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WaPo finds same tax sale crooks the Sun found 6 years ago

WaPo finds same tax sale crooks the Sun found 6 years ago

The

Washington Post

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's excellent series on tax sale scams,

, explained in detail how DC residents were forced from their homes by a brace of professional tax sale investors and an indifferent city hall. The series had pathos, drama, and three familiar names to

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Baltimore Sun

readers: Steve Berman, Jack Stollof, and Harvey Nusbaum. As the

, Fred Schulte and June Arney, former

Sun

reporters, plowed the same ground in 2007, earning for themselves a Pulitzer nomination and foreshadowing the

of  many of the tax sale profiteers for bid rigging. The

Post

hardly mentioned the

Sun

, which is kind of shitty. It would not have hurt their story at all to link to the

Sun

's earlier work. (Whether

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The Sun

would do so if the situation is reversed is unclear - the paper often credits reporting in local media, including

City Paper

, but editors seem to have a policy against crediting the scoop machine at

). There is a larger point though: Stories like the

WaPo

's and

Sun

's which point to bad actors seldom dolly back to depict the full system in play. Even though the

local

system of tax sales was well and truly explored in each instance, there is yet no hint that maybe the tax sale system in almost every US jurisdiction might feature the same small-group dynamic and clubby atmosphere that gave rise to bid rigging in Baltimore. Consider: One spring morning in 1999 I was in an Orlando, Florida area courthouse looking up land records involving David Siegel,  the now-infamous builder of the

. Just outside the main records room sat a brace of tax sale bidders, openly discussing with each other who was going to bid on which properties. I know what they were doing that because I asked, and they told me. As I recall it, we were in earshot of the clerk. The whole bid-rigging procedure was so routine that I, then preoccupied with what I thought was

,  figured it must be legal. With the benefit of hindsight—and the strong reporting of the

Baltimore Sun

and the work of the U.S. Attorney for Maryland (and now the

Washington Post

's reporting)—I've reconsidered.

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