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Problems persist in Hingham's attempted purchase of affordable housing condo

Posted by Jessica Bartlett  June 24, 2013 02:04 PM

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Plans for Hingham to buy back an affordable housing property from disputed owner Wanpen Florentine have fallen through, leaving the property to sit vacant awhile longer.

Florentine, who pleaded guilty to mortgage fraud and applying for a false license in February, offered to sell the Ridgewood Crossing condo to the town in early 2013.

Though the sale was to be finalized on Tuesday, problems with the mortgages on the house as well as several building code violations halted the process.

“It’s the town’s position that she wasn’t able to perform,” said Susan Murphy, Hingham’s real estate counsel.

Officials have wanted Florentine out of the condo since discovering she had turned the parcel into a multifamily home and was renting it without town consent.

There were also questions about the legality of Florentine’s ownership.

The house was purchased at a below-market rate for buyers in certain income brackets. But according to deed records, one of Florentine’s names is attached to a $1.9 million house on Crooked Meadow Lane in Hingham.

Murphy said the town still wants to buy the home. Next steps, including renegotiating the price or possible litigation, would be up to the Board of Selectmen.

“The town is in the position of any other buyer,” Murphy said. “The town has to decide if it would take any action a buyer could when a seller doesn’t perform.”

Though Florentine said the closing snafu was not her fault, Murphy said the problems are on Florentine’s shoulders.

Florentine firstly couldn’t clear all three mortgages on the property, a necessity before she is able to sell it back to the town.

Issues mainly involve a mortgage Florentine gave to herself from her current name to her Thailand name.

However during Florentine’s legal battle, her Thailand passport was confiscated. Without any other way to prove her Thailand identity, Florentine cannot sign off on the mortgage.

According to Murphy, the affordable condo also still has several building code violations that need fixing.

Several of the violations were reported over a year ago, Murphy said, when the town first discovered that Florentine had turned the condo into a multi-family home.

“She had done most of what she was required but not everything had been completed,” Murphy said.

Yet Florentine pointed the finger at the town for the impasse, saying that she was notified of additional building code violations only the day before the closing.

“I said, ‘Give me time to remedy that and I should be able to fix everything to Zoning Department satisfaction, with a lot less money’,” Florentine said, noting that the town asked to withhold $10,000 of the $181,750 selling price to make up for the disputed work. “I don’t think I would incur more than $1,000. I was glad to do that.”

Florentine also said because the town’s Police Department initially took her Thailand passport away from her, town officials should help retrieve it for purposes of the sale.

“I want to put this all behind me,” Florentine said.

The most recent legal problems are only the tip of the iceberg for Florentine, who said the last year has been a series of unfortunate events.

“I didn’t do anything criminally, intentionally,” Florentine said.

The multiple name changes were the result of several marriages, and were all legally done, Florentine said.

Florentine also asserted that she bought the Ridgewood Crossing house legally, as she isn’t the owner of the $1.9 million Crooked Meadow Lane home. Since her divorce, she is only the trustee of a trust that owns the home, and acts as a janitor on behalf of her children, she said.

When the Crooked Meadow Lane home burnt down in 2007, she applied to buy the affordable housing condo.

Florentine said in an interview with boston.com that she did not read the contract she signed for the parcel, leading to violations when outfitting the home for two people and renting out half of it.

A police investigation led police to discover dozens of documents with several names listed on them. Though police initially accused Florentine of identity fraud, Florentine said she had just saved a lifetime of documents.

Florentine was placed on house arrest at her Crooked Meadow home for a year until pleading guilty in February to two charges — applying for a false license and one count of mortgage fraud.

Since resolving fraud allegations, and finally having the tenant move out of the affordable home, Florentine said she just wants to silence her legal problems.

“I certainly have been thrown away to the wolves,” she said. “I admit to not knowing [about the contract]. If I had known all these things, I would never have jeopardized, placed myself in this predicament … I’m destroyed.”

Florentine said she has reached the end of her legal rope, and can no longer afford an attorney to resolve the existing mortgage issues.

What that means for the town will be discussed in upcoming weeks, but has yet to be decided, Murphy said.

“The town still has the same end goal, but they have got to get it free and clear and not having a huge expense in bringing it up to code,” Murphy said. “How that gets resolved is the open question.”

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