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Congresswoman failed to pay mortgage on home

Don Thompson and Erica Werner / The Associated Press

SACRAMENTO – California Congresswoman Laura Richardson has a unique perspective on the housing foreclosure bills moving through Congress: One of her own homes was threatened with repossession after she failed to pay the mortgage.

Richardson, a Southern California Democrat, bought a two-story home in a leafy, upper-middle class neighborhood of Sacramento in January 2007, just months after winning a seat in the state Assembly.

Property records on file in Sacramento show Richardson bought the three-bedroom, 11Ú2-bath home on West Curtis Drive for $535,500.

The bill collectors started knocking soon after, according to records reviewed Wednesday by The Associated Press.

In June 2007, the city’s utility department placed a lien on her property for $154 in unpaid bills, according to documents on file at the Sacramento County Recorder’s Office. In December, Richardson received a default notice from the collection agency of Washington Mutual Inc., her lender. At that point, she owed $18,356.

At the time, she had left the state Legislature and moved to Washington, D.C., after winning a special election to fill a vacant congressional seat.

Another default notice in March of this year put the “unpaid balance and other expenses” at $578,384 and said her 1,639-square-foot house would be auctioned at a trustee sale. The county records show the property was sold to a company called Red Rock Mortgage Inc. of Sacramento for $388,000, although no listing could be found for the company.

That sale was officially recorded Monday, according to the records.

The collection agency referred inquiries to Washington Mutual, which did not immediately return a telephone call from The Associated Press seeking comment.

Records on file at the Sacramento County Tax Collector’s Office also show Richardson is delinquent in paying $8,950 in property taxes.

The former Long Beach city councilwoman has had a quick rise up California’s political ladder.

She moved from the City Council to a state Assembly seat in 2006, and in August 2007 won a special election to represent the heavily Democratic 37th Congressional District, which includes Long Beach, Carson and Compton.

In a statement issued Wednesday, Richardson blamed that constant job-shifting for the financial problems related to the Sacramento property.

She said the home was not in foreclosure and had not been seized.

“I have worked with my lender to complete a loan modification and have renegotiated the terms of the agreement – with no special provisions,” Richardson said. “I fully intend to fulfill all financial obligations of this property.”

Richardson’s chief of staff, Kimberly Parker, told the AP that the mortgage on the home had been sold, but the house had not.

The Sacramento County Assessor’s Office continues to list Richardson as the owner, even though the May 19 document on file at the Recorder’s Office states that Red Rock Mortgage bought the home at public auction.

The revelations about Richardson’s Sacramento property were first reported by Capitol Weekly, a newspaper that covers California government.

House of Representatives records show Richardson did not cast votes May 8 on three bills related to passage of the Foreclosure Prevention Act of 2008. In her statement, she said she was away from Washington because of her father’s funeral.

“I understand that these homeownership issues are a reflection of what many Americans are going through as they fight to keep their homes and to remain financially stable,” Richardson said in her statement.

– Don Thompson reported from Sacramento, Calif., and Erica Werner from Washington, D.C. Associated Press writers Samantha Young and Rich Pedroncelli in Sacramento contributed to this report.


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