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Disabled Navy veteran who lost his house because of Wells Fargo TYPO collapses and DIES in court during fight against bank

dailymail.co.uk | June 7, 2015

By Helen Pow

A 62-year-old U.S. Navy veteran has keeled over and died in a California court while fighting a legal battle against banking giant Wells Fargo, which foreclosed on his home by mistake.

Larry Delassus, of Hermosa Beach, lost his house two years ago after a typo in his assessor's parcel number suggested he was behind in his property taxes - but the number actually corresponded to his neighbor's home.

Despite records proving he was in fact ahead of schedule on his mortgage payments and had paid his property taxes in advance, Delassus still had to go to court, in Torrance Courthouse, which is where, on December 19, 2012, he suffered a massive heart attack and died.

His attorney and friend, Anthony Trujillo, was arguing against a tentative ruling issued by a Torrance Courthouse judge that sided with Wells Fargo, according to the Easy Reader.

Trujillo noticed the bank's error while going through his friend's accounts and informed the bank, which acknowledged the blunder and fixed Delassus's credit history.

But they went ahead with selling his home at a cut price auction, the Easy Reader reported.

Delassus, who suffered from the rare blood-clot disorder Budd-Chiari syndrome and was often hospitalized, had to move to a tiny apartment in an assisted-living home in Carson.

Both the behemoth bank and Delassus were in court for a preliminary hearing. The 62-year-old was in a wheelchair in the back of the courtroom, preparing to testify.

Judge Laura Ellison told Trujillo the case facts didn't justify his client's claim of fraud and negligence.

After almost an hour going through bank documents to prove Wells Fargo's mistake and his friend's innocence, Delassus went into cardiac arrest.

'He was sure that when a judge heard that he was never even late on a payment, that (the judge) would do something,' Debbie Popovich, a friend who accompanied Delassus to court, told Easy Reader.

In a statement, Wells Fargo called the death of their customer 'tragic' but said he had no business being in the courthouse.

Larry Delassus was born and raised in St. Louis and was described by his sister as a 'sweet boy who could be shy. He loved animals.'

During his service in the Navy from 1969 to 1973, Delassus handled jet fuel and later worked as a production assistant for independent films.

He also worked with U.S. Airways and at LAX International Airport, loading and unloading baggage and taking care of the maintenance of the aircraft.

Delassus never married and had no children and bought his one bedroom condominium at 320 Hermosa Avenue in 1996.

'He was a very good guy, a simple man. He loved animals' said his neighbor, Kelly Flynn, who would look after the veterans cat on occasion.

His attorney, Anthony Trujillo lived next door to Delassus and often helped him clean his home when he needed hospital treatment for complications brought on by his Budd-Chiari syndrome.

'Anthony was his guardian angel. He was really good to Larry,' said Flynn said. 'Larry would definitely get frustrated [with the bank], but Anthony was his guy because it was overwhelming for Larry to handle the pressure.'

The disastrous chain of events began in March 2009, when Delassus's payment of $1,237 wasn't processed by the bank, despite him knowing that he had paid his mortgage two months early since 2007.

His bank, World Savings Bank, told him he was now behind on his payments, but because he was hospitalized at the time he asked his friend, Trujillo to examine the problem.

Trujillo, 32, discovered that Delassus had unwittingly refinanced his mortgage four times since September 2007 and was unaware that extra service charges applied to his standard payments.

This came to a head when his March 2009 payment was less than Delassus ever assumed it would be.

The bank wouldn’t accept Delassus’s March 11, 2009 payment of $1,297 because his minimum payment of $1,297 was no longer enough, as the bank believed he owed a lot more in order to satisfy the tax situation.

'They basically defaulted him on their own entirely from their own paperwork screw-up,' said Trujillo.

But, even after the bank acknowledged their strong-armed errors, World Savings Bank, which was now owned by Wells Fargo refused to accept that Delassus was not still currently defaulting on his mortgage.

Therefore, despite all their legal protestations, the bank went ahead with the sale of his home for $270,000. Just a few months later, the home was re-sold for $440,000 according to public documents.

Wells Fargo's statement insisted the sick man he had no business being in the courthouse the day he died.

'Mr Delassus' passing was a tragic event and our deepest sympathies go out to his family and friends,' the statement read.

'In a tentative ruling posted on the court’s Web site the night before the scheduled hearing, the judge indicated she was prepared to dismiss all the claims put forward by Mr Delassus' attorneys and rule in favor of our motion for summary judgment. Given that there was no testimony or evidence to be presented at the hearing, there was no reason for Mr. Delassus to attend and it is truly unfortunate that he was brought there.'

Trujillo told Easy Reader that Delassus had been requested to show up by the bank so they could determine whether he needed an independent guardian appointed by the court.

'He was there to testify,' Trujillo said.

Judge Ellison is scheduled to make a decision January 17 on whether or not the case will go to trial, despite the dead of the plaintiff.

It's rare for a lawsuit to stop a foreclosure will be successful, as banks don't have a legal duty to modify a loan and plaintiffs often can't afford to hire an attorney. In Delassus' case, Trujillo was working for free.

The coroner determined heart disease killed the Navy veteran but his friends say the system that made undoing the bank's careless but catestrophic mistake near impossible really took his life.

'He was very sensitive,' Popovich told LA Weekly. 'He was a very good person. He was kind of shy, and he had a really good sense of humor — really, he was a very simple guy who just liked to work and do his thing.'

 

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