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Feathers will be ruffled awhile after petnapping

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Friday, March 12, 2010

They should have left the parrot on its perch.

I realize that with the notable exceptions of the myopic and hyperopic, hindsight always is 20/20. But retrospect should not be requisite to realize that you should never, ever, resort to petnapping in a mortgage-related dispute.

Bank of America is learning that lesson the hard way.

One of the world's largest financial institutions, Bank of America is drawing international ridicule after its agents seized the parrot of a Hampton woman they mistakenly believed had defaulted on her mortgage.

Yes, international ridicule.

BBC News yesterday noted that the bank sheepishly has apologised (that's the British spelling, mate) to Angela Iannelli, 47, for improperly securing her property and running off with her beloved bird last October.

What exactly is "securing," you ask?

In this instance, the word is banking terminology for hiring a contractor to break into the wrong three-story townhouse, cut the water and electrical lines, fill sinks and toilets with anti-freeze, padlock the doors and -- last but certainly not least, at least not to the BBC -- abscond with a poor parrot.

Luke, the terrified macaw, must have believed he was living some nightmarish avian re-enactment of the Lindbergh baby kidnapping.

Bank of America clearly was in the wrong. Nowhere in Iannelli's mortgage is a provision allowing the bank to hire a third party to erroneously take possession of any parrot she owns.

But although the bank has apologised, Iannelli isn't dropping the 40-page lawsuit she filed Monday against the company in Allegheny County Common Pleas Court.

The lawsuit seeks damages, and not just for the emotional distress Iannelli suffered after discovering Luke gone and seeing several feathers scattered ominously on the floor.

"This is more than a bird story," insisted Michael Rosenzweig, Iannelli's attorney. "Bank of America had no right to do this. What occurred here was breaking and entering."

Don't forget petnapping. Luke was carted off to the Ebensburg, Cambria County offices of Snyder Property Services -- the company that "secured" Iannelli's house primarily by vandalizing it.

It took more than a week before Iannelli learned Luke's whereabouts. But even after it became clear that she didn't default on the mortgage and Snyder secured the wrong address, Bank of America still didn't make arrangements to return the parrot.

Incredibly, to rescue her pet of 11 years, Iannelli had to drive to Snyder's office -- a four-hour roundtrip.

I wondered if Bank of America would have handled things differently had it known the worldwide negative publicity the incident would generate, but its communications office didn't immediately return a call.

Made me think they either were ignoring the situation in hopes it will go away, or they were out buying birdseed.

I also had no success in reaching Iannelli or Luke. They were busy taping a segment of the syndicated TV news program "Inside Edition."

The Bank of America folks probably won't be pleased to hear that.

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