Larry Delassus, a 62-year-old disabled veteran, died in court last month while continuing a three-year battle against Wells Fargo for foreclosing on his Hermosa Beach home – a battle he had to fight even though court records show he paid his mortgage two months ahead of schedule and also paid his property taxes in advance.
He suffered heart failure Dec. 19 while his attorney argued against a tentative ruling issued by a Torrance Courthouse judge siding with Wells Fargo.
Wells Fargo called Delassus’s death “tragic,” but it was Wells Fargo that put Delassus into default when the bank mistakenly thought Delassus was behind in his property taxes. In fact, the bank was using an incorrect assessor’s parcel number that corresponded to Delassus’s neighbor’s home.
Delassus’s attorney and close friend, Anthony Trujillo of Redondo Beach, working the case on contingency, discovered the bank error and informed the bank. Wells Fargo acknowledged the error, fixed Delassus’s credit history but still proceeded with selling Delassus’s home at auction, according to deposition testimony and court documents.
When both parties appeared in court Dec. 19 for a preliminary hearing, Delassus, suffering liver disease, was in a wheelchair in the back of the courtroom, incoherent and breathing loudly.
Judge Laura Ellison told Trujillo the facts of the case did not appear to justify Delassus’s claim of fraud and negligence.
In response, Trujillo spent most of an hour reviewing, out loud, bank documents that indicate Delassus was never late on a mortgage payment or property tax bill. He argued that putting him in default was an error originally created by the bank’s tax service subcontractor.
As the proceedings played out, 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,” said Debbie Popovich, a friend who arrived in court with Delassus.
On May 13, 2011, the bank had conducted the trustee sale of Delassus’s condominium for $270,000. The buyer re-sold it a few months for $440,000, according to public documents.
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Delassus’ attorney Anthony Trujillo, a friend and next-door neighbor, recalls deposing Wells Fargo Litigation Support Manager Michael Dolan in 2012, and asked what his definition of “fair” was.
“Fair is a place where they have ponies and merry-go-rounds,” Dolan said.