me). I saw no way that Liberty Duke could make any lawful claim on the surplus funds from OUR foreclosure -- and subsequent research proved me correct. What was Wermuth trying to pull? That's what I wanted to know, and so I asked him:
Under what Alabama law is Liberty Duke entitled to the equity in our home, and why were we never informed that funds to which we are entitled were sent to her? Why were we never given a chance to contest this action in court? Please send us copies of all documentation related to the transfer of these funds to Ms. Duke.
As you can see from the date of the judgment, it still was subject to appeal at the time, so we have a hard time understanding how you had any justification to send our money to Ms. Duke. Furthermore, I was unlawfully incarcerated at the time the appeal period lapsed and had no opportunity to challenge this judgment. You also should be advised that these issues still are subject to challenge under federal civil-rights law, so again, I don't see where you have any grounds to send our funds to Ms. Duke, especially without giving us notice. . . .
Did Wermuth like the substance and firmness of my query? I don't think so because his tone certainly took a turn:
Obviously, I cannot provide you with legal advice or opinions. I recommend you contact an attorney who can advise you. Also, I do not typically communicate with adverse parties via email. As such, I will mail you a copy of the documents previously provided, but will not discuss this further via email, or reply to further inquires via email.
Thank you in advance for your understanding.
The guy who had said a few minutes earlier that he would be happy to answer additional questions suddenly was not interested in communicating with me at all. He seemed totally unaware that he and his client, Chase Mortgage, had a trustee relationship with us -- not Liberty Duke -- and a duty to treat us with a sense of "fairness" and "fair play." Did I feel that's what we were getting? Nope, and I let Wermuth know of my displeasure:
So, you can't cite any law under which you transferred our funds to Liberty Duke, without giving us notice? Am I to assume that's because there is no such law?
Your firm conducted the entire foreclosure process, and I'm sure you profited nicely, but now you refuse to communicate with me? Are you saying I am an adverse party, and you had no obligation to disburse funds due to us? If it wasn't your responsibility, then whose was it?
Can you even provide a copy of any lien that Liberty Duke supposedly had on the property? Do you have an obligation to provide that?
I received no reply, and we still have not received the promised documents.
Robert Wermuth, however, has not heard the last from Carol and me.