The bank billed Larry Delassus $13,361 owed by his neighbor, then foreclosed
On the morning of Dec. 19, 2012, in a Torrance courtroom, Larry Delassus’ heart stopped as he watched his attorney argue his negligence and discrimination case against banking behemoth Wells Fargo.
His death came more than two years after Wells Fargo mistakenly mixed up his Hermosa Beach address with that of a neighbor in the same condo complex. The bank’s typo led Wells Fargo to demand that Delassus pay $13,361.90 — two years of late property taxes the bank said it had paid on his behalf in order to keep his Wells Fargo mortgage afloat.
But Delassus, a quiet man who suffered from the rare blood-clot disorder Budd-Chiari syndrome and was often hospitalized, didn’t owe a penny in taxes.
One of his neighbors, whose condo “parcel number” was two digits different from Delassus’, owed the back taxes.
In a series of painfully tragic events, Wells Fargo relied on its typographical error to double Delassus’ mortgage — from $1,237.69 to $2,429.13 — as its way of recouping the $13,361.90 in taxes Delassus didn’t owe. Delassus, a retiree living on a $1,655 check, couldn’t meet the mysteriously increased mortgage. He stopped paying, and soon was far behind on his mortgage.
Delassus and his attorney did not discover until May 2010 that a mis-entered number had dragged Delassus into this spiral. As court documents obtained by L.A. Weekly show, after admitting its error, Wells Fargo foreclosed on Delassus anyway and sold his condo.
Delassus had to move to a tiny apartment in an assisted-living home in Carson.
Friends say he didn’t die of heart disease that day in court, as the coroner found. He was, they believe, killed by a system so inhumane that it could not undo a devastating piece of red tape the system itself created.