The question of whether Key West should allow Bank of New York Mellon to settle $187,000 in code enforcement fines for $30,000 is complicated by a spiderweb of mortgage filings that experts and advocates say are examples of problems in the U.S. mortgage industry.
The debt is based on a 2010 lien the city filed against another banking giant JP Morgan Chase.
Chase does not appear in property records from that time relating to 923 Eaton St., the Conch cottage lost by its owner in Bankruptcy after Hurricane Wilma in 2005.
But it is one of several banks that took ownership roles of the paperwork, according to city officials.
Property records show and the former owner, Meghan Davis, who now lives in Washington D.C., confirms that the mortgage was initially held by an affiliate of Countrywide, a firm whose assets were taken over by Bank of America.
Bank of New York Mellon is the institution that seeks to have the city ease its burden. But Mellon spokesman Ron Gruendl, says they are not the property's current owners, that they are trustees for "certificate holders" of the mortgage, in this case Bank of America.
"This is what happened when investors purchased large blocks of mortgage for an investment," Gruendl said.
Kathleen Day of the Washington D.C.-based Center for Responsible Lending, a consumer advocacy organization that was co-counsel in robo-signing cases arising from the nation's mortgage crisis, says the confusing web of mortgage-holders in the Eaton Street case echoes serious problems in the mortgage industry.
"It is emblematic of how the mortgage lending industry is so infuriating," she said. "In many cases you are unable to unravel a mortgage problem. You can't figure out who is servicing a mortgage, or who owns it."
The lien the city wants to collect on was filed against the Chase Bank.
But city officials said they did not see a problem with that because the lien is against the property itself. But the city's legal staff is looking at the paperwork again to make sure everything is in order.