A Plains Township townhouse carrying delinquent taxes dating back to 1990 was sold for $55,000 at Thursday’s special free-and-clear sale.
Patrick and Anna Regan owed $142,582 in taxes on the property but avoided tax auctions over two decades by filing four bankruptcies and signing up for a payment plan they didn’t honor, county officials say.
Determined to make the property available to taxpaying bidders, county tax-claim operator Northeast Revenue Service LLC convinced a judge to forbid further sale removals due to bankruptcies.
Multiple bid cards popped up Thursday when Northeast Revenue representative John Rodgers announced the townhouse at a starting bid of $2,066.50 during the free-and-clear auction, where back taxes and other liens are forgiven.
Jenkins Township resident Robert Stackhouse prevailed with a bid of $55,000, which will be split among taxing bodies as partial compensation for what’s owed.
Stackhouse said he plans to fix up the townhouse for resale. The Clarks Lane property is assessed at $167,400.
“This property has been in and out of sales for awhile. It will be good to see it go back on the tax rolls,” Stackhouse said. “It’s a nice property.”
He has experience cleaning up tax-distressed structures, saying he has purchased around 60 properties from past back-tax auctions.
Shavertown resident Mikhail Chinikaylo paid the second highest amount for a property Thursday, beating multiple competitors with a bid of $45,000 for a 900-square-foot, one-story ranch home on half an acre at 36 Circle Drive in Kingston Township.
The two-bedroom property, owned by the trustees for Walter and Betty Heck, is assessed at $102,300.
The former Hottle’s Restaurant on South Main Street in Wilkes-Barre was taken off the sales list because William and Lynn Kravits recently sold the property to 243 S. Main Street, LLC, for $1,000.
The new owner filed a court action this week requesting a payment installment plan, and County Judge Michael T. Vough granted the request. The new owner put down $7,294 and must repay the remaining roughly $20,000 in back taxes in installments.
Michael Burns signed the court paperwork on behalf of 243 S. Main Street. The eatery closed in 2010 after 73 years in business.
Hazle Township businessman James Lagana ended up filing for bankruptcy to get six of his properties out of the sale, including his Butler Township mansion.
Lagana has filed court petitions to get other properties he owned removed from past sales, and he did the same for seven properties listed in Thursday’s sale. Lagana argued in his court paperwork he was attempting to refinance so he could pay the $50,000 in back taxes owed. Judge Vough denied the request.
One of Lagana’s properties, a 0.35-acre parcel with no building in Butler Township, was listed in the sale because it’s owned by Lagana Enterprises Inc. and was not covered by Lagana’s personal bankruptcy, but there were no bidders.
A property on Orchard Street in Plymouth also was pulled from the sale because owner William H. Hazlett filed for bankruptcy, Rodgers said.
Bidders paid a combined $336,945 to purchase 43 properties at the free-and-clear sale, and 29 generated bidding wars. Eleven properties did not sell and will end up in the repository, a pool of hundreds of properties available for purchase at any time.
Six properties also were up for grabs at a first-stage sale Thursday, with liens and back taxes still attached. Two sold for a combined $24,358.
Lawrence Gabriel got his now-closed, 83-year-old Hazleton restaurant — Gabriel’s — out of the first-stage sale by coming up with a deposit needed to get on a payment plan. Gabriel, 74, has suffered from health issues but is contemplating reopening the South Poplar Street eatery started by his parents.
The special auctions were held because Northeast Revenue is trying to help taxing bodies recoup revenue sooner with more frequent sales.