When Todd Allen went to bed the night of Thursday, June 2, his mind had already fast-forwarded to the following workday, when he was to show up at a Bank of America branch in Naples, Fla., along with a moving truck and two sheriff’s deputies prepared to act on the attorney’s written instructions. If BofA didn’t pay money owed to his clients Warren and Maureen Nyerges—more than $2,500 in costs the Nyergeses accumulated in a pro se defense against an erroneous foreclosure filing—the deputies were to begin removing filing cabinets, chairs, desks, copiers and computers. Cash, too. Straight from the tellers’ drawers.
Allen was nervous. “I didn’t sleep at all,” he says. Though he didn’t exactly want to do it, he says the bank’s failure to respond to previous attempts to collect the court-ordered judgment left him no choice. Now, with a court-ordered writ of execution behind him, the attorney was “prepared to clean out the bank.” (The writ of execution would allow his clients to obtain judgment money from the proceeds of BofA property acquired by the sheriff’s office and auctioned at a sheriff’s sale.) Though the authorization to seize property was not technically a “foreclosure,” its deployment was certainly reminiscent of one, only with the traditional roles turned upside down. The narrative was tailor-made for TV news cameras.
It also proved to be tailor-made for the Internet. After one local crew captured the next-day’s action, complete with footage of the giant moving truck, articles and videos began appearing on sites like The Huffington Post, Yahoo News, YouTube and more. In a real estate market in which so many families have had their own property reclaimed by banks (4.5 million households are either three payments late or in foreclosure proceedings, says CNBC), the idea of homeowners turning the tables was bound to evoke, for some, a certain sense of schadenfreude. Many online commenters responded with glee.
Just eight months into his career as an attorney with the Law Office of Conrad Willkomm, P.A, Allen didn’t anticipate such a vast media explosion. In the week ensuing his initial publicity, he did a string of interviews with national and even international outlets, one of the latter keeping him up until 2:00 a.m. “I expected it to run in the local media,” he said of the story last week. “It’s overwhelming now. I just got a call from the Jon Stewart show.” Warren Nyerges was similarly surprised by all the attention. “Never in my wildest hallucinations did I ever dream this,” he says. Maureen Nyerges, who was present when the sheriff’s deputies showed up at BofA, described that experience as “surreal.” While flattered by the YouTube responses, she was also caught off-guard. “I thought, ‘Oh my gosh this is so weird, people I’ve never met are making their own videos regarding our situation.'”
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