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Federal funds help a mildly retarded man keep his house, but his lawyers say he still needs to get some money back.
By JON WILSON
© St. Petersburg Times, published December 6, 2000
ST. PETERSBURG -- First, some lawyers and some city government employees made sure Tom Szucs wouldn't lose his longtime home.
Now lawyers are suing on behalf of Szucs to help the mildly retarded man get back money he lost by signing a mortgage note Szucs says he didn't understand.
The mortgage broker should have known Szucs was not capable of understanding the transaction, the suit says.
Lawyers George Rahdert, who handles First Amendment cases for the Times, and Penelope T. Bryan have asked that Szucs get refunds and damages.
Named in court documents are Hinkson-Grimes and Associates, the Tampa-based mortgage broker; Bay Financial Savings Bank, the lending institution; Gregory A. Rideout, a notary public who, according to court documents, improperly notarized the mortgage; and Arthur Murray dance studio, where Szucs bought lessons.
Court documents say the mortgage company prepared the loan application despite knowing about Szucs' limitations and his small, fixed income. The documents also say the company used on the application information it "knew or should have known to be false."
The suit also asks that Arthur Murray dance studio return the money Szucs paid for lessons after receiving the mortgage money.
A Bay Financial spokeswoman declined comment. So did Frank Grimes of Hinkson-Grimes, saying he had not yet seen the suit. Rideout could not be reached.
Russell Hicks, owner of the Arthur Murray studio on 66th Street N, said he didn't know Szucs is limited mentally. "He could have had a stroke; we don't know," Hicks said.
Szucs, 60, signed the mortgage note in February for $25,000.His only source of income is a $665 monthly disability payment.
The loan netted Szucs about $19,000 after costs, but he spent most of it, including about $6,000 on dance lessons, according to receipts.
Szucs was unable to meet the monthly payments of $307.29, and he faced foreclosure proceedings on the house at 782 48th Ave. N.
The city found federal funds to pay off Szucs' note, but Szucs still is out various fees.
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