Thanks to the friendly people at Wells Fargo and the Orange County Sheriff’s Department (OCSD), a 37-year-old terminally ill woman, Niko Black, who suffers from a rare, malignant and metastatic form of breast cancer was illegally evicted from her home at gunpoint.
Yesterday, a federal judge has decided to rule in favor of Wells Fargo and the OCSD even though he had previously led Niko to believe, through three statements on court records, that she had a right to stay in her home.
Niko Black, a Native American Mescalero Apache woman, told the OC Weekly last month:
I'm in my bed and I see them storming my property, [so] I crawl to my wheelchair. They break down my door. I'm sitting there in my wheel chair. I'm about 100 pounds of shriveled-up cancer and a threat to no one. Sergeant Bob Sima puts a gun to my face, finger on the trigger, no safety and walks around me. There's no reason, except for to threaten my life, for an intimidation factor, to put a gun to my head.
Niko had legally declared bankruptcy and had been fighting Wells Fargo in a civil suit against eviction. She had owned her home for almost 20 years and had lived there since she was a child. She never even had a mortgage with Wells Fargo, and has entered into a civil suit around the fraud they have perpetrated against her, fraud that goes back many years.
After she filed bankruptcy, the court sided with Niko and put a stay on Wells Fargo’s eviction. Despite this, officers from the OCSD along with Wells Fargo employees harassed her on several occasions.
"Wells Fargo filed a motion about an inch thick all the reasons why they should be allowed to evict me," Black said about the court order. "The federal judge denied them and stated very clearly they are not to. The bank illegally acquired an unlawful detainer, an eviction, without due process. They did it with fraudulent paperwork."
Niko says that paperwork was signed by forgery with obvious misspellings of her name and filed a civil lawsuit. That is consistent with the claims of a $43 trillion class action lawsuit against Wells Fargo and 1807 other defendants. Her defiance, she believes, is the reason why she's been subjected to this entire ordeal.
So Niko refused to open her door for police on October 10, on which was taped a copy of a court order (see slideshow) obtained from Federal Bankruptcy Judge Theodore C. Albert in late August that she firmly believes should have prevented the OCSD from carrying out the eviction. The deputies acted anyway on behalf of the county council and Wells Fargo. Finally, officers broke into her home and forcibly evicted her at gunpoint.
With neighbors lining up outside watching, Black's health began to worsen. "I needed my medication, I couldn't breathe and I was having a seizure," she told the OC Weekly. Niko said that deputies were unresponsive to concerns about her condition and one officer even remarked that she “looked good” to him. An ambulance finally arrived at her friend's behest and took her to a hospital.
"Because I have a very aggressive form of cancer, every appointment, every day is crucial," she says. "I'm a person with a lower immune system. That's why all my nursing care, my physical therapy, my medical equipment, everything is set up for home care. This violates the Americans with Disabilities Act."
Following the events of October 10, Judge Albert ordered Wells Fargo and county officials to appear in court yesterday to explain why they should not be held in contempt for violating the stay and be made to pay punitive damages. Attorney Stephen R. Golden agreed to represent Niko pro bono.
Law enforcement and Wells Fargo furiously spun their side of the story. On October 22, Sgt. Sima used a local radio talk show to state that it is standard protocol to have weapons drawn in the clearing of a house, but that no guns were pointed at Black’s head, claiming that deputies were following instructions from the county council.
Richard Zombeck, writing for the Huffington Post, has also been following Niko’s story and discovered that Wells Fargo’s claim has no basis.
Wells Fargo's Communication Manager, Elise Wilkinson wrote to him:
1. There was no court ordered stay in place on the property in question at the time of the lockout. The former homeowner, Ms. Black, had previously obtained a stay, which expired after 30 days (on June 21, 2012). The expiration of the stay was in accordance with the bankruptcy code. The lockout took place on October 21, 2012, well after the expiration of the stay.
2. Wells Fargo did not evict Ms. Black. All foreclosure and eviction decisions were made and managed by the servicer (Carrington Mortgage Services). Wells Fargo is the Trustee for a trust containing the loan on this property. As Trustee, we manage certain administrative matters and court documents are filed in our name as trustee. However, all foreclosure decisions are made by the servicer.
"This story is highly inaccurate. Please remove it or correct the facts as soon as possible," Wilkinson continues.
Zombeck posted this in response:
So, in response to the first claim, why did Wells Fargo or attorneys for Wells Fargo file a 44 page motion for relief of stay, seven days prior to what they were claiming was the expiration date - why not just let it run out?
As for the second claim, that Wells Fargo is not responsible for the eviction and that decisions concerning evictions fall on the servicer, "there is undeniable proof that the claim is false under the facts of this case," said Thomas Friedman, an Attorney with Golden & Associates. According to Friedman, who produced the documents to back up his statements, Sergeant Robert Sima, in a Declaration, dated October 29, 2012, submitted to the Bankruptcy Court, and signed under penalty of perjury, states "On August 27, 2012, the Orange County Sheriff's Department received a court ordered eviction and instructions from an attorney for Creditor Wells Fargo to conduct the eviction of Niko Black at 9581 Shannon Avenue, Garden Grove, California, 92841." Pretty clear, right? Then, on October 2, 2012, counsel for Wells Fargo sent a letter to the Orange County Sheriff's Department (attached to Sergeant Sima's Declaration), in which Wells Fargo's counsel instructs the Sheriff's Department to proceed with the eviction because "there is no automatic stay at this time".
It seems like a lot of people are just “following instructions” (or orders) from the bank or the powers that be. That one was heard at the Nuremberg trials where former SS officials from Germany were tried for war crimes and it failed to prevent them from the death penalty. These events are yet another example of how the US is turning into a police state that serves banks and corporations, not the American people, which is one of the 14 defining characteristics of fascism.
A social worker, as well as the head of the hospital that Niko was taken to, have both written in support of her being immediately returned to her home for medical care.
"All I want to do is go home," Black says. "All I want to do is save my life."
According to David Cruz at KTLK AM 1150, the lawyers from the Stephen Golden Law Firm were able to get Wells Fargo to let Niko back into her home to retrieve her belongings and the medical devices needed for her treatment prior to yesterday’s hearing.
Law enforcement agencies, city officials, Wells Fargo and Niko had to explain their actions in court yesterday, while Niko’s health is deteriorating. Here are the results, according to On Attack 4 Niko Black, a Facebook page that her friends and supporters created for her:
Today we were dealt yet another blow in the pursuit of justice for Niko. The federal court judge found it in his heart to protect once again the actions of Wells Fargo and its affiliates. In what we believe to be a cowardly act he chose not to sanction Wells Fargo or the OC Sheriffs dept.(in fact "they are not to blame" he said) for violating his order. Instead he claimed that Niko made an improper assumption that she was safe from eviction even though he told her differently, three times on the record. I wonder if those transcripts will surface or be conveniently misplaced. The arguments from both sides were heard and when the lawyers from the bank spoke he really gave them a tongue lashing and said that "he's sure that in the future they will be more delicate with how they handle situations like this". We couldn't believe he was giving in like that. He rolled over and allowed them to continue to keep possession of Niko's home. He even called it their home at one point and that comment drew argument from Niko's legal team asking him to not make assumptions when Niko has not had her day in court to prove that they don't own her home and that they are the ones that need to prove ownership. At this time Niko is still displaced. Physically, she is getting worse and has less better days than good ones. We thank you all for the support and ask that you keep Niko in your prayers. We are planning a new action in the very near future. Please stay tuned here for word on where and when. This is just one battle, we have not lost the war!
The governor's office has been investigating how something like this can happen in the state of California, but thus far has not issued a statement.
One of Niko’s best friends, Linda Rife of Tustin, CA, has an online petition in support of her plight. The petition, directed at John Stumpf, the CEO of Wells Fargo, reads: “Wells Fargo: Don't break the law - leave cancer patients alone.” You can sign it here. Updates are posted on the Facebook page created for Niko.
Niko Black is a singer/songwriter and some of her music is available to listen to here.