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It was also around this time, Saltz said in his email to New Times, that "all creditors of consequence were made aware... that there was financial distress." It would be another year before he officially filed for bankruptcy, but a bank snatched up one of Saltz's properties, in Aurora, Colorado, in February 2011. Buildings in Commerce City, Boulder, and Denver were repossessed or foreclosed upon a month later. A fifth, in Denver, was auctioned off at the end of June 2011. Collectively, their worth was estimated at just over $1 million.
In the email, Saltz claimed he owned the buildings but didn't run them. "From a practical standpoint, I am detached," he wrote. "Someone else managed the properties."
But Octavi Semonin, who moved into a three-bedroom home owned by Saltz in 2009, tells a different story. It was to Saltz, he says, that he and his roommates sent the rent. And they called him when the washing machine broke. "He was our landlord for about two years... He essentially stopped paying his mortgage and went into foreclosure," Semonin says. "I'll be honest — I don't have strongly positive feelings about Howard."
Semonin says he and his roommates began getting notifications that the home was being foreclosed upon; he says that when he called Saltz about it, the editor said that "he was 'in a game of chicken with the bank,' essentially trying to get them to renegotiate... That's what he said."
Saltz lost control of the house at the end of June 2011, just before the Sun-Sentinel announced his hiring. Late that July, the bank reached an agreement to pay the tenants to relocate. Semonin says the transition left them with no one to pay rent to for a month — so they didn't write a check. He says Saltz used that as an excuse to keep a $1,600 security deposit.
"Because we'd lived in the house essentially free for the month, Howard basically felt he was entitled to that money," Semonin says. But because the bank had been generous in paying the three to move, they "just kind of dropped it at that."
Also questionable: Saltz's claim in the email that it was "a business bankruptcy, not a personal bankruptcy."
Miami bankruptcy lawyer Timothy Kingcade, who reviewed the documents obtained by New Times, says that wasn't true. "It is a personal bankruptcy," he says. "The character of the debt doesn't change the fact that it's a personal bankruptcy."
The filing includes these debts under Saltz's name: mortgages totaling more than $2.5 million, a $17,000 credit-card bill due to Discover, a $52,000 credit-card bill due to Bank of America, a $60,000 credit-card bill due to Chase, large remnants of mortgages unpaid by short sales, utility bills, and an $835 medical bill.
Another interesting point in the bankruptcy filing: In his position as Sun-Sentinel editor, Saltz claimed to earn $150,000 per year, far less than the $300,000 to $400,000 experts at St. Petersburg's Poynter Institute estimate an editor in his position would typically make. After budgeting for other monthly expenses ($950 for food, $250 for clothing, $2,900 for rent), Saltz told the court he was $419 per month in the red. There is also $1,540 per month in "education expenses for children under 18," a sum Kingcade says seems high enough that a Florida court wouldn't have allowed it.
Saltz was also bringing in about $3,900 monthly from the one Colorado property he managed to hang on to — though the mortgage on it was costing him about $5,000 a month. In court filings late last year, Saltz said he intended to keep that building, which is divided into four apartments. It was worth $650,000 at the time, but according to those same documents, he owes more than a million dollars in mortgages on the property. "It's a stupid thing for him to keep it, but if he wants to keep it, they'll let him," Kingcade says.
On March 6 of this year, Saltz was officially discharged from repaying his debts; nobody can touch him. Two days later, his wife filed for bankruptcy under many of the same debts — a tactic Kingcade says is typically done to stall a foreclosure or other settlement. When going through bankruptcy, he says, there is an "automatic stay" on all proceedings until the bankruptcy is settled. "We call those types of cases 'Ping-Pong' cases. The creditors are being Ping-Ponged between the spouses," Kingcade says. Saltz's wife was discharged last month of about $4 million in debts.
"I'm surprised that he's so upside-down," the Post colleague says. "After all those years watching him do real-estate deals in Denver, he should be a freakin' billionaire."
Editor's note:An earlier version of this article incorrectly reported the time and location of the Sun-Sentinel staff meeting.