It looks like Saji Mathew will get to keep his gas station, at least for now.
The 41-year-old man faced foreclosure after missing a mortgage payment on the gas station by just one day. He made several attempts to continue paying and made a $50,000 offer in court earlier this week to settle the case that the bank refused.
On Thursday, a day after the St. Petersburg Times published an article detailing the saga, the bank, BB&T, said it would suspend the foreclosure action and work with Mathew to clear up the case.
Mathew was elated to hear the news.
"I am going to work with them," he said. "I want to resolve the issue and pay them the money. I want to get my property back and move on."
BB&T has been working with Mathew for nearly three years and regrets that the situation accelerated to this point, said David R. White, vice president of corporate communications.
"This issue was reviewed at the highest level at BB&T," White wrote in a statement. "(We) are prepared to work with Mr. Mathew to resolve this. There is more to this story than we are able to discuss, due to client confidentiality."
Mathew's attorney, Brian Gray of Fort Lauderdale, speculated that the bank is referring to a Charlotte County foreclosure case in which BB&T foreclosed on Mathew and two others for defaulting on a different gas station.
Gray cautioned that the bank has only stopped the Pinellas County foreclosure and could file it again at anytime. Still, he wants to settle the case.
"I hope my client can resolve this and be compensated for his significant legal expenses incurred by BB&T's unnecessary actions," Gray said.
In 2009, Mathew signed a $504,000 mortgage with Colonial Bank on the gas station he co-owns at 5390 Duhme Road, near the border of St. Petersburg and Seminole. The deal allowed the bank to withdraw the $4,964.93 mortgage payment on the 12th day of each month. Months later, Colonial failed. BB&T acquired the mortgage.
On Oct. 12, 2010, Mathew missed making his mortgage payment. He deposited the money the next day and expected the bank to reprocess the payment. BB&T didn't.
Mathew contacted the bank several times about the payment. After sending Mathew a letter from its attorney, the bank eventually processed the payment. The bank accepted the November and December mortgage payments but later returned them to Mathew. The bank foreclosed on Dec. 20.
In Pinellas County Circuit Court on Tuesday, Mathew offered to pay $50,000, the total owed since late last year when the bank stopped accepting his payments.
The BB&T attorney declined, a move that baffled Circuit Judge Amy Williams.
"All the people that understand anything about mortgage foreclosures need to know this stuff," Williams said in court. "This is the idiocrasy of this stuff. This is why we're in a worldwide financial crisis, because there's no business sense any more in the foreclosure industry, none. And it blows my mind. Totally blows my mind.''
Mark Puente can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8459. Follow him at Twitter at twitter.com/markapuente.