For the second time in four months, El Paso businessman Billy Abraham is trying to stop a courthouse foreclosure sale on a valuable historic Downtown property he owns.
This time it’s the Toltec Building, and the auction was set for last Tuesday, Jan 2.
But Abraham filed suit Dec. 29 and obtained a temporary restraining order to block the sale, which stems from a delinquent debt.
A Friday hearing to determine whether the sale should go forward or go to court was canceled at the request of Abraham’s attorney, Carlos Cardenas.
Abraham lost the landmark freight depot at 420 N. Campbell in a similar bout in September with Isha Rogers and Steve Santamaria, who took the historic depot off his hands for $950,000.
Santamaria and Rogers, daughter of the late El Paso Mayor Jonathan Rogers, are taking the same steps to acquire the Toltec Building.
Built in 1910 at 717 E. San Antonio, the Toltec Building is on the National Register of Historic Places and could be the most valuable property in Abraham’s collection of historic but dilapidated buildings Downtown.
It’s where Abraham’s late father, the well-known attorney Joseph “Sib” Abraham, had his offices with Cardenas, who still practices there.
Abraham, whose ownership interests in the Toltec are under Franklin Acquisitions LLC, also has a personal apartment in the building, which the city has sought to condemn.
Property records show he borrowed $340,000 from Charles Haddad in 2013, using the Toltec Building as security. As of Dec. 4, he owed Haddad $409,000. He also borrowed from Haddad against a Downtown warehouse and farm acreage in the Upper Valley that are also at stake in the foreclosure.
Rogers and Santamaria, operating through Olive Corp. LLC, bought Abraham’s note from Haddad and initiated foreclosure proceedings that would lead to a public sale of the Toltec Building, according to their attorney, Victor Firth.
The lawsuit Cardenas filed on Abraham’s behalf also challenges Olive Corp.’s right to call for full payment of the delinquent note and to then take foreclosure actions against the property when the debt wasn’t paid immediately.
Most loan agreements have an acceleration clause that requires a borrower to pay off the loan immediately if a certain number of payments are missed.
Abraham also claims he didn’t receive adequate notice of the foreclosure.
“Mr. Haddad’s a nice man, and he finally ran out of patience,” said Firth, who also represented Rogers and Santamaria in their acquisition of the freight depot.
If the Toltec Building goes to a foreclosure sale, Firth intends to conduct the auction and bid for possession of the building on behalf of Rogers and Santamaria’s company, as he did in the freight depot auction.
Abraham, who sought unsuccessfully to block the sale of the depot in court, is challenging Firth’s ability to serve as both auctioneer and bidder at a Toltec foreclosure sale.
Firth said the Dec. 29 lawsuit is clearly a delay tactic, as was canceling Friday’s hearing.
Neither Abraham nor Cardenas could be reached for comment.
As for the freight depot, he said. “We’re still in the planning stages. It’s in good hands now.”
Abraham has been in hot water with the city for years over the deteriorating condition of his Downtown buildings, some of El Paso’s most historic.
Over the years, the city has filed a number of enforcement actions against Abraham for code violations. And, in the past, hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of property taxes have gone delinquent before Abraham has paid them, court documents show.
Santamaria declined to discuss his and Rogers’ latest move to acquire the Toltec Building or the litigation.
Haddad, too, declined to discuss his involvement except to say he thinks Santamaria and Rogers have the right thing in mind.
“There’s a lot of people interested in cleaning up Downtown,” Haddad said. “Downtown is not going to be redeveloped unless they get rid of these crummy buildings.
“They’re looking to get the buildings that are run down, remodel them and fix them up to make Downtown more beautiful and more appealing to people that are coming in.”
Email El Paso Inc. reporter David Crowder at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (915) 534-4422, ext. 122 and (915) 630-6622.