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Bilaal v. Abell

AARP Attorneys Represented Homeowners Settling Lending Lawsuit

AARP Foundation attorneys represented older Washington, D.C. homeowners in a lawsuit that alleged a particularly pernicious lending scheme. Settlement of the suit resulted in return of title to the homeowners' homes and/or cash compensation that in some cases exceeded $100,000 per homeowner.

Background

The lawsuit alleged that defendants Vincent Abell, Modern Management Company and their associates engaged in fraudulent practices through which homeowners facing foreclosure were persuaded to transfer title to their homes. The lawsuit alleged that defendants conspired to take advantage of the homeowners at a time when each was financially distressed and emotionally vulnerable by persuading them to sign over their deeds through misrepresentations and fraud on the eve of foreclosure, misleading them into thinking that they were borrowing money to save their homes. The lawsuit alleged that what actually happened was that the paperwork was a contract to pay at least the amount of the monthly mortgage payment as "rent" to the new owner under the terms of a "lease."

The plaintiffs were all older homeowners of limited education and little financial sophistication who were approached by people after their homes fell into foreclosure. The lawsuit alleged these strangers offered to help the homeowners "save" their homes and persuaded them, after increasingly aggressive approaches, to sign documents that did not refinance their old mortgages, but instead transferred title to their homes.

Take for example the situation of Idriis Bilaal, a 77-year-old veteran being treated for post-traumatic stress disorder dating to his service in Vietnam. Bilaal inherited his house from his mother in 1973, and in subsequent years saw his equity stripped by predatory lender after predatory lender. His last mortgage was serviced by Fairbanks Capital Corp., a company that has been sued by the Federal Trade Commission for unscrupulous practices.

After Fairbanks threatened him with foreclosure in December 2003, claiming arrearages of nearly $7,000, Bilaal alleged that he was approached by Calvin Baltimore and that, after repeated visits to his home promising to "make a loan to stop the foreclosure," Baltimore convinced Bilaal he could provide a "wrap around" mortgage that would refinance his mortgage loan, provide additional funds to Bilaal, and provide sufficient money to cover monthly mortgage payments. Meeting Baltimore at a local Burger King for the "closing," Bilaal alleged that even when he told Baltimore that he had forgotten his glasses, Baltimore assured him the paperwork was in order and persuaded him to sign documents.

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