A disabled Air Force veteran lost his Arizona home after it was auctioned off by the authorities on June 20.
Former U.S. Air Force Officer Jim Boerner was gobsmacked when a stranger arrived at his Mesa mobile home and said they had bought his property for $4,400, the Arizona Republic reported.
“I said, ‘What are you talking about? … This has got to be wrong,’” he told the newspaper.
Boerner, 49, quickly discovered that Maricopa County had auctioned off his mobile home because local authorities thought he owed $236 in property taxes. He had no idea he was at risk of being evicted as he thought that his application for a reduced property tax rate on the basis of his disability and limited income had already been approved, according to the report.
“Had I known I was in peril of losing my home, I would have paid it in full,” he said.
Staff at the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office allegedly told him he owed a total of $641 of which $405 was overdue from the previous year. However, Boerner only paid $405 because he only remembered the second amount, according to the paper.
Boerner told the paper that he had not worked since 1991 due to spinal and brain injuries he suffered while performing training exercises at Keesler Air Force Base in Mississippi. He bought the buttercup yellow mobile home in 2017 to enjoy a more affordable lifestyle.
Boerner supports himself repairing guitars he buys at garage sales. He is also known to deliver flowers to widowed neighbors during the holidays and on Mother’s Day.
The new owner is listed as Advanced Dynamic Energy Ltd. under the contact Alex Patron, the paper reported. Boerner claims that Patron is also known as Lester Payne.
According to the Republic, Boerner said he explained his situation to Payne over a drink and even offered to buy his mobile home back, which Payne initially agreed to. However, Payne later allegedly asked for $30,000, which was much higher than the original purchase price and the $5,000 Boerner was willing to offer.
When Payne made counter offers, the amount Payne allegedly sought was $26,000 and later $52,000 according to text messages obtained by the paper.
Payne has now issued a letter of eviction to Boerner.
“You must leave now, or I will sue you for eviction,” the letter said, according to ABC15.
When ABC15 contacted Payne, he said he felt bad for Boerner but would not comment further.
“I don’t talk to the press, I’m sorry,” Payne said.
Payne claimed he was willing to negotiate with Boerner but changed his mind after the talks turned sour, the Republic reported.
Text messages revealed that Boerner had been threatening to expose details from Payne’s police record, which lists shoplifting, driving under the influence, and aggravated assault, among others.
Maricopa County Deputy Treasurer Ron Bellus told ABC15 he sympathizes with Boerner’s situation and has tried to find legal loopholes to void the sale.
“We are talking to the county attorney’s office, we are looking at every possibility we can to reverse this,” he said. “He is disabled after serving his country, he comes home, and now he is thrown out. That same government just threw him out of his house for $200.”
According to the report, the office of Maricopa County Treasurer Royce Flora would normally mark a mobile home owner as delinquent in paying outstanding property taxes after a 30-day notice period. After this grace period, the office would report the delinquency to the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office.
The sheriff’s office would then normally contact Boerner to ask for the amount owed and explain how and where to pay the outstanding property taxes.
“After 30 days the sheriff can sell the property out from under them,” Bellus told ABC15.