January 25, 2013
A special Luzerne County back-tax auction is scheduled Wednesday for five Hazle Township commercial properties owned by one man.
The county's tax claim operator – Northeast Revenue Service LLC – proceeded with the unprecedented sale of one owner's properties in an attempt to get the properties back on the tax rolls.
Property owner James Lagana owes a combined $291,185 in school, county and municipal taxes on the five properties dating back to 2009, according to county records.
Northeast Revenue President John Rodgers said he will continue seeking special sales for properties that carry tax bills over $100,000.
Properties are supposed to be auctioned if taxes have gone unpaid for two years. To get out of a sale, property owners must pay taxes owed, file for bankruptcy or convince a judge to grant more time.
County judges had agreed to remove the properties from past sales based on Lagana's promises to repay the debt. The final court order last spring said in bold print that no further continuances will be granted.
Lagana has said he was working on a refinancing and blamed his tax difficulties on the countywide reassessment, saying his tax bills doubled on some properties.
Wednesday's sale is free and clear of liens and back taxes because the properties did not sell at a first-stage auction last June.
Bids will start at around $3,000 for each property.
The properties have a combined assessed value of $4.3 million and include commercial office and retail buildings on the Airport Beltway, including the Beltway Commons and Laurel Professional Center.
Northeast Revenue is publishing an advertisement this weekend to inform the public about the purchase opportunity.
These are some nice commercial properties. We want to make sure we have competition, said Sean Shamany of Northeast Revenue.
However, there's a possibility the sale could be canceled if creditors who are owed money for mortgages on some or all of the properties opt to pay the back taxes to gain title to the properties. Mortgage holders also are free to bid along with the general public, Shamany said.
Bidders must register by 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, and one has signed up to date, he said.
Information on the bid form is available at www.luzernecountytaxclaim.com or by calling tax claim at 825-1512.