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Pueblos’ property claims spark bank feud

SANTA FE, N.M. — Claims to property in the Santa Fe area by four New Mexico pueblos have sparked a legal dispute between Los Alamos National Bank and a bank based in Kansas.

The issue has arisen as part of Wichita-based Fidelity Bank’s purchase of more than 1,000 mortgage loans from the Los Alamos bank.

The purchase, made in December 2017 for more than $5 million, gave Fidelity the servicing rights for the residential mortgages, according to a lawsuit that LANB filed last month.

Fidelity now wants LANB to repurchase the servicing rights for 240 of those mortgages, which have a value of more than $1 million, according to the suit.

The Kansas bank says the mortgages are encumbered because four pueblos and the U.S. Interior Department are claiming that the properties involved, or the roads leading to them, “illegally trespass on land owned or claimed by the pueblos,” the suit says.

Fidelity representatives did not return several phone calls seeking comment.
Robert Warburton, an Albuquerque lawyer representing LANB, said the properties are in the Santa Fe area.

He said he could not name the pueblos without first consulting with other lawyers in the case. Those lawyers, at a Dallas law firm, could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

LANB says Fidelity’s repurchase demands are “flawed and meritless” because any claims by the pueblo were made after the deal between the two banks.

The Los Alamos bank is asking a federal judge to rule that it did not breach its agreement with Fidelity and that it is not obligated to repurchase the 240 mortgages.

Although the pueblos have not been identified, a drawn out legal fight was set off several years ago when San Ildefonso Pueblo claimed roads in northern Santa Fe County that had previously been maintained by county government.

The roads provided access to many non-Indian residents’ homes. The pueblo’s assertion of ownership of the roads – supported by Department of Interior, of which the Bureau of Indian Affairs is part – clouded residential titles, made it difficult to sell houses and drove down home values, the residents and local Realtors said.

County government, San Ildefonso and three other pueblos – Pojoaque, Tesuque and Nambe – reached an agreement to resolve the dispute earlier this year after negotiations that included the Interior department. The county agreed to pay about $8 million over the next five years in direct payments to the pueblos and for road construction.

 

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