A few months back, thousands of people rallied around a 100-year-old Will County woman who was facing foreclosure.
Agnes Albinger, or "Aunt Aggie" has lived on a 70-acre patch of farmland in Will County for nearly five decades and raised 40 foster children there. Though the farm was debt-free for much of that time, Albinger allegedly took out a $100,000 mortgage on the farm in 2000 and "then began to sign over parcels of land to a trust and also to a company called Phoenix Horizon LLC, which according to state records was formed by Albinger's niece, Bridget Gruzdis," the Chicago Tribune reported in April.
Albinger said she remembers signing some papers--but had no knowledge of the mortgage debt. Police have been investigating whether the elderly woman had full knowledge of the papers she was signing, though Gruzdis claims she did. Police are also investigating how Albinger's niece was able to borrow $700,000 against the property. Gruzdis, who has already presented Albinger with at least one eviction notice, has continued her efforts to sell the property--which will be put to an end this week.
On Friday, the Southtown Star reported that Gruzdis has been representing herself as a commercial real estate agent--but does not have a real estate license.
"Buying and selling real estate require extensive knowledge, good judgement and unquestionable honestly. When someone practices this profession without the necessary license, they are demonstrating they don't have those assets," Donald Seasock, of the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, told the Southtown Star. A cease and desist order has been issued against Bridget Gruzdis and her firm, Phoenix Horizon LLC.
Since Albinger's story broke, First Midwest Bank executives halted foreclosure proceedings against her while the situation is being investigated by Monee police. Also, Sen. Dick Durbin's office and Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan's office have vowed to look into the matter.
Meanwhile, Albinger's friend Jim Armstrong has rallied supporters and worked to fix up the rundown farm. More than 100 people have volunteered to help since the story surfaced. Armstrong also started SaveAgnesFarm.com, where he keeps people posted about the situation.
"I'd like to stay here until I die," Albinger told the Tribune in April. "This is my home. This was my land. I owned everything once. I worked awful hard on this place to make it what it was."
Will County sheriff's police spokesman Pat Barry told the Southtown Star Albinger won't be going anywhere for awhile.
"I want to thank all of those wonderful people, all those wonderful people who are trying to help," Albinger said. "They are the reason [the bank executives] are trying to stop the foreclosure."
Albinger turns 101 on August 20.