Despite Pandemic, Closed Building, and Federal Investigation, LC Commissioners Push Tax Sale Forward

Federal and State Government have issued a moratorium on mortgage foreclosures and evictions but Lake County Commissioners push forward with commissioner’s certificate sale.

May 17, 2020-Lake County Commissioners Mike Repay, Jerry Tippy and Kyle Allen have scheduled a sale of commissioner tax certificates to begin Monday May 18, 2020. The move comes at a time when the Commissioners have closed all Lake County offices due to the Covid-19 crisis. The Governor has issued an Executive Order banning mortgage foreclosures and evictions during the pandemic but that Order does not apply to tax sale proceedings. In the private sector, many companies are foregoing late fees and adverse actions during the Covid crisis as many are not working due to the government shutdown. NIPSCO, for example, has agreed to not terminate utility services during the crisis.

According to the website of the vendor conducting the sale, onyxelectronics.com, all bidding will be done electronically beginning on Monday May 18, 2020. After last year’s sale, it was determined that several ineligible bidders were participating in the sale and a civil lawsuit ensued when the County cancelled hundreds of certificates purchased by companies associated with Attorney Rinzer Williams and Thomas Wisniewski after it was alleged Wisniewski was an ineligible bidder. The Gazette has learned that federal officials are investigating those alleged “straw” purchases. The alleged straw purchases were uncovered after video of the sale showed Wisniewski allegedly directing bidders. County officials were unavailable to comment as to what, if any, safeguards are being utilized to prevent straw bidding at the online sale.

Commissioner Certificates are issued after a property has failed to sell at a Lake County Treasurer’s Tax Sale. Under Indiana Law, property owners are not entitled to notice prior to the sale of a Commissioner Tax Sale Certificate on their property and redemption periods are shortened after the sale.

Approximately ten thousand properties, most in Gary, have cycled through the tax sale system for years. There was renewed interest in many of these properties in recent years after legislation allowed a land-based casino near Burr Street and I-80/94.

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