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Bilaal v. Abell

AARP Foundation Attorneys Represent Homeowners Targeted for Lending Schemes

AARP attorneys are representing older Washington, DC, homeowners in a lawsuit that alleges a particularly pernicious lending scam.

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

The plaintiffs are all older homeowners of limited education and little financial sophistication who were approached by people after their homes fell into foreclosure proceedings. The strangers offered to help the homeowners "save" their homes and persuaded them, after increasingly aggressive approaches, to sign documents that in actuality did not create loan obligations 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 subsists on a military pension and income from the intermittent rental of rooms in his house. He 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 recently sued by the Federal Trade Commission for unscrupulous practices.

After Fairbanks threatened him with foreclosure in December 2003, claiming arrearages of nearly $7,000 (the case was dismissed), Bilaal says he was approached by Calvin Baltimore. He says that after repeated visits to his home promising he could "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. In the case, Bilaal alleges 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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