Woman Loses Home Over $68 Dental Bill

She was effectively paying off the note on a home she no longer owned. And for various reasons, she has continued to make payments in the 12 years since, allowing Jarmaccc the chance to eventually keep the home for just the $1,550 it paid at the sheriff's auction.

Ramos estimated that she has paid more than $50,000 toward the principal loan plus interest, the bulk of which came after that 1996 sheriff's sale.

A Shocking Realization

Ramos said she didn't even learn about the sale until 1998, when Salt Lake City denied her application for a loan to do renovations on her home.

"They told me, 'You don't even own the house,'" she said. "I was dumbfounded that somebody else had the title."

But according to the court documents, a deputy sheriff signed a 1996 certificate stating that there was "due and legal notice" that the property would be sold.

Kurt Johnson, the president of the North American Collection Agency Regulatory Association and a senior investigator with the Minnesota Department of Commerce, said it was highly unusual for a collections agency to recover payments through the sale of a home that isn't facing foreclosure.

"Typically, they just put liens on the property," he said. "I've never heard of it in my 20 years in Minnesota, and I've never heard of it in any other state."

North American Recovery's president, David Saxton, did not return several phone calls from ABC News.

Lt. Kendra Herlin of the Salt Lake County Sheriff's Office said that the office generally notifies someone of a sheriff's sale either in person or by posting a notice on the property itself.

Herlin said it was "highly unlikely" that someone would not receive notification that their home was being put up for sale.

Meade, who stressed that he has no firsthand knowledge of the specifics in Ramos's case, said he found it difficult to believe that a person in Ramos's position would never receive any notification.

"The thing that's strange in my mind is her claim that she didn't know this was occurring. I find that hard to imagine, given what has to happen," he said.

But Ramos said that's what happened to her. She said the sheriff's office used an inaccurate legal description of the house and that that kept her from learning of the sale.

"The law is simply unjust when your home can be sold to satisfy such a small debt, when other property exists that could also be sold to satisfy the debt," said Ryan James, of Haskins & Associates, the Salt Lake City firm currently representing Ramos, in an e-mail to ABC News.

No Refuge in Bankruptcy

According to the appeals court decision, Jarmaccc Properties served Ramos, then Sonya Bangerter, with a notice instructing her to move out of her home in May 1998.

Ramos said she never received that notice either.

That same year, Ramos said that on the advice of a previous attorney, she filed for bankruptcy in an effort to reclaim her property.

On that lawyer's suggestion, Ramos said she structured a bankruptcy settlement that would allow her to regain the title to the house after she paid to Jarmaccc the $1,550 the company paid to buy the property.

But Ramos said that after she paid the company, it still would not relinquish ownership of the home.

Ralph Petty of Jarmaccc Properties did not return several calls to his office.

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