Sunday, April 26, 2009

JNS BLOG SUPER EXCLUSIVE: Dinner, Conversation With John Foster, The Identity Theft Victim In The Larry Maxwell Mortgage Fraud Trial (PART ONE, STORY)

Photo By John Hoff

AUSTRALIA was settled by criminals and convicts.

FOSTER'S is Australian for beer.

The identity theft victim of Larry Maxwell, who is now a convicted criminal, was a guy named John FOSTER.


After my blog coverage of the trial, I was very privileged to be invited to dinner at the home of John Foster and Melanie Michaels. And, by "home," I obviously mean their house in a tidy, lovely, arguably-affluent suburb. I don't mean the house they own at 1564 Hillside Ave. N., their ownership very real and yet title was fraudulently transferred.

At the dinner table, juicy documents mixed with yummy bratwurst as myself and community leaders from the Jordan and Hawthorne neighborhoods met and socialized with the Foster/Michaels family. Present was Kip Browne, the Chair of the Jordan Neighborhood, his lovely wife, Kelly, and Mortgage Geek Extraordinaire Jeff Skrenes. Jan Havlish was also present. She is the real estate agent who helped Melony Michaels crack open the one of the biggest mortgage fraud cases in the history of Minnesota, picking up the trail of Larry Maxwell from clues as minor as a Christmas card.

I should make it clear that no document was shared that didn't make it into the trial as evidence, but how convenient and revealing it was to look at those documents--possibly make some copies--and compare information.

Much valuable info was shared amid champagne and cheesecake...

Some of the information was found online as insights verbally relayed were quickly turned into an eager search on the internet by somebody who knew just where to go in the Hennepin County Court website. Amid Foster's beer and bratwurst (deliberately burned to charred perfection) we had our laptops out on the dinner table and we hammered at the keyboards, picking up more of the trail of Larry Maxwell once notes were compared and sleuthing skills were combined.

For example:

There is a civil case spinning out of the Larry Maxwell criminal trial. In fact, this civil case is so messy that it has Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Inc. SUING ITSELF. Seriously!

Here's a look at the plaintiff and defendants in that case, which is grinding its way through the court systems but has apparently been the subject of virtually no coverage in the media. Time to rectify THAT.

The case is 27-CV-09-6595. The plaintiff is a frothy mouthful, but here it is: Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Inc., as nominee for Countrywide Home Loans.

The plaintiffs in this case are even more revealing, especially given the fact "MERS" is suing ITSELF. How can MERS sue itself? Apparently, it's a matter of branches being independently owned. So think of it like a Ford dealership suing another Ford dealership. So is Ford suing itself? In our perceptions, arguably, but legally there is a massive distinction between the plaintiff and defendant.

So consider, if you will, the defendants and keep in mind this is NOT THE ORDER the defendants are listed on the lawsuit.

DEFENDANTS: Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Inc. Flint, Michigan, 48501. Also named is the MERS in Reston, Virginia, 20190.

Larry Maxwell is a defendant, but so is his wife, Vicki Y. Cox-Maxwell. It is not clear whether or not Larry Maxwell and Vicki are divorced. There was a divorce action filed in court but it doesn't appear to have been completed. Some individuals very close to the investigation believe they are divorced, but that remains unconfirmed.

Another defendant is Franklin National Bank of Minneapolis.

Another is JADT Development Group, LLC. This is an entity involved in development in North Minneapolis. Tim Baylor is the president. This is the guy who built 29 high-end town homes at W. River Road, in the Hawthorne Neighborhood. According to the testimony of Greg Coleman, a former Minnesota Viking, Larry Maxwell was the first president of the homeowners association. The address listed for JADT is 2313 W. River Road, the same as the luxury townhouse development.

Another defendant is River View Homes, LLC, Minneapolis, Minnesota, 55422. From the name, one presumes this entity may be connected with 2313 W. River Road, somehow. However I've had difficulty nailing down more info. I do not find an LLC with that precise name and location registered with the Minnesota Secretary of State's Office. (Those corporate registrations are easily accessible online)

Some additional "high end" defendants include the Minnesota Department of Revenue and the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. Attorney General Lori Swanson is the lawyer listed for the United States.

I know what you're thinking: how can you sue the United States in a STATE Court? Well, on 4/24/2009 there was a notation: "Notice of Case Reassignment." One suspects that, like the T.J. Waconia fraudsters case, this thing is heading for federal court. There are some advantages to filing a case in STATE court first, then having it removed to federal court, but that discussion is rather arcane for this blog.

Let us return to beer and brats and other pieces of information.

In the course of dinner, I was doing my outrageous verbal imitation of court spectator Peter Richard Stephenson, and how he walked right up to Defense Attorney Larry Reed and said something like, "Excuse me, sir, I just wanted to ask you a question...when you're saying stuff, and it's not really clear what you're saying...are you doing that ON PURPOSE?"

Larry Reed looked at Peter politely and said, "I'm not sure I know what you mean" and then went on about his highly-paid lawyer business.

I didn't even know Peter's last name off the top of my head, and I assumed Peter was a harmless eccentric. I had seen Peter at one JACC meeting, seated right next to Lt. Rugel, who ignored him, and I noted how the Chair, Kip Browne, let Peter ask a question from the spectator gallery...treating Peter with the kind of detached, reluctant kindness one gives to harmless eccentrics, particularly when they are getting on in years.

Notably, Kip Browne did NOT say something like, "Oh, I see the Level Three Sex Offender who molests children as young as 8 has something to add to the JACC meeting!"

As I told Kip later, "I was taking my social cues from you. And you treated him like a harmless eccentric."

I had also seen evidence Peter was not a dummy: in fact, he'd handed over VERY interesting documents about a couple pieces of property in North Minneapolis--owned by somebody you really wouldn't expect to own two properties like that--and Peter knew his way around the court system so completely that he was capable of giving valuable orientation tips. Indeed, I saw Peter talking to some washed-out chronic alcoholic who was scheduled to appear before Judge Chu, and trying--in Peter's intensely loud and annoying way--to give the clueless SOB some valuable pointers.

And so, when asked who Peter was, by both Melony Michaels (the wife of John Foster) and one unnamed person in the court system, I answered, "Oh, he's sort of an eccentric who hangs around meetings in the Jordan Neighborhood, sometimes. He comes off kind of weird, but he's no dummy." I may have used the word "harmless."

So there I was at the Michaels/Foster house, at their lovely table, doing my imitation of Peter annoying the (expletive) (expletive) out of Larry Reed (who, to his credit, treated Peter with civilized politeness) when Kip Browne was, all, like, wait a minute. PETER was there? PETER THE PEDOPHILE?!

Suddenly, perceptions of who was who shifted dramatically. Kip grabbed my laptop, went to the Department of Corrections website where sex offenders have their own baseball card-like listings, describing their heinous crimes, showing their pictures. Kip handed back my laptop. "Is that him?" Kip asked.

An expletive in response. YES!!! Yes, that was the guy who hung around the Maxwell trial constantly, who insinuated himself into conversations because, well, decent people are kind, not overtly rude to somebody who acts like Peter Stephenson, particularly when somebody like Stephenson does show glimmers of intelligence, does have valuable insights because he's been watching the trial. What really killed me was I had seen that particular picture before--indeed, I had looked up all the sex offenders in the 55411 zip code in the course of researching Junaid Maalik, who used to live at 3024 6th St. N. and got a job that required a SQUEAKY CLEAN BACKGROUND, for cripe's sake.

And, yes, I personally got Junaid fired from that job. That's how we treat sex offenders here on Johnny Northside Dot Com.

But as far as Peter Richard Stephenson's picture on the state's sex offender--it's a dated picture. Peter is sometimes clean-shaven, now, and the color has gone out of his facial hair. He has less hair on his head, too, and it is whiter. In a nutshell, Peter the Pedophile doesn't LOOK like that picture as much as he used to, and a more recent picture would be a service to society, particularly society in the 55411 zip code.

So I was FURIOUS that Peter had managed to deceive me in this way, had managed to finagle, through me, an introduction to Melanie Michaels with the caveat he was annoying...but harmless. With the more complete and detailed information I now had about Peter Richard Stephenson, I sat right down at the Michaels/Foster dinner table and banged out the previous post.

The real question is WHAT WAS PETER DOING SPENDING SO MUCH TIME AT THAT HEARING and, it seemed to me, trying very hard to gather loose nuggets of information? For who?

The APPARENT connection between Peter the Pedophile and the Larry Maxwell trial is Keith Reitman, the former owner of 1564 Hillside, the seller in the fraudulent deal which ensnared the Foster/Micheals family through identity theft. Peter Stephenson knows Reitman. He told an anti-Semitic joke about Reitman. In several different ways, Peter indicated he knew Reitman well and, on one occasion, actually told me Reitman is or was his landlord.

THAT information is unconfirmed. Anybody who has different or contrary information, or an ability to CONFIRM that information, is welcome to contribute what they know.

The dinner--and it was a lovely dinner--ended with Kip Browne playing the guitar, and Jeff Skrenes singing a song about "The Whores of Amsterdam." Somehow, after discussing multiple layers of scandal, the song was oddly appropriate and, I will say, well sung.

Leaving the Michaels/Foster house with a plastic bowl of chili, I had to wonder what amazing new perceptions they had gained of North Minneapolis. Realtor Jan Havlish kept asking, again and again in a variety of ways, how individuals known to be involved in fraudulent activities continue to sit on neighborhood boards, to be spokespeople in the community?

I explained, as well as I could, that bad actors are not without their base of support in our community. That we sit "nose to nose, and elbow to elbow" with bad actors, we sit on the same Housing Committee boards as slumlords, who are capable of gathering their own votes to gain positions of power. We who are trying to turn our community around find ourselves "Facebook friends" with individuals who may be criminally indicted any moment. Corruption has crept into our boards and our North Minneapolis CHURCHES at multiple levels.

Like warfare in an urban environment, our revitalization fight is a "house to house" battle. In the Hawthorne neighborhood, the chairman of the board and his three little children (one more on the way) lives directly across from one of the most active "pill houses" in North Minneapolis, and we count the days to May 10, when (supposedly) the druggies will finally be evicted.

Three parting thoughts spoken at that dinner party will be parting thoughts for this blog post:

FIRST, Melony Micheals and John Foster never asked for this anti-mortgage fraud mission, but they have become key players in something much bigger than themselves. They are writing history in what may later become known as The Mortgage Fraud Era.

So I told Melony that I realize she is tired after a 7-week trial, but it was her investigation that blew this thing open. She should not quit. She should keep investigating. (In Kip and Kelly's vehicle, on the way home, we agreed John and Melony's story would make a great movie on Lifetime)

SECOND, the fate of the lot on which 1564 Hillside sits should be resolved in a way that is positive for the community, and John Foster (as owner in record, through fraud) has some ability to assist in that resolution. Fraudulent transfer of property does, in fact, transfer title. For now, the Fosters have "colorable title" as the foreclosure process grinds much-too-slowly forward. The area of law involving fraudulent transfer of title is arcane and obscure, but the bottom line is: The Fosters have a limited ability to control the fate of that property, and to "quit claim" their rights.

Naturally, Melony and John will want to follow the advice of their attorney. And they have filed a civil suit against Larry Maxwell, so they are represented.

However, on their own Foster/Michaels have raised the idea of that land being transferred to the city. Hopefully, city officials will assist in that matter. Don Samuels, as the City Council Member for Ward 5, appears a logical point of contact.

THIRD, angels among us. Melony Michaels is religious. She worked in a hospice and claims to have seen angels. She believes there is a higher purpose in what we endure. In many ways, John Foster was the perfect victim because of his spotless credit, perfect for a "no document loan." In another way, he was the worst possible victim imaginable. Foster saves and organizes his paperwork obsessively. He is introverted, but his wife is a super-extrovert capable of "going Columbo" on a wrong committed against her husband, and she did.

When something causes an imbalance in the universe--like the massive mortgage fraud committed by Larry Maxwell, for example--the universe pushes back to right itself. An "anti-Maxwell" emerges, and that person is Melony Michaels. She is unafraid to dig into this massive, evil fraud and follow where it leads, because she believes, "When you go into the ground, that is not the end, you do not just become dirt." She believes all it takes for evil to triumph is for good people to stand aside and do nothing. Instead of victimization, she finds higher purpose.

As far as dinner, drinks and conversation, it's pretty hard to beat a night like this, anywhere in the word.



Anonymous said...

Tim Baylor is also the owner of the McDonals on Broadway, a former member of the MN Vikings, and a former candidate for Lt. Governor.

DottieT said...


The 4PAC web sit tries to keep an up-to-date list of Level III sex offenders in the 55411 and 55412 zip codes. It was updated in the past month. You can see it by going to then click on the "Alerts" forum. There is a list of posts showing the name of the offender and the block he lives on. Click on any of the entries and you will find detailed information either provided by Minneapolis police or a link to the entry at the Minnesota Department of Corrections web site.

Johnny Northside said...

I went to the 4pac website. It would be helpful if I knew what these words mean in the user registration process:

"The authorization code is the second word under the title of this page."

That word is not "Together" so what word is it? I'd like to get on that 4pac website and use it, but I find it rather clunky and the registration process is just impossible. What's the point of having an authorization code, anyway, if the code is just out there in the open?


Things that are clunky on the internet just really irritate me. And, generally, the real "clunk" happens with official websites.

Anonymous said...

John, if you would give us options you are aware of as far the transfer of the property, we will do whatever is best for the neighborhood, in whatever capacity we are able to. I will also ask the lawyer if there is anything we cannot do, or if he can research how we can best help the neighborhood within whatever rights we have as "fake owners" (lol).

We had a LOVELY dinner and multiple conversations with all of you last night. The energy, intelligence, passion and love you all share for your community is very admirable.

Thank you so much for all your kind words, they were very touching and we also feel that the work you are doing is a massive force of energy that will take change the world for the better! Kip was hysterically funny, very knowledgeable and we loved his impersonations, action stories, and bursting energy to clean up the neighborhood. Kelly was so lovely and sweet and had an extraordinary memory for details. We can't wait to see Alexander in the late summer or early fall! Jeff has such a dedication to making things right he is an obvious warrior in a very quiet way, and a great singer!!

We won't quit helping with the investigations and will continue to do whatever we can. Thank you again and again for all your efforts that have brought this investigation and law suit into the light. The more people know, the more changes we'll see. There are a great many people out there who can help make changes!

John and Melony

Johnny Northside said...

Jeff spoke of a legal procedure whereby title to the property is separated from the mortgage obligation. I don't know if it's applicable.

The JACC board would clearly have an interest in controlling the fate of the properties that lie in Jordan. I guess the best thing is to ask your lawyer if there is a way you can help resolve the fate of the properties in a positive way. I think you should talk to Don Samuels. He's a very busy guy, but I figure Kip will be talking to him and he should certainly be getting back to you.

One thing is for sure: if you go see Kip and Kelly's lovely home some evening, Samuels is likely to drop by. He lives just two doors down, and he drops by there all the time.

Melony, if you have juicy information you need published, just kick it my way. You know I'm not afraid to put it out there in the public eye.

The Mortgage Geek said...

The legal procedure requires that the lender charge more than 5% of the loan amount in lender fees. Then you've got to file a claim within three years of the date of the loan origination or before a sale (including sheriff's sale), whichever comes first.

We're within the three-year time frame, and the property hasn't gone into foreclosure yet. However, the lenders charged about 4% in fees (still high but not illegal). It kind of makes sense that they wouldn't break that law. Why do one more illegal thing to earn a grand or two when you can just inflate the purchase price and share the wealth with your cronies that way?

Don said...

As soon as the deck is finished being painted, we plan to invite Melony, John and Jan over. So, if you are reading this and free sometime in May, let do a BBQ, Northside style (basically, Plymouth style...with a city flavor).

I am sure Don will stop by...

Anonymous said...

A BBQ sounds great!!

Anonymous said...

I'm so confused by that last comment - who is painting their deck and who is dropping by where?

Johnny Northside said...

I'm not clear myself, but the folks being invited seem to know what's up. There are general plans to invite John and Melony to a dinner at Kip and Kelly's, with Don coming over. They have each other's contact info, so they'll work out the details and, well, hopefully I'll have a chance to drop by, too.

Johnny Northside! said...

Somebody behind the scenes told me to remember to click "advanced options" and select "inactive" if you don't find what you want on the Minnesota Secretary of State's Office right away. For "River View Homes, LLC", you then get three results.

Minnesota Business Name
River View Homes, LLC

Business Type
Limited Liability Company (Domestic)

MN Statute

File Number

Home Jurisdiction

Filing Date


Renewal Due Date:

Registered Office Address
4175 W Broadway Ave
Mpls MN 55422

Registered Agent(s)
(Optional) None provided

Timothy Baylor
1716 Fremont Avenue South, Suite 2
Minneapolis MN 55403

Principal Executive Office Address
1716 fremont avenue south suite 2
minneapolis MN 55403

Filing History
Renewal History

Filing History
04/03/2002 Original Filing - Limited Liability Company(Domestic)

04/03/2002 Limited Liability Company (Domestic) Business Name

02/04/2004 Limited Liability Company (Domestic) Business Name

01/07/2008 Administrative Termination - Limited Liability Company (Domestic)

Second result much less interesting:

Third result note the link between "River View Homes, LLC" and "River View Partners I, LLC"

Minnesota Business Name
River View Homes, LLC

Business Type
Name Reservation

MN Statute

File Number

Filing Date

8/27/2004 5:00:00 PM


Renewal Due Date:

Registered Agent(s)
(Optional) None provided

Nameholder Nameholder Address
River View Partners I, LLC 4175 W Broadway Ave, Mpls, MN 55422

I might add that for all its flaws, the Minnesota Secretary of State's website is so much more user friendly than the one in TEXAS.