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Condo foreclosure costs Buddy Johnson $415K

SARASOTA — A circuit judge entered a $415,878 judgment against former Hillsborough Elections Supervisor Buddy Johnson on Wednesday, completing a foreclosure action on a mortgage loan he took out to buy a luxury condo in Sarasota in 2006.

Johnson last made his $3,066 monthly condo payment in January 2007. When the foreclosure order was entered Monday, he also owed Sarasota property taxes of $6,775, as well as $1,474 for condo association dues at the Rivo at Ringling Condominium in downtown Sarasota.

Sarasota Elections Supervisor Kathy Dent said Wednesday that Johnson phoned her after his election loss to Phyllis Busansky in November and asked if Dent and her husband were interested in buying his condo in a "short sale," or for less money than Johnson owed.

The 13-floor Rivo condo is just three blocks from Dent's office, has a view of the water from the balcony and was nicely decorated, said Dent, who visited when a tenant occupied the unit. "But we just weren't interested," Dent said.

In signing for $452,907 in loans on the condo, and $920,000 in mortgages on a 20-acre Thonotosassa property he purchased in 2007, Johnson saddled himself with $1.35 million in debt, more than 10 times his $132,414 annual salary as election chief.

Countrywide Home Loans filed its foreclosure suit against Johnson in August. Asked about the suit then, Johnson said he had secured a contract to sell the condo in the near future, adding that he was "confident this issue will be resolved favorably for me and Countrywide and that the property will sell in the next few weeks."

That never happened.

Now Johnson is also trying to sell the property in Thonotosassa, including a decades-old two-bedroom, one-bath, 884-square-foot home he said he moved into in the spring of 2007.

A month after his election loss, Johnson listed the aging frame home and about three of his 20 acres at 5010 Thonotosassa Road as a "pre-foreclosure special," asking $179,900 and noting the property features zoning that "allows for mobile homes as well as horses!"

The Thonotosassa property is where Johnson used a $20-a-year lease to a cow exhibitor last year to gain an agricultural tax exemption that reduced the taxable value of his land by more than $560,000. After winning the greenbelt exemption, Johnson erected a sign listing seven acres of his land for sale and promising "exclusive residences" in the "deed restricted" Oak Creek subdivision.

Johnson, who could not be reached for comment Wednesday, bought the Thonotosassa acreage in March 2007 for $800,000 and financed it with a $520,000 loan from Cecil and Nita Bass, the sellers, and a $400,000 loan from Sunshine State Savings, whose president, Floyd Hall, was then Johnson's re-election campaign treasurer.

Jeff Testerman can be reached at (813) 226-3422 or testerman@sptimes.com.

Condo foreclosure costs Buddy Johnson $415K 01/28/09 [Last modified: Thursday, January 29, 2009 12:04am]
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