Letter to the Editor

Your view: Catch 22

Friday, December 21, 2007

Ella and I received a threatening letter from the United States government on Saturday. All of you are aware I inherited Ella's house in the estate after she passed away earlier this year. As it turned out when I was having the estate prepared to sell the house there was, unknown to any of us a 2nd lien on the house that was put on it when the original loan was done 13 years back. The reason we didn't know was because it was a kind of loan that had no payments due on it until you either sold the house or paid off the first lien. I know. Weird. I've never seen anything like it either. I have always made jokes about loans with nothing down, nothing a month. She actually got one. Of course she was 85 years old when they gave her such a loan and made it on a home in Morehouse that in the best of times would have most likely only maintained it's value. Never to appreciate. Unfortunately the interest was accruing every month there were no payments being made on it. Furthermore the government decided they were to recoup some of the subsidy they made on the loan over the 13 years. They called this a "Government Rule." Sort of a Catch 22 thing I believe. The end result of all of this was that the payoff on the house was a few thousand dollars more than I sold it for and for that matter more than it is worth. Then I received a statement from the State of Missouri charging the estate with $76,000 for services rendered to Ella during her life in the form of medical care and home visits. The sum of all owed was more than $120,000 with a worth of the estate somewhere less than $40,000.

After learning all of this and after paying the payments for the last several months on the house including insurance that came due I sent a letter to the United States Department of Agriculture, Farmers Home Administration, Rural Development and to the Missouri Housing Development Commission telling them I wouldn't sell the house if I had to take money to closing in order to do so and furthermore I wouldn't be making any more payments on the house since there was no way for me to recoup that money once it was spent. Ever.

Then the letter came from the U.S. Government. I must have struck a nerve with someone. I interpreted it as basically saying I would be classified as an enemy of the state much like a terrorist. First the debt would be turned over to the U.S. Treasury. The threat is that they will:

1. Garnish my wages

2. Refer the case to a private debt collection agency

3. Refer the case to the Department of Justice

4. Report me to a credit bureau

5. Report me to the IRS

Furthermore they will reduce or withhold any of my eligible Federal payments under a program they call "offset." By the way they tell me they don't even have to let me know they are doing this but since they are nice people they are letting me know. Thanks for small favors.

So, they will take any Tax Refunds I have coming. If I worked for the U.S. Government they would withhold my salary even if I were in the military. They would withhold my Federal retirement as well even if I were in the military. If I contract with the U.S. Government they will withhold contractor or vendor payments.

To avoid this I have the alternative of filing bankruptcy, agree to a payment plan or pay the debt in whole. If I file a joint return with my spouse, any and all of the same recourse actions will apply to her. You can only imagine how happy that has made her.

At the end they remind me that if I ever make any false claims, statements, representations or evidence, knowingly or otherwise, in addition to civil penalties I will be subject to criminal penalties as well. I'm not too worried about Ella's well being since she is dead. I make that point since I can't seem to get that bit of information to register with the US Government or the State of Missouri. They still send letters addressed to her and when I call them they want to know who I am. I tell them. Then they want Ella's Social Security Number to verify I am who I say I am. I am worried about me. I don't really know Ella was born on the date we believe she was. What if that is a lie? 5 years in the big house could be the outcome.

I share this information with you with the knowledge and belief that most of you think these kinds of things don't or couldn't happen to citizens of the United States who otherwise get up every day, work hard, try to make ends meet and by being chosen as a favorite nephew inherit a property that by the workings of the government itself, there is more owed on it than it is worth but I am going to be held responsible for the debt they caused.

Or, I can spend money, hire an attorney, wait years for the outcome to be decided and hope I haven't made a mistake along the way that I could be prosecuted for. Sound like fun? You betcha.

Now is the time I would like to wish a Merry Christmas to the United States Government and all of it's employees including the President, the Vice President, Members of Congress, All of the Departments of Government, the Supreme Court, The State of Missouri and anyone else responsible for this.

Somewhere in the back of our mind we all think there may be a rich uncle or aunt that will result in some day us getting a letter saying we were the chosen one. "All I have I am leaving to you." It is truly an honor. Not any that I necessarily earned or deserved. Don't get me wrong but something I took very serious. A responsibility I thought, to do right by the estate and treat Ella's belongings with honor. I have tried to do just that. I never expected to retire from the money I would get if any. But now it looks as though I may just do that. When they sentence me to hard time at a Federal Pen for not paying off the debt.

Instead of asking for my size for Christmas Presents just let me make a suggestion, SEND MONEY!

It looks like I may need it.

Ron Peek