Crain’s Cleveland Business Story About Safeguard

An article in Crain’s Cleveland Business News talked about the effects of the foreclosure crisis and Safeguard’s involvement.?A slideshow of photos from the article is also available for viewing.

It’s a dirty job …
In wake of foreclosure mess, the business of maintaining abandoned homes booms

4:30 am, September 15, 2008

Paul Carlozzi is a former Marine, a man with tattoos, a quick smile and piercing blue eyes.

Still, he can’t help but shake his head at what he sees people doing to the homes they once lived in, and to their neighbors.

Everywhere, windows are broken. Doors are ripped from their hinges. Aluminum siding and downspouts have been removed. So has copper piping.

Mr. Carlozzi, a field quality control supervisor with Safeguard Properties, said none of that is unusual. But as more homes enter foreclosure, he’s struck by how often people trash their houses on the way out, and by the prevalence of thieves.

“That’s a shame,” he says at one East Cleveland home, ready to be shown to potential buyers until someone broke a basement window and removed copper pipe. “We had the property ready to be occupied.”

Safeguard, based in Brooklyn Heights, is the country’s largest home preservation company. Working with mortgage companies and contractors nationwide, the 550-employee company inspects homes where the owner is behind on mortgage payments to make sure the houses are still occupied. They board up smashed windows at homes that have been abandoned and lock the doors. They fix broken stairs and railings, remove shattered glass, replace stolen fixtures and mow the lawns. They empty the houses of any possessions families have left behind.

With foreclosures coming at a steady pace, business has been booming. Safeguard CEO Robert Klein said the company was doing 450,000 inspections a month two years ago, before the housing crisis hit full force. Last month, that number was 780,000.

“In the last eight months, there’s been an absolute explosion, a tremendous, tremendous increase,” Mr. Klein said. “I truly don’t know when it’s going to stop.”

Safeguard often goes to a home more than once a month to keep it safe and secure. The company, after seeing more vandalism, starts distributing door hangers to neighbors, asking that they call Safeguard if they see suspicious activity at an empty home. New boards will be painted to look like windows, in the hope that people simply driving down the street won’t notice that houses are unoccupied.

Most properties Safeguard deals with don’t reach that point, company spokeswoman Diane Roman Fusco said. Between 80% and 90% of the homeowners that go into default work out their issues and are able to save their homes. But it’s on the rest that Safeguard spends the most energy, winterizing pipes, removing bug infestations and cleaning out flooded basements.

Sometimes, Mr. Carlozzi said, abandoned houses look like their owners just left for work. Other times, said Ms. Fusco, the former occupants’ frustration is taken out on the floors and walls.

“It’s happening more. They’re causing thousands of dollars worth of damage,” she said.

Flooding and mice feces

Whenever Mr. Carlozzi enters a house, he is cautious. He checks to make sure the door is still locked, glances around for windows that are broken. He shouts, “Contractor! Anybody in here?” as he opens a door, letting anyone who may be squatting there know that he isn’t a police officer.

At a house on Westropp Avenue in Cleveland, the back door has been removed. A fan is in pieces on the floor and all precious metal has been stripped from the house. In the basement, there is a foot-deep pool of standing water. There are mice feces scattered throughout the house.

“This is the typical debris you find,” Mr. Carlozzi said. “Our goal is to not let the condition deteriorate. We want to maintain its value.”

Before the housing crisis struck, houses that had been foreclosed upon sold pretty quickly, Ms. Fusco said. Now, those homes are competing with others that are in better shape, that don’t have neighbors with boarded-up windows. That glut leads to longer sales times and more visits from Safeguard.

Mr. Klein said the mortgage companies that are his clients want to protect the properties. The companies have requested more information about code enforcement officers in particular areas, asking them to continue checking up on homes that have been abandoned. And a vacant property registry is being established, so those officers will know who to contact when there’s a problem at a house.

It’s particularly hard, Mr. Klein said, to watch as Cleveland is ravaged by the deluge of foreclosures. After all, his family lives here, too.

Still, his company is prospering. Business is projected to rise by about 30% in 2008, double the amount the company normally sees each year, and Safeguard is moving from a 33,000-square-foot building in Brooklyn Heights into one in Valley View that’s more than twice the size. The company is exploring offering other services that would allow it to grow, even after the housing market stabilizes.

While Mr. Klein said there always will be a need for Safeguard’s business, he doesn’t take any pleasure from the reason for the increase. Now, Safeguard must struggle to keep enough contractors, who do the home inspections and repair work, trained to its standards.

“Every one of our projections was blown out of the water. We’re in a crisis mode. We’re grappling,” Mr. Klein said in discussing the company’s manpower needs. “Everyone’s still trying to get a handle on it.”



Alan Jaffa

Alan Jaffa is the chief executive officer for Safeguard, steering the company as the mortgage field services industry leader. He also serves on the board of advisors for SCG Partners, a middle-market private equity fund focused on diversifying and expanding Safeguard Properties’ business model into complimentary markets.

Alan joined Safeguard in 1995, learning the business from the ground up. He was promoted to chief operating officer in 2002, and was named CEO in May 2010. His hands-on experience has given him unique insights as a leader to innovate, improve and strengthen Safeguard’s processes to assure that the company adheres to the highest standards of quality and customer service.

Under Alan’s leadership, Safeguard has grown significantly with strategies that have included new and expanded services, technology investments that deliver higher quality and greater efficiency to clients, and strategic acquisitions. He takes a team approach to process improvement, involving staff at all levels of the organization to address issues, brainstorm solutions, and identify new and better ways to serve clients.

In 2008, Alan was recognized by Crain’s Cleveland Business in its annual “40-Under-40” profile of young leaders. He also was named a NEO Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year® finalist in 2013.


Chief Operating Officer

Michael Greenbaum

Michael Greenbaum is the chief operating officer for Safeguard. Mike has been instrumental in aligning operations to become more efficient, effective, and compliant with our ever-changing industry requirements. Mike has a proven track record of excellence, partnership and collaboration at Safeguard. Under Mike’s leadership, all operational departments of Safeguard have reviewed, updated and enhanced their business processes to maximize efficiency and improve quality control.

Mike joined Safeguard in July 2010 as vice president of REO and has continued to take on additional duties and responsibilities within the organization, including the role of vice president of operations in 2013 and then COO in 2015.

Mike built his business career in supply-chain management, operations, finance and marketing. He has held senior management and executive positions with Erico, a manufacturing company in Solon, Ohio; Accel, Inc., a packaging company in Lewis Center, Ohio; and McMaster-Carr, an industrial supply company in Aurora, Ohio.

Before entering the business world, Mike served in the U.S. Army, Ordinance Branch, and specialized in supply chain management. He is a distinguished graduate of West Point (U.S. Military Academy), where he majored in quantitative economics.



George Mehok

George Mehok is the chief information officer for Safeguard. He is responsible for all strategic technology decisions, new systems deployments and data center operations supporting a national network of more than 10,000 mobile workers.

George has more than 20 years of leadership experience dedicated to high-growth companies in the mobile telecommunications and financial services industries, spanning startups to global industry leaders.

George played a senior role in the formation of Verizon Wireless, leading the IT product development and strategic planning team. He led the integration planning for the Verizon merger including: GTE, Vodafone-AirTouch, Bell Atlantic Mobile and PrimeCo.

As chief information officer at Revol Wireless, a VC-backed CDMA wireless communications network operator, George’s team implemented an integrated technology infrastructure and award-winning business intelligence platform.

George holds a bachelor’s degree in political science and economics from Eastern Michigan University and an M.B.A. from The Ohio State University. He is a board member of Akron University’s School of Business Center for Information Technology, in addition to an advisory board member for OHTec.

In 2013, George won the Crain’s Cleveland Business CIO of the Year award for his team’s work in completing a major acquisition and technology transformation at Safeguard. In 2015, George’s team was recognized by InformationWeek’s annual Elite 100 ranking of the most innovative U.S.-based users of business technology. The mobile inspection technology developed at Safeguard was selected as InformationWeek’s “One of the top 20 ideas to steal in 2015”.


General Counsel and Executive Vice President

Linda Erkkila, Esq.

Linda Erkkila is the general counsel and executive vice president for Safeguard, with oversight responsibilities for the legal, human resources, training, compliance and audit departments. Linda’s broad scope of oversight covers regulatory issues that impact Safeguard’s operations, pro-active risk mitigation, enterprise strategic planning, human capital and training initiatives, compliance and audit services, litigation and claims management, and counsel related to mergers, acquisition and joint ventures.

Linda’s oversight of the legal department along with multiple compliance and human capital focused departments assures that Safeguard’s strategic initiatives align with its resources, leverage opportunities across the company, and contemplate compliance mandates. Her practice spans almost 20 years, and Linda’s experience, both as outside and in-house counsel, covers a wide range of corporate matters, including regulatory disclosure, corporate governance compliance, risk assessment, executive compensation, litigation management, and merger and acquisition activity. Her experience at a former Fortune 500 financial institution during the subprime crisis helped develop Linda’s pro-active approach to change management during periods of heightened regulatory scrutiny.

Linda previously served as vice president and attorney for National City Corporation, as securities and corporate governance counsel for Agilysys Inc., and as an associate at Thompson Hine LLP. She earned her JD at Cleveland-Marshall College of Law. Linda holds a degree in economics from Miami University and an MBA. In 2017, Linda was named as both a “Woman of Influence” by HousingWire and as a “Leading Lady” by MReport.


Chief Financial Officer

Joe Iafigliola

Joe Iafigliola is the Chief Financial Officer for Safeguard. Joe is responsible for the Control, Quality Assurance, Business Development, Accounting & Information Security departments, and is a Managing Director of SCG Partners, a middle-market private equity fund focused on diversifying and expanding Safeguard Properties’ business model into complimentary markets.

Joe has been in a wide variety of roles in finance, supply chain management, information systems development, and sales and marketing. His career includes senior positions with McMaster-Carr Supply Company, Newell/Rubbermaid, and Procter and Gamble.

Joe has an MBA from The Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University, is a Certified Management Accountant (CMA), and holds a bachelor’s degree from The Ohio State University’s Honors Accounting program.


AVP, Operations

Jennifer Jozity

Jennifer Jozity is the assistant vice president of operations, overseeing inspections, REO and property preservation for Safeguard. Jen ensures quality work is performed in the field and internally, to meet and exceed our clients’ expectations. Jen has demonstrated the ability to deliver consistent results in order audit and order management.  She will build upon these strengths in order to deliver this level of excellence in both REO and property preservation operations.

Jen joined Safeguard in 1997 and was promoted to director of inspections operations in 2009 and assistant vice president of inspections operations in 2012.

She graduated from Cleveland State University with a degree in business.


AVP, Finance

Jennifer Anspach

Jennifer Anspach is the assistant vice president of finance for Safeguard. She is responsible for the company’s national workforce of approximately 1,000 employees. She manages recruitment strategies, employee relations, training, personnel policies, retention, payroll and benefits programs. Additionally, Jennifer has oversight of the accounts receivable and loss functions formerly within the accounting department.

Jennifer joined the company in April 2009 as a manager of accounting and finance and a year later was promoted to director. She was named AVP of human capital in 2014. Prior to joining Safeguard, she held several management positions at OfficeMax and InkStop in both operations and finance.

Jennifer is a graduate of Youngstown State University. She was named a Crain’s Cleveland Business Archer Award finalist for HR Executive of the Year in 2017.


AVP, Application Architecture

Rick Moran

Rick Moran is the assistant vice president of application architecture for Safeguard. Rick is responsible for evolving the Safeguard IT systems. He leads the design of Safeguard’s enterprise application architecture. This includes Safeguard’s real-time integration with other systems, vendors and clients; the future upgrade roadmap for systems; and standards designed to meet availability, security, performance and goals.

Rick has been with Safeguard since 2011. During that time, he has led the system upgrades necessary to support Safeguard’s growth. In addition, Rick’s team has designed and implemented several innovative systems.

Prior to joining Safeguard, Rick was director of enterprise architecture at Revol Wireless, a privately held CDMA Wireless provider in Ohio and Indiana, and operated his own consulting firm providing services to the manufacturing, telecommunications, and energy sectors.


AVP, Technology Infrastructure and Cloud Services

Steve Machovina

Steve Machovina is the assistant vice president of technology infrastructure and cloud services for Safeguard. He is responsible for the overall management and design of Safeguard’s hybrid cloud infrastructure. He manages all technology engineering staff who support data centers, telecommunications, network, servers, storage, service monitoring, and disaster recovery.

Steve joined Safeguard in November 2013 as director of information technology operations.

Prior to joining Safeguard, Steve was vice president of information technology at Revol Wireless, a privately held wireless provider in Ohio and Indiana. He also held management positions with Northcoast PCS and Corecomm Communications, and spent nine years as a Coast Guard officer and pilot.

Steve holds a BBA in management information systems from Kent State University in Ohio and an MBA from Wayne State University in Michigan.


AVP, Business Development

Tim Rath

Tim Rath is the AVP of business development for Safeguard. He is responsible for developing innovative growth strategies for Safeguard and developing and overseeing potential partnerships, mergers and acquisitions.

Tim joined Safeguard in 2011 as project director and has filled numerous roles within Vendor Management, most recently serving as director of vendor management, a role he assumed in 2011.

Prior to Safeguard, Tim worked as director of supply chain at PartsSource Inc. in Aurora, Ohio, a provider of medical replacement parts, procurement solutions and healthcare supply chain management technology services. He also has held sales positions with Rexel, ComDoc, and Pier Associates, all based in Ohio.

Tim holds a degree in marketing and sales from The University of Akron in Akron, Ohio. He also earned his FAA Certified Commercial UAS (Drone) Pilot license in 2017.


Assistant Vice president of Application Development

Steve Goberish

Steve Goberish, is the assistant vice president of application development for Safeguard. He is responsible for the maintenance and evolution of Safeguard’s vendor systems ensuring high-availability, security and scalability while advancing the vendor products’ capabilities and enhancing the vendor experience.

Prior to joining Safeguard, Steve was a senior technical architect and development manager at First American Title Insurance, a publicly held title insurance provider based in southern California, in addition to managing and developing applications in multiple sectors from insurance to VOIP.

Steve has a bachelor’s degree from Kent State University in Ohio.