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Judge Likens Foreclosure Saga to ‘War and Peace’

WASHINGTON (CN) - A federal judge likened a 16-year dispute over a townhouse to "War and Peace" before dismissing the latest chapter in the saga.

"This case has so many chapters it makes 'War and Peace' look like a short story," U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell wrote.

Eastern Savings Bank has been suing George Papageorge, Earl Mitchell, Matt Banks and others since 1998, when the owners of a D.C. townhouse defaulted on their loan and Eastern Savings foreclosed on the property. These individuals countersued Eastern Savings, and heirs and other third parties soon crowded the litigation.

Since then, various lawsuits involving the bank, Papageorge, Banks and another tenant of the property have sprouted up in D.C. Superior Court and Federal Court.

"The plaintiff has settled with defendants banks and Mitchell, but now asks this court to unwind those settlements because the plaintiff alleges it was fraudulently induced into making those agreements," Howell explained.

Specifically, Eastern Savings has accused the men of violating federal anti-racketeering law by trying to wrestle control over the property with lawsuits against the bank and the people who bought the property from the bank. The bank has also alleged bank fraud, wiretapping and witness tampering.

"The plaintiff's frustration with the ongoing litigation over the property is palpable in its complaint, but none of the causes of action raised, which are entirely based on the past thirteen years of litigation, present a cognizable claim," Howell wrote, dismissing the case with prejudice.

Though the bank's RICO case against the men is closed, another case involving the parties is still pending in Superior Court.

"The fact that a dispute over what appears to be a typical home mortgage refinancing for $168,000 in 1998 has required at least three published District of Columbia Court of Appeals opinions, three actions in this court, and the present matter; at least three landlord/tenant proceedings in D.C. Superior Court; and at least one administrative hearing before the D.C. Department of Housing and Community Development, Rental Accommodations Division, is stunning," the 27-page opinion states.

He added: "The court is astounded at the amount of judicial resources consumed by this matter, and 'given the wearied and stale nature of this dispute,' the court 'is loath to extend its shelf life,' particularly since the instant case does not present any colorable claims."

Though he dismissed the case, the judge acknowledged that the parties would probably find themselves back in court.

"Nevertheless, the chapter of the sage before this court ends today," he concluded.

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