Rep. Laura Richardson, who lost one home in foreclosure and has defaulted on two others, may get her Sacramento home back, even though the new owner had begun to renovate it.
The Long Beach Democrat bought the three-bedroom, 1 1/2 -bath house early last year for $535,000 after being elected to the Assembly, but it wasn't long before she stopped making payments.
She also owed Sacramento County about $9,000 in property taxes.
Richardson's loss of the house, first reported last month by Capitol Weekly, brought to light a long history of her falling behind on property payments.
Richardson was elected to Congress in a special election in August 2007 to replace Rep. Juanita Millender-McDonald, who died earlier that year. Her victory culminated a yearlong ride that saw her start out as a Long Beach councilwoman and end up as a member of Congress, with a quick stop in the Assembly.
Real estate investor James York bought Richardson's house in an upper middle-class neighborhood on May 7 for $388,000. He recorded the deed May 19. His crew has painted it, laid tile and landscaped the house, he said.
York said the lender, Washington Mutual, had contacted him to buy back the house and that he gave the bank a price. He said the next thing he knew, the lender filed a letter of rescission of the foreclosure sale June 2 with Sacramento County and asked him for the keys.
"They took the property back, and they didn't even send back the money," York said.
The investor says he plans to file a lawsuit by the end of the week against Washington Mutual and Richardson.
"It's clear what's happening is Ms. Richardson is abusing her political power and using it for her own political needs," he said. "You don't have to be smart to understand what's happening."
Richardson declined to comment. A Washington Mutual spokeswoman, Sara Gaugl, said she could not discuss Richardson's loan because the congresswoman had not provided authorization. Lewis Feldman, a real estate attorney and Los Angeles chairman of the firm Goodwin Proctor, said the deal sounded strange.
"Even Inspector Clouseau could conclude that something unusual is going on here," said Feldman, who is not connected to the sale.
Although the Sacramento house was the first of Richardson's to go into foreclosure, she has defaulted six times on houses in San Pedro and Long Beach, most recently March 28. Five defaults have come in the last 13 months, when she was lending her campaigns for Assembly and Congress a total of $177,500.
Richardson makes $169,300 as a member of Congress.