Faces of Foreclosure: Patrick Fishell - Phoenix, AZ

May 5, 2011

By Matt Hoffman

Meet Patrick Fishell – a man who’s intimately familiar with the foreclosure crisis. He’s lost three properties to bank repossession and had court today to avoid the fourth. This afternoon Patrick and I sat down in a hotel room here at the Thunderbird Suites in Scottsdale, Arizona to get a handle on the human face of the mortgage meltdown… a phenomenon he says was orchestrated by our banks. According to Patrick, carelessness played no part in the Great Recession – “These foreclosures stem from an intentional, calculated effort on the part of the owners of the private Federal Reserve Bank”.

Patrick sits across from me wearing a mechanic’s shirt complete with nametag. He’s in his fifties, has the calloused hands of homo faber, and seems reserved; as if he’s not sure what he’s getting himself in to by speaking with me. He’s well spoken and well informed and often returns to a lack of self-education or self-interest from the public as an integral cause of this whole crisis.

A boat-builder by trade, Patrick’s now an independent contractor maintaining postal boxes and locks in and around Phoenix. In 1990 he sold a business and properties in Saipan, where he was building dinner-cruise ships, to move his family to Phoenix and start a 110-acre ostrich farm. In 1992, he says, “the bottom dropped out”. He returned to his trade and did work for local boat dealerships for years until burning out around 2000. Like many approaching the millennium, he decided to take a shot at real estate.

After a brokerage course, Patrick began “buying junkers and fixing them up”. As a builder, he had all the translatable skills to make it work. All was well until 2008 when he was “left holding too many mortgages”, six in all, as the market collapsed.

As he was losing the first two properties to bank repossession, Patrick hit the books. He scoured the blogs and public records, consulted with attorneys, and did everything within his power to arm himself with the means to fight off foreclosure. “What they [the banks] are doing is completely illegal but uncovering the evidence is quite difficult.”

Patrick leans in, his forehead ripples with wrinkles, and with conviction he says, “nearly every foreclosure in America is a theft of real property.” He faults public disinterest and ignorance for making the banks’ heist exponentially easier. The lawyers and judges are culpable too as they’ve traditionally held the presumption that major U.S. financial institutions are “Too Big to Fraud”.

When asked what he’d want to say to other homeowners who, like him, are at the mercy of the banks and the American legal system that they fund, Patrick is animated and indignant.

“What’s being done to you is completely unlawful – your ignorance is being used against you. If you want to fight it you’ll have to study intensely. If you’re not committed to that, walk away.” He winces when I suggest that, in America, politics is a spectator sport. In this game (the New Economy), everyone on the sidelines is a guaranteed loser.

Asked about what he thought the majority of homeowners would do when faced with losing their properties, Patrick said, “Most people want a stress free life; to watch TV and have a beer. If you voluntarily consent to being stripped of your rights, you kind of deserve what you get.”

He wasn’t optimistic about our popular commitment to political participation.

“I think the vast majority of people will choose not to engage. They’re mostly followers. They’ll throw their intellectual weight behind a small, dedicated group who presents the facts well. That’s the only hope but, until that happens, there’ll be no general uprising.”

In the middle of a battle to maintain possession of two properties, Patrick tells me he’s tried to shield his wife from this whole episode.

“I have a self-interest here…and an inherent interest. It’s not her fight. I’ve always been in to law and politics. It started when I was 15 years old and got my first paycheck. I looked at all the taxes and said to myself ‘Hey, that’s my money!’ I’ve always wanted to understand the system I lived in.” I tell him I’m not sure that a person can make sense out of the system we’re living in anymore.

I can tell Patrick’s getting antsy. He’s called off this morning to go to court and he’s eager to get back to work. I ask him how he thinks the two pending property repossessions will end.

“They [American Home Mortgage] thought I was bluffing and they called my bluff and foreclosed. I told them that I was sure that their foreclosures were fraudulent. In their arrogance, they did it anyway. They also left a nice paper trail and it will be used against them.”

We shake hands and the postal contractor stands up to get back to work. Watching him walk down the hotel stairs to the courtyard, you’d have never known that Patrick also moonlights as a real estate activist.