Tax Protestor Claims Township Owes Him Millions
Basilis Stephanatos, who was accused last year of brandishing a shotgun in front of a sheriff's officer, claims town over-assessed his property and he shouldn't have to pay school portion of his bill.
A former tax protestor who allegedly leveled a shotgun at a sheriff’s officer when authorities tried to evict him from his home last year claims the township owes him more than $100 million in damages.
Basilis Stephanatos filed a civil complaint in federal court in March alleging the township has been exacting “unlawful taxes exceeding $50,000 between 1995 and 2011,” Stephanatos said in an e-mail. The complaint is still pending before U.S. District Court Judge Faith Hochberg.
Stephanatos, 54, was charged with aggravated assault in June 2011 after a three-hour standoff with police when a Passaic County Sheriff’s officer attempted to serve him with an eviction notice at his home at 687 Indian Road. Stephanatos said the township foreclosed on the property that same month.
Stephanatos claims that Chief Tax Assessor Dorothy Kreitz never adjusted the value of his home despite “groundwater intrusion.” Stephanatos wants Kretiz charged with official misconduct and deprivation of his civil rights. He claims the “true value” assessment of his property was “40 percent greater” than its “fair market value.”
He claims that the town’s assessment of his property was “invalid” and, because of that alleged invalid assessment, “no tax was due to the township” and that the sale of his home by the township should be voided.
Stephanatos said in an email to Patch the township allegedly refused to reduce the assessment of the property or the taxes and foreclosed on the residence last June.
Stephanatos operated Metropolitan Environmental Services, an environmental remediation firm, out of the house. He said the business was “destroyed” due to the township’s “unlawful actions.” He claims the “damages” done to his business “are into the millions of dollars.” He also claims he was hurt during the incident with sheriff’s officers in June 2011.
Stephanatos is demanding $30 million in compensatory damages and $120 million in punitive damages.
Kreitz did not return phone messages seeking comment. Town counsel Matthew Giacobbe did not return messages seeking comment.
Stephanatos' only known address is a post office box number in Tenafly. Messages left on his voicemail for the phone number of his business went unreturned.
With no children in the school district, Stephanatos has long contended that he simply shouldn’t have to pay the school portion of his tax bill.
“They have no right to levy more taxes against me,” Stephanatos said last June. “There is such inequality in how much taxes everyone pays.”
Stephanatos also said last June he paid 50 percent of his school-based taxes but could not afford to pay any more than that.
A lawsuit Stephanatos filed against Wayne Township was tossed out in 2008 by a state appeals court, which said his arguments were without merit, according to a report published at the time on NJ.com.
Stephanatos had argued in the suit that he shouldn't have to pay his school tax bill of more than $6,000 because he had no children in the Wayne school system, according to the story.
Representing himself in court, he raised 19 arguments, including "that his constitutional rights are violated by financing public education through his property taxes," according to published reports.