July 26, 2013 — -- A woman in McArthur, Ohio, about 70 miles south of Columbus, said a bank mistakenly cleared items from her home, confusing it for a foreclosed house across the street, then demanded receipts when she asked to be compensated for her missing possessions.
Katie Barnett, 36, a nurse, said her family had left for about two weeks last month and returned to find the locks on their home had changed and many of their belongings had been taken.
"We called the cops and they said they thought it was a squatter," she said.
Two dressers and clothing for her five children were taken, as well as items from outside their home, including pool cleaning supplies and patio furniture, she said.
Weeks later, she said, police told her that a bank representative had contacted them, saying someone was living in a foreclosed home: the Barnett's one-story, three-bedroom home.
"Obviously I wanted to find out what bank it was. I was mad about the whole situation," said Barnett.
She later learned First National Bank in Wellston, of which she is not a customer, had mistaken her home for a bank-owned property across the street.
A bank employee told 10TV News that the bank is trying to come to an agreement with Barnett.
"A GPS had led them to my house, the president of the bank told me," Barnett said. "They also said my grass hadn't been mowed so they just assumed that was the house."
Barnett explained that her address number, 514, is clearly marked on her mailbox, as is the address of the foreclosed home, 509.
"I have a house across the street from me; the house that should have been repossessed is two houses down from them," she explained.
Barnett's home is not the first that a bank has mistaken for a foreclosed property. Two weeks ago, a couple in Fort Worth, Texas, discovered their home was confused for a vacant home, then mistakenly demolished.
She asked the bank for compensation for the missing items, which she estimated were worth $18,000. The most expensive items were two car engines and parts worth about $9,000, Barnett said.
"He told me that I would probably need receipts for everything that they took and they were not paying retail," she said. "I told him I wasn't running a yard sale and asking them to make me an offer. I told him I don't keep receipts around for everything I have just in case a bank comes by and steals my stuff. And if I did, where do you think it would be? With the stuff that you threw away."
First National Bank did not respond to multiple requests for comment. In a message on its website, the bank explained its side of the story.
First National Bank president and CEO Anthony Thorne wrote that "two representatives of the First National Bank of Wellston were assigned to clean and refurbish a bank-owned residential property." Thorne said a GPS locator "led them to the wrong home, which was located on the same street as the target property (we have since retraced their route using the same GPS, and it again took us to the same wrong location). As we discovered later, the property to which they were directed actually belonged to another individual."
Thorne explained, "This situation was a mistake on the part of our bank and – as we have done previously – we sincerely apologize to the homeowner for the inconvenience and concern it may have caused. In addition, we communicated to the homeowner our desire to compensate her fairly and equitably for her inconvenience and loss."
"However, the written list of items that she provided to us – and the value she assigned to those items – is inconsistent with the list and descriptions of items removed that was prepared by the employees who did the work, and with the list and values of missing items provided by the homeowner herself as recorded in an earlier telephone conversation with one of our representatives," Thorne wrote. "In a meeting with me in my office, I indicated to the homeowner that we wanted to compensate her but would have to look further into the differences in the lists. We heard nothing more from her or otherwise about this situation until being contacted by a local television station, which subsequently broadcast a story that, from our perspective, did not accurately reflect the facts or the good faith actions of the First National Bank to resolve the situation."
Barnett said she has an attorney and plans to bring a lawsuit.
"We are definitely going to bring a lawsuit," she said. "I gave them a chance and they are not willing to work with me."
In the meantime, Barnett and her family are living in the home with the furniture that was left behind, including their beds. The Barnetts moved into the home in 2001.
"I've had to purchase clothes for the kids to wear. We are unable to use the pool this summer. I can't afford to get that stuff again with the pool. I've been doing what I can."
Her children, ages 6 to 18 have passed the time on their summer break without the pool.
"It's kind of ruined their summer, that's for sure," she said.