Today, her stack of foreclosure paperwork is four feet tall. But in 2009, Donna Fasi's troubles began with one letter: Wells Fargo notified her that the fixed-rate mortgage on her 36-acre farm in Gypsum, Colorado would be adjusting to a higher interest rate. She struggled, for weeks and then months, with an attempt to stop this from happening before considering a loan modification. "That's where my nightmare began," she says.
Right now, Fasi lives with her husband Doug and their teens, Sarah and Jimmy, on a small honey farm that happens to come with a $327,000 bank note. The family watches over one million bees in a large apiary, and they sell their nectar in a flower shop close to home. On the side, 54-year-old Donna is a part-time accountant and 59-year-old Doug works in construction. They used to keep cattle and hogs, but they gave the animals up around the time they began to worry if they'd still have a place to put them.
A combination of confusion and fear -- that they'd miss a payment, that they'd lose the house -- prompted the Fasis to keep up their mortgage payment even when it increased. When she asked loan officers at Wells Fargo to stabilize it again, she questioned their advice: Refinancing is only available to those who are a minimum of three months behind, she was told, and she had not missed a payment in 26 years.
But to qualify for the action, at the direction of the lender, she skipped a payment -- and then another, and another. In her mind, she never defaulted on anything.
"If I had kept my payments current, I would not be in this situation," Fasi says. "They should have done one or the other: taken our payments and allowed us to come current, or given us the loan modification in a timely manner to avoid the foreclosure process from kicking in. I've heard the exact some story from everyone, and all I say now is, 'Don't try to get a loan modification, and don't get a mortgage.' That's what I tell my accounting clients now: 'Don't go through the same heartbreak we have.'"
Soon, Fasi's credit score, previously in the 700s, lowered noticeably, and she learned from a growing stack of paperwork that Wells Fargo had turned her loan over to foreclosure attorneys at Castle & Stawiarski. One of those attorneys signed an affidavit verifying that HSBC Bank had the right to foreclose on her home. In doing so, she says, the bank used a loan note she did not recognize. It did not include her initials or the original rate she and her husband agreed to, and she and her attorneys are considering future legal action alleging fraud.
From there, the paperwork continued to build. As a result of their raising debt, the Fasis filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy, and they face eviction from the farm by the end of the summer. Fasi and her lawyer will meet for a hearing on June 8, and they have requested a stay on the proceedings in the interim through Eagle County Court, but neither effort has encouraged her to hope.
"In the next thirty days, we'll know which way is up, but we're not counting anything," Fasi says. "We're trying to find somewhere to live. "They're going to take the property, and that's a fact."
And if they do, she will be inside. Pending any continuations of the case, if a judge decides against Fasi's arguments, she and her family will have 48 hours to vacate the premises, but she has no intention of doing so. "They will have to drag me out," she says. "It is my home, it always was my home, and it will be my home until that second."
In the meantime, the Fasi family has joined with the Colorado Progressive Coalition, a member of the Colorado Foreclosure Resistance Coalition, to pursue other options, including a potential protest at the Fasi farm. The Fasis discovered the group after hearing about its push for Initiative 84, a state constitutional amendment to require legal proof of ownership for all foreclosures.
"We are very much on her side and will help her protect her home as needed," says Corrine Fowler, CPC economic justice director. "Her story is way too common."
More from our News archive: "Gang problems escalating in schools and neighborhoods, says activist."
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.