The government finally ran out of patience Saturday, and federal marshals evicted a Hamilton, Mass., couple from their home.

Rhetta B. and John Sweeney had been battling foreclosure since 1988, when Comfed Savings Bank, Lowell, Mass., filed a foreclosure action for nonpayment of a $1.6 million loan. The battle has passed through state court, federal courts-the Supreme Court refused to hear the Sweeneys' case- a congressional hearing, and various mediation sessions.

The Resolution Trust Corp. was appointed conservator for Comfed in 1990. When the agency was closed in 1995, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. took over the case. According to the FDIC, the Sweeneys have made no principal, interest, or property tax payments since November 1988. The estimated cost to taxpayers: $3.8 million.

In 1996, the FDIC offered the Sweeneys three settlement options, but all were rejected. Ms. Sweeney was not at the 14-acre, two-home property when federal marshals arrived. Mr. Sweeney was arrested at the property and jailed.

- Bill McConnell and Scott Barancik

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