i know i focus on a lot of bullshit on this blog. i think it's because real life can be a giant bummer sometimes. read this if you want to feel sad.
"victim of scammers now battling bank"
january 31, 2010
There's no question that Coleamer Hodges was scammed out of her South Side home.In a 2006 complaint, the Illinois attorney general office used Hodges' tragic situation to illustrate the unlawful business practices at the core of home rescue fraud, in which companies claim to help residents stay in their homes but then actually sell the homes to third parties.
Platinum Investment Group, Advantage Mortgage Consulting, Christopher Bidigare, Suellen Carpenter and First Chicago Real Estate Group were found by a Cook County judge to have "engaged in conduct that violates the Consumer Fraud Act." Hodges, 43, had turned to Platinum for help refinancing her mortgage.Representatives picked her up, served her lunch and, although Hodges is blind, had her sign paperwork that she was told was for a refinancing deal."
A couple of months later, I got a surprise,'' she said.She got a bill for $1,300, which was actually for rent if she wanted to stay in the home because Hodges' home had been transferred to a straw buyer.
All of the entities and individuals who were involved in the transaction are now barred from acting as "distressed property" consultants.
They were also ordered to pay Hodges $50,000 in restitution.But that hasn't helped Hodges.
The guilty parties filed for bankruptcy -- and Hodges' $70,000 in home equity is gone.Wells Fargo, the bank that serviced the fraudulent deal, is now demanding to take possession of the property. Attorneys representing Wells Fargo, Johnson, Blumberg & Associates, declined to comment."Since this is an ongoing case, we cannot discuss the matter," an employee who answered the phone told me Friday.
Natalie Bauer, a spokeswoman for the Illinois attorney general's office, said the office had conversations with Wells Fargo last week."We were able to successfully prosecute and put these people out of business, but that is not good enough," said Bauer. "The issue today is that Ms. Hodges is in a devastating condition and needs help. Wells Fargo needs to step up and do the right thing."
Hodges is like the "poster child for victims of predatory lending schemes," said her lawyer, Paul Bernstein."Wells Fargo has refused to even talk about refinancing or modification of the loan or anything other than throwing people out on the street," Bernstein charged.
President Obama has argued that since banks have benefitted from bailouts, they should be willing to lend more money to consumers and businesses.
Hodges has been blind since childhood. She gets around with the assistance of a black Lab named Bronte.Decades ago, her five-bedroom brick home in the 9900 block of South Princeton represented a huge step up for working-class African-American families. But today, job losses and the ongoing credit crunch have led to rapid deterioration of this housing stock. I nearly drove past Hodges' home, thinking it was one of the empty bank-owned properties that are burdening a lot of communities.
Hodges alleges that during an altercation with the straw buyer, he hurled a brick through her front window, which is now boarded up.Inside, the house is practically bare of furnishings, paint is peeling, and floor tiles are worn down to the backing.
When Hodges' mother died from cancer, she inherited the house."It is like a lot of situations that you read about in newspapers," Bernstein said. "She ended up in foreclosure, and the mortgage ended up in the hands of Wells Fargo. That's how I got into it."Bernstein said he has not charged Hodges any legal fees."The main thing that is upsetting me is that the banks have refused to even talk about the situation," he said."She does get some disability and has help from her family."If the bank was willing to work out something, she could stay in the home as opposed to having to move."
So far, Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart has managed to stave off eviction."Our office has been trying to work this out in a way that is good for her," spokesman Steve Patterson said."We've had social workers working on this since April, and we've put too much into this to throw a blind woman and her family out into the street."
Meanwhile, Hodges said she feels like she is on Death Row."This is just a painful struggle. I feel like I have one foot in the chamber."