Michael Litz and Michael Fox's Bellington Realty cashed in during the boom, but its customers got stuck in the bust

Michael Litz and Michael Fox's Bellington Realty cashed in during the boom, but its customers got stuck in the bust

In June 2010, when Michael and Donna Dunlap last saw Michael Litz — co-owner of the Bellington real estate companies and now an FBI target — he stood inside his corner office in downtown Clayton, sweating.

This wasn't the same confident 54-year-old with fluffy, blizzard-white hair who had sold them a home in Kirkwood a year earlier.

"His demeanor was different," recalls Michael Dunlap.

The downtown Clayton headquarters of Bellington and its many affiliates (such as 
Eighteen Investments) at 226 South Meramec Avenue.
Jennifer Silverberg
The downtown Clayton headquarters of Bellington and its many affiliates (such as Eighteen Investments) at 226 South Meramec Avenue.
Roderick Bishop and Kristy Cruz, seated outside their rental house in Benton Park West, believe Bellington has taken them for a ride.
Jennifer Silverberg
Roderick Bishop and Kristy Cruz, seated outside their rental house in Benton Park West, believe Bellington has taken them for a ride.

The house in question had needed some work. Such was Bellington's specialty: buying midrange properties in bulk, then selling them as-is, often to buyers who didn't qualify for traditional mortgages.

The Dunlaps had paid Litz in full within a month of closing. They knew Litz still held a mortgage on the home, but they believed his assurances that he would use their funds to pay it off.

Yet now, as they stood before him in June 2010, the bank was about to foreclose on their house. Litz had cashed their checks, but apparently hadn't paid off the mortgage. And after weeks of tense exchanges, the Dunlaps demanded answers. They told Litz he was forcing them to do things they didn't want to do.

"That was the first time I saw Mr. Litz look concerned," says Michael, adding one more curious detail: During their conversation, a young lady in Litz's office was pushing "stack after stack" of paper through the shredder.

"It was probably irrelevant," Michael says. "But it did cause me concern."

The Dunlaps are now among a half-dozen St. Louisans who believe themselves victims of shady home transactions — and are suing Litz, his long-time business partner Michael Fox, Bellington and its affiliate, Eighteen Investments. (At least 24 limited-liability companies are registered to one or both of the partners; all are commonly referred to as "Bellington.")

All of the plaintiffs, the RFT has confirmed, have spoken to the FBI.

Bellington's legal troubles don't end there. Since January 2009, no fewer than fifteen banks, one insurance company and one title company have filed suit against the partners and their companies in St. Louis County, claiming a collective debt of more than $32 million. Many of these cases have been settled, but nine are still winding through the courts.

To some extent, Litz, Fox and Bellington are themselves victims. Their business model depended on ever-rising home prices. But now the market has soured, credit has dried up and banks have no appetite for real estate. That means the company is sitting on a large inventory of houses that nobody wants, even as the banks that once begged for their business with them have called in their loans.

Which may explain why they owe hundreds of thousands in back taxes to the city and the county, not to mention $57,400 to the federal government. And why, in the past 28 months, 154 of their properties have come under foreclosure in the county alone. [Editor's Note: A correction was made concerning this paragraph. Please see the end of the article.]

Yet some creditors feel no pity for Bellington. Richard Miller, chairman of Truman Bancorp, says that Fox and Litz claimed a large net worth for themselves and their company in order to get the loans in the first place.

"Even if that net worth went down by 50 percent, they'd still have enough to meet their obligations to us," he says. "Very few things just disappear. But in this case it all has, more effectively than David Copperfield makes a live elephant disappear. And the only way assets can disappear is that they're concealed, or they weren't there to begin with."


Michael Litz and his partner, Michael Fox, had already been running a successful business when the real estate market heated up in the early- to mid-2000s. Area home prices, which, according to St. Louis Real Estate News, had been rising nonstop since 1993, ticked up sharply. All you needed to get financing, it seemed, was an ink pen.

As three different cable networks aired reality shows on flipping houses, foreclosure auctions in St. Louis grew crowded. Cartoon mascots such as "Archie" and "Ug" competed on billboards for the opportunity to gobble up your ugly house. In short, it was a good time to be in residential real estate. And nobody was moving units like Bellington.

"They bought a much larger quantity of homes than anyone else," says local developer Pete Rothschild, who himself bought his last two homes from Bellington-affiliated agents. "They were head and shoulders above the rest."

By all accounts, Litz acted as the salesman, while Fox concentrated on keeping the books. (Owing to health issues, Fox has reportedly kept a low profile in day-to-day operations for the last year or two and did not respond to phone calls seeking comment.)

As the market grew, regional banks smelled opportunity, says attorney Vince Vogler Sr., who is now representing Litz.

"They were lining up to lend him money," Vogler says. And, he adds, his client made the banks a lot of dough in interest payments — otherwise, they never would have lent him as much as they did.

And while Vogler admits that Litz wanted to turn a profit, he says the businessman also genuinely enjoyed shepherding people into their first homes. Those people number in the thousands, Vogler says. Some even sent thank-you cards.

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43 comments
trinadorsey
trinadorsey

They Just did wrong i truely thought rústica Was good People

Deahollins
Deahollins

This is crazy they're crooks and they're getting away with murder

yahoo-6H4UY2IIN43V55BNHQCMV6FSDQ
yahoo-6H4UY2IIN43V55BNHQCMV6FSDQ

I worked for Bellington for about a month in 2010 before I came to my senses and got out of there. Lots of shady dealing. Lots of lies my Michael Litz. Lots of lies they wanted me to tell. If you can all just rise up against this bastard and take him down...don't hesitate!! I am shocked he's gotten away with what he did. The man was so selfish and sick.....he'd tell anyone a lie just to get what he wanted. People like this don't deserve to have anything. Out of 1 1/2 months working there and 2 out of my 3 paychecks bounced. I was just an employee...imagine what he's done to the tenants.

Brock938
Brock938

Gary Stafford was a great and honest man and may he rest in piece. Litz and Fox on the other hand are not good guys. Litz is a douchebag, among other things. Though he will make a nice girlfriend for Bubba and Tyrone when he goes to the pen.

Old KADI Disc Jockey
Old KADI Disc Jockey

If Ricahrd Miller ran a bank the way he ran a radio station, he deserved anything bad that came his way.

Stevey35b
Stevey35b

I have no sympathy for Bellington (Eighteen Investments). They purchased a condo in my association at a tremendus discount, had several opportunities to sell it at a good profit, but became greedy, rented it against condo declaration and by-laws, then let it sit and deteriorate for 2 years until it sold. they appear to be the 'entitled' class where they presume they never have to take a loss. based on Post-Dispatch stories, they really screwed many of their customers.

Icscatdog
Icscatdog

I rented a nice house from them in Webster Groves after living there for 2 years I decided to buy the house, the house was less than ten years old, I did research on it, saw how much it was built for, how much Bellington bought it for. I went in and talked to Litz, first he starts with oh this house is really nice and we can get you in the house blah blah... I watching him from across his desk and I'm thinking this guy is crook and is full of sh**, he wants 40-50K more than it's worth, and I said no forget it. and walked out.

Supporter
Supporter

I wish the thousands of people commented here who were able to own their own homes with Michael's help. I rented from Bellington for a year and had a great experience. On top of that, I have personally witnessed Litz's generosity to charities in St. Louis. He never turned a charity down that asked him for help. It's sad to see so many people turning their back on him before the courts have judged him.

Charles
Charles

all these different shell companies. when one of their properties got in trouble, they sold it to another one. There was a Bellington/ G. Stafford owned house on our block "sold" to a family who had no money to put down or pay the closing costs, or even pay the mortgage. No city taxes were paid for 2 years. When the family couldn't pay anymore, they were evicted and now it's a rental. The family that "bought"it paid about $20,000 more that what Bellington had bought it for the previous year. Ripped off big time.

Guest
Guest

Litz's brother is a partner at Thompson Coburn (Tom Litz). He was encouraging corporate clients to get involved with Bellington. All these rich assh*les do this stuff and use their money to pay lawyers to get them out of it. Start hanging the lawyers along with the scumbags who hide behind them.

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Starlo
Starlo

Catherine Breville slept with Litz to secure her job as Vice President or Office Manager. Maybe that's why she got divorced.

Saw it coming
Saw it coming

Interesting that the article didnot talk about their cohorts in the scams,,,, Saaman..who went out of business last year... a close check of many of 18 and Bellington "purchases" were from Saaman and vice versa... and even closer will show how every 6 months or so they would bounce them back and forth with higher prices...basicaly inflating the property values with air and the banks got sucke dinto it due to their stupity and lack if proper due diligence....

Bellingtonvictims
Bellingtonvictims

i find it interesting that litz says he could have screwed the banks by filing bankruptcy but he didn't--shoot filing bk would have saved all the victims houses or at least bought us some time--guess i shouldn't be surprised that litz doesn't give a damn about all the people he made homeless. i do find some solace that he may soon loose his house too but he apparently is just funneling all his current business funds to save it. BEWARE IF YOU DEAL WITH THIS MAN!!!!

Bellingtonvictims
Bellingtonvictims

great article, it is nice to hear that litz is finally being made a little uncomfortable. we all know he hid all the money and we know thta we will probably never see a dime he owes us, but it is an insult to see him still operating. Bellington and all of it's other names closed up for good would be a comforting start. Maybe people will be willing to go through with that protest??? Stay uptodate with us on the facebook page as well. BellingtonVictims.

Ron
Ron

Where is Gary Stafford in all this. He was their front man who rigged bids at foreclosure sales so they could get property extra cheap. This has been going on for years. Jesse James would be proud to have had Litz, Fox, Hayes, Stafford, and Vogler in his gang.

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Jody McGowen
Jody McGowen

Bellington are crooks! My husband and I rented from them. Promises were made and never kept. Serious things going wrong with the property and never fixed. We had a professional cleaning crew go through the house. It looked better than when we left it. They fabricated things wrong with us and slapped us with a bill. I had documentation of things wrong with it before we moved in with their representative's signature. They are criminals and I'm glad they are getting investigated by the FBI. Thank God we just rented from them. I feel for the poor people that thought they were buying their homes from. I hope they throw the book at them!

Citizen
Citizen

Thank you so much for this article. I cannot understand how Bellington is allowed to continue being in business. I can tell you if you are unlucky enough to rent from them you will pay your rent to the bank, but the bank has no power. When (not if) Bellington fails to pay the utility and trash bills the people at bank are no help.

Actually calling the Bellington offices about something is really one of the most bizarre and surreal experiences one could hope to experience. The lies are told so quickly and in such profusion from every person you speak with. I do not know how any of those people sleep at night.

Nor do I understand the strange breed of human that will say things like "oh we just forgot to pay the $30,000 gas bill, it will be right back on" and then install an electric water heater instead. Or have the Bellington handy men go around trying to pick up the trash from dumpsters-- until the dumpsters are taken away!

The situation is very bleak. The banks don't want the rents from the properties, they want to sell the properties. Taking over the properties is not an option. The different city's really have no power in the situation. The people that live and work in these buildings are the ones that lose. I hope the personal assets of Litz and Fox are seized and sold to help repay all of the suffering their greed created. And both of them, and probably some of these bankers, belong in jail.

Brooke
Brooke

Litz has been scamming everybody for years. Glad he finally got caught!!!

Whitedeer27
Whitedeer27

Nothing was said about thier horrible dealings as Landlords for the rental property they held. They refused to fix things to the point the city was threatening to condemn the house we lived in. Oh but they were vindicated since they evicted us for following the advice of the city and others in athourity. Go figure. They don't seem to be suffering. At least they have a place to live, I'm homeless.

Disgusted
Disgusted

That's all ya got Nick really? Well hell it sounds like they didn't do anything wrong. Sounds like you want to throw them a party. This story is a pathetic representation of the real corruption that was/is taking place.

Grnrhutchins
Grnrhutchins

What ever happened to "DUE DILIGENCE'" by banks and the home buyer.

kitty
kitty

Great article Nick. It is interesting to note that Bellington has it offices in the same building as Hayes Investments and former bad boy banker Shaun Hayes. He and Litz have been in cahoots in several failed business ventures . Hayes had to resign from Sun Bank after Litz forged the signature of a New York investor who was guarantor of a million dollar loan that Hayes had to sign off on. It's too bad your article didn't delve into that.

The stench of Litz's and Fox's corruption will linger in the air for a very long time. I look forward to the day when Litz and Fox are sentenced to prison for all of the mortgage and bank fraud they committed. They literally robbed the banks mentioned in your article of tens of millions of dollars, all with the stroke of a pen, which makes them as notorious as the legendary bank robbers of the 1930's: Willie Sutton, John Dillinger, Baby Face Nelson and Pretty Boy Floyd. It there was a Bank Robbers Hall of Fame, Litz would certainly be nominated on the first ballot.

Inkychck
Inkychck

Gary was a great and honest man that took on MANY of the debts of those crooks personally to try and right their wrongs. They stole more money from him than you can even imagine.

Bellingtonvictims
Bellingtonvictims

WE DON'T HAVE TO WAIT FOR THE COURTS TO JUDGE HIM, WHEN MY HOUSE WAS FORECLOSED ON AND I ENDED UP BEING "HOMELESS' EVEN THOUGH I HAD BEEN PAYING THAT MONEY HUNGRY BASTARD TO LIVE LARGE --I DON'T NEED A COURT OR A JUDGE TO TELL ME HE IS A CROOK. WHEN MY MONEY WAS DUE I PAID IT AND IF I HADN'T HE WOULD HAVE GLADLY EVICTED ME----WHY THE HELL SHOULD HE NOT HAVE TO PAY HIS BILLS.

Stevey35b
Stevey35b

many charitable contributors do it to disguise their immoral behavior. if you're generous, screwing people, then get caught you point ot all your charity.

123
123

you are a moron and likely a co-conspirator with Litz and his cronies

TinkerTheThinker
TinkerTheThinker

"Start hanging the lawyers along with the scumbags who hide behind them."

Lawyers = scumbags. I'm confused.

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yahoo-6H4UY2IIN43V55BNHQCMV6FSDQ

That's for sure why she got divorced and they were definitely sleeping together. I know there was couch in his office that I never wanted to sit on.

Bryan
Bryan

Don't forget Harry Freeman Jr. and Don Davis!!!! They are as dirty as Litz.

Bryan
Bryan

Litz can not go bankrupt. The Judge would overturn all of his illegal money hiding transactions! In two or three years, if he hasn't fled the country, he will declare bankruptcy then. That is how crooks roll.....

Guest
Guest

Gary Stafford passed away last month

Bellington Victims
Bellington Victims

if you are so disgusted, why don't you come forward with more info? I am sure nick will be more than happy to share any info you can provide

Brooke
Brooke

What ever happened to JAIL for crooks!!!!

Hay's  nigtmare
Hay's nigtmare

This is due to the fact that Hays was the $ behind most of the 2 "grifters" action..... while the paper trail showed otherwise.... wherever Hays was involved as a banker that bank got stuck... Truman, Sun Security, Reliance, etc...... still cannot figure out how the feds have not busted this whole ring wide open...

Joesmith
Joesmith

Stolen money given to charity does not make an upright person.

Brooke
Brooke

His heart gave out due to all of the dirty dealings he had going!!!

Stlguy1999
Stlguy1999

Can't wait for the FBI to come out with their report....these guys will end up in big trouble if they don't reimburse these victims...

 
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