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September 29, 2010

850 properties up for auction.

September 29, 2010

The Times Leader
By Jennifer Learn-Andes This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Former Old River Road Bakery building removed from today's back-tax sale.

Ashley resident Antonio Mannino spent hours in the Luzerne County Courthouse on Tuesday researching properties that he might attempt to purchase at today’s back-tax sale.

Roughly 850 properties will be listed for auction, with bids starting at the amount of back taxes owed.


The Luzerne County Tax Claim Office buzzed with activity Tuesday because of today's back tax sale in the county courthouse rotunda. A steady stream of people filed into the office to pay taxes and register to bid on properties that will be auctioned.


Mannino, a 20-plus-year veteran of tax sales, said bidders must do their homework because they’re also buying other outstanding non-tax debts attached to a property, including delinquent mortgage, utility and credit card bills that have been filed as liens.

“It’s very high risk. There are a lot of obstacles, and if you miss one lien you could be in big trouble,” he said between phone calls and searches on a terminal in the second-floor Prothonotary’s Office.

In the County Tax Claim Office below, a steady stream of people registered to bid in the sale or made payments to keep their properties out of the sale. A few carried a wad of cash.

Roughly 5,560 were originally eligible for the sale, with outstanding taxes dating to 2008 and prior.

Unless the delinquent taxes are paid, properties may be removed from a sale only if the property is tied up in an active bankruptcy proceeding, a judge removes it from the sale or the owner sticks to a repayment agreement. The structure of repayment agreements is set by state law – 25 percent down with the remainder paid off within a year, according to Northeast Revenue Service LLC, which has been operating the county tax claim office since May.

Some property owners headed to court in recent days to obtain court orders.

For example, the former Old River Road Bakery building, which is owned by Wilkes-Barre, was removed from the sale by a judge because the city argued the county had inadvertently misidentified parcel descriptions in official records and would be selling property that does “not exist.”

The court determined the property will be listed in a future sale if taxes are still owed after any record errors have been corrected. More than $500,000 in unpaid taxes is listed as owed on the building, which the city plans to sell to Leo Glodzik, owner of LAG Towing.

Some other examples of court-ordered removals from the sale:

• A Lake Harmony man successfully obtained more time to try to sell his five delinquent properties, which are listed with a Realtor.

• Maryland-based BSE Properties LLC convinced the court to remove three parcels from the sale, including the former Academy Super Market on Academy Street in Wilkes-Barre, arguing that the properties “are being rehabilitated and addressed” and that formal notice of the sale was not received on all the properties.

• The owners of four West Wyoming properties, including the former Moonlight Drive-In, obtained removal from the sale, arguing that the properties are involved in a condemnation action.

• A Kingston man promised the court that he will pay off the taxes when he completes a pending cell-phone tower lease.

The former Hotel Sterling in Wilkes-Barre was also removed from the sale because it is tax-exempt and should not have been listed, Northeast Revenue representatives said.

Fifty-six bidders have registered for today’s sale. Properties that don’t sell today will be listed in a future sale unless the property owners pay the debt in the meantime. The next auction stage, known as a judicial sale, allows bidders to acquire properties free of any taxes, liens and mortgages.

Mannino said he was eyeing five possible purchases at today’s sale, which begins at 10 a.m. in the courthouse rotunda. He visits the properties to examine the exteriors so he can weigh the cost of the taxes, liens and expected repairs against the potential worth of a structure after it is renovated.

Properties purchased by Mannino are then rented out or sold, he said.

Bidders must attest, under penalty of perjury, that they have no delinquent property taxes or municipal utility bills and landlord license revocations in the county.

Mannino said he found some hefty credit card and mortgage debts attached to properties listed in today’s sale, more than usual.

“I’ve come up with the theory that this is a reflection of the economy, and it’s not good,” Mannino said.

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City of Scranton Policies

Scranton taxpayers are now able to make delinquent tax payments by credit card, debit card or electronic check on our website In addition, our search function now provides information on every delinquent tax parcel in the City of Scranton.