Pittsburgh seeks OK to sell blighted properties owned by fugitive
Pittsburgh is confident it can persuade a judge Monday to sign off on the sale of four blighted Beechview properties once owned by former developer Bernardo Katz, according to the city solicitor.
Solicitor Lourdes Sanchez Ridge, who used international connections to serve Katz with legal notice of the tax delinquency sale scheduled for Oct. 30, said the city sent 40 certified letters to various Katz addresses in Brazil, Mt. Lebanon and Oklahoma.
“In my estimation, we've done more than we had to do,” Ridge said Friday. “I wanted to make sure that the judge thinks we did enough.”
Katz, 56, fled the United States in 2007 to avoid prosecution in a mortgage scheme.
Federal authorities consider him a fugitive. He is living in Brazil, which has no extradition treaty with the United States, according to published reports.
Federal authorities accused Katz of defrauding banks of about $20 million and indicted him in 2009 on charges of conspiracy and mortgage fraud. He defaulted on a $750,000 Pittsburgh Urban Redevelopment Authority loan that was intended to support improvements in Beechview, where he left behind a trail of dilapidated properties in the business district.
According to Brazilian news magazine CartaCapital, which has published several stories about Katz, he's living in a beach-front apartment overlooking Guanabara Bay in Rio de Janeiro. Katz told the publication that he is innocent of wrongdoing in the United States.
Efforts to reach him were unsuccessful.
Downtown Attorney David S. Pollock, who represented Katz in a divorce proceeding, said his former client is living in Brazil with his wife and children. Katz, he said, is an accomplished cello player and regularly performs in public.
“He's living in his home country, and he's not hiding,” said Pollock, who considers Katz a friend. “Anybody can find him. I wish I could connect you, but I'm not at liberty to do that.”
Ridge said Pittsburgh's problem was finding a good address for Katz where the city could serve him notice required by law that it intends to sell his tax-delinquent properties.
Through connections she had with Mackrell International, a worldwide consortium of attorneys sharing legal resources, Ridge found a Brazilian law firm that provided three addresses for Katz. The city sent certified letters — one letter for each property to both Katz and his wife, Holly — to all three addresses. It sent similar letters to former Katz addresses in Mt. Lebanon and Oklahoma.
All of the letters were returned. One sent to Brazil had “refused” written on it in Portuguese.
“I felt we had a duty to go a step further because we're taking someone's property,” Ridge said.
Bob Bauder is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-765-2312 or email@example.com.