PLAINFIELD – Ready Set Ride, a nonprofit with a mission to help children through therapeutic horse riding, faces eviction from a Plainfield stable that has been its home since 2001.
The organization is in a rent dispute with its landlord with the property in foreclosure and is under a court order to get out in less than two weeks, Ready Set Ride Director Lisa Afshari said.
Afshari said it will be difficult for her organization and its 14 horses to find a new home.
“We’ve spent 16 years in the same location. All of our stuff would have to be moved. We don’t have the time to disassemble, hold sessions and move,” Afshari said. “Where do we go?”
The organization is trying to delay the eviction order, with the next court date set for Thursday in Will County Court.
"We want to pay rent," Afshari said. "We're not [skipping rent payments] because we don't have the money. We stopped paying rent because we were told not to."
Afshari said she first heard about the foreclosure when a man arrived at the stable last winter and said he was there to winterize for a bank that was foreclosing. He advised Ready Set Ride to stop paying rent until they received a letter with instructions on where to send payment.
He began shutting down utilities at the stable, which Afshari was able to stop by calling the Will County Sheriff's Office. A deputy advised that electricity and heat could not be shut off with livestock at the stables, Afshari said.
The letter from the bank telling them where to send rent payments never came, and Ready Set Ride has not paid rent since January, she said.
"We tried to reach out to them [the bank] several times," Afshari said. "They will not talk to us. We aren't an authorized dealer on their account."
The property at 13056 Essington Road has been listed in the Will County Sheriff's Sale of Real Estate as recently as June with Nationstar Mortgage listed as the plaintiff for foreclosure.
Ready Set Ride's landlord, Dr. Joseph Tages, 71, of Plainfield, did not return repeated calls for comment regarding the situation.
Tages has had his own legal problems in the past.
He was a doctor in Aurora in 2011 when the U.S. Department of Justice announced an indictment alleging federal tax and health care fraud in connection with a medical clinic he owned.
Tages was accused of diverting more than $750,000 in cash from his medical practice and failing to report corporate and personal income to avoid $260,000 in taxes.
The Justice Department also accused Tages of defrauding health insurance providers by falsely claiming reimbursements totaling at least $10,000 for medical services that he did not provide.
Tages was sentenced to three years' probation, according to the law firm that represented him.
His state medical license was suspended indefinitely in December 2013 after he pleaded guilty to filing false tax returns, according to the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation.
Afshari said she contacted Tages after learning about the foreclosure but was told it was a misunderstanding.
Eventually, Afshari said she offered to pay Tages $7,640 of the $9,000 Ready Set Ride owed in back rent. She said the organization had to make repairs at the property and deducted those costs.
In April, an 11-year-old mare named Lily was electrocuted while drinking out of a trough, which Afshari said was because the stable was not being properly grounded. A man who tried to help the horse was injured and had to be hospitalized, she said.
Ready Set Ride received a notice for eviction notice June 9.
"We will get through it because of our volunteers and our riders," said Sue Majchrzak, a member of the organization's board.
Majchrzak said the organization is made up almost entirely of volunteers and has a good relationship with the villages of Plainfield and Bolingbrook, where many of its riders live.
"The mayor of Bolingbrook and the mayor of Plainfield have been very supportive of our program," she said. "They've helped with our fundraisers."
The families that come to Ready Set Ride are worried and said the organization helps their children in many ways.
Naperville resident Megan Plackett, 38, recently signed up her 3-year-old son, Will, for sessions through Ready Set Ride to improve his speech and attention. She has already seen an improvement.
“I have never seen him happier then he is on that horse with his guides,” Plackett said. “It’s been a gift for us. He’s confident, works hard and just immediately feels comfortable.”
Plackett said she was "heartsick for Lisa, all who work at the barn, and all the beautiful horses. I just can’t imagine it not being able to serve the community that it serves.”
• Reporter Bob Okon contributed to this story.