Stories

The IRE Resource Center is a major research library containing more than 27,000 investigative stories.

Most of our stories are not available for download but can be easily ordered by contacting the Resource Center directly at 573-882-3364 or rescntr@ire.org where a researcher can help you pinpoint what you need.

Search results for "liens" ...

  • Democrat and Chronicle: Rochester food truck builder burns customers nationwide

    When reporters at the Democrat and Chronicle received a call from a distressed food truck owner who had been burned by a local food truck builder, a quick records check revealed a surprising tally of lawsuits and tax liens for what had been regarded as a prominent local business. That led to a six-month investigation that revealed a business in a downward spiral, bringing down customers across the country as they cut corners on workmanship and accepted deposits of $10,000 to $42,500 and strung customers along for months. The gripping narrative painted a sobering downside to the hot food truck industry.
  • California Prosecution Fees

    The Desert Sun uncovered how residents of three cities in the Coachella Valley were being billed massive fees that paid for private attorneys the city had contracted to go after the residents' for minor city code violations. Petty offenses, like having a messy yard or hanging a Halloween decoration on a street light, led to thousands or tens of thousands of dollars being demanded of the residents. If they couldn't pay, liens were assessed. Following the reporting, the cities stopped the practice, state lawmakers made it illegal in California and a class-action lawsuit led to at least one city refunding the residents.
  • Lien on Me

    It seemed, at first, to be an isolated case of an aggressive bill collector going after a patient, but six months after KUSA-TV heard an initial complaint, the station’s investigative team found a widespread practice of surgeons using the courts to secure thousands from their patients. The practice has left the hundreds of thousands of people with insurance vulnerable to lawsuits, wage garnishments and property liens. “Lien on Me” has legislators promising change and the region’s largest group of surgeons promising to back off.
  • Many Unhappy Returns: Georgia recoups up to $6.4M after WSB-TV tax fraud investigation

    In what’s turned out to be the largest tax fraud case of its kind in state history, Georgia is beginning to recoup $6.4 million from taxpayers who submitted returns with inflated refunds, based on the schemes of a longtime tax preparer who also happens to be a local elected official. The state investigation was launched after WSB-TV dug into that official's past and uncovered a trail of civil fraud judgments, tax liens, taxpayer complaints and investment schemes. She had escaped any real consequences, until now.
  • Profiting Off the Poor

    This series of columns examines the damage caused by repeated abuses of Texas adverse possession laws by companies headed by Douglas T. "Chase" Fonteno. The series outlines the complex nature of Fonteno's interlocking businesses and the web of deceit that helped hide his real estate transactions from county, state and federal agencies. He claimed deeds to other people's houses, without the real owners' knowledge or consent, and sold those houses to unsuspecting people who, in almost all cases, were poor, uneducated and often spoke little English. The series uncovered millions of dollars in unpaid taxes and liens, along with other nefarious activities that appear to have included document forgery and misuse of a Texas notary stamp. Fonteno's antics helped delay urban development in one of Dallas's most downtrodden urban neighborhoods.
  • Homes for the Taking: Liens, Loss and Profiteers.

    In the nation’s capital, predatory investors took hundreds of homes from the elderly and poor over tax debts as small as $44 in a devastating series of foreclosures unchecked by city leaders. In 2013, The Washington Post launched an unprecedented investigation of the District of Columbia’s century-old tax-lien program, finding investors who routinely tacked on thousands in fees to tax bills, turning $500 delinquencies into $5,000 debts and making it impossible for families to save their homes. A 95-year-old church choir leader lost her house while she was in a nursing home with Alzheimer’s. So did a flower shop owner in a coma. “Homes for the Taking” outraged the District like few other scandals in years, with city leaders immediately approving reforms to protect the city’s most vulnerable homeowners.
  • Prognosis: Profits

    In their quest for growth and profits, large nonprofit hospitals in North Carolina have pushed up healthcare costs, paid executives millions and left thousands with bills they struggle to pay. In a joint investigation, the Charlotte Observer and the News & Observer of Raleigh found that urban hospitals in North Carolina have generated some of the nation’s largest profit margins and have amassed billions of dollars in reserves. Hospitals in the Charlotte area have sued thousands of needy patients they could afford to help, frequently putting liens on their homes and damaging their credit. Raleigh-Durham hospitals, meanwhile, have sent collection agencies after thousands of patients, ruining the credit ratings of many in the process.
  • Bailed Out Banks Snap Up Tax Liens

    Many big banks that were bailed out by taxpayers were not helping those taxpayers, but instead buying tax liens. Many of those tax liens purchases were in the same neighborhoods as homes those same banks were foreclosing on.
  • Breaking Point: Personal tales of New Jersey's tax crush

    This investigation into New Jersey's highest-in-the-nation property tax system found that it is forcing people out of their homes, fueling the big business of tax lien sales, forcing homeowners to pay billions in extra taxes because of the faulty assessment system. Loopholes in the law allow billionaires and land developers to get a 98 percent tax break.
  • Are Your Papers in Order

    The series reveals how the Sheriff of Maricopa County rounded up illegal aliens for deportation in an effort to remove illegal immigrants. The way this was done was arresting many people without probable cause and simple issues, such as traffic stops. Further, he was stopping darker colored people with alleged infractions and later checking on their residency to determine if they had to be deported or not.