Victimized homeowners fight back using ‘scam action’
Activist group succeeds in getting restitution for two of its members
Just under a dozen distressed homeowners affiliated with the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE) gathered in front of a sporting goods store in Koreatown within walking distance of three businesses alleged to have defrauded two of their members of cash paid out for loan modifications that did not materialize.
After congregating at 11 a.m. on Thursday in preparation for what the group has dubbed a “scam action,” they strolled across Wilshire Boulevard and up to the 22nd floor offices of the Genesis Law Group, a firm that advertises itself as a “bankruptcy law specialist.” Once inside, two of their members, Ronald and Valerie Jackson, demanded the return of money the couple had submitted to Attorney Daniel King for help in securing a bankruptcy, a legal action for which the Jackson say the company never even filed the paperwork.
The Jacksons, both civil servants who have lived in their Carson home for 27 years, are like many couples in today’s rough-and-tumble economy—anxious for a reprieve from their financial difficulty that would allow them to remain in their home.
Employees of Genesis warned the group that the police would be called, and those gathered, including ACCE coordinator Peggy Mears, encouraged them to do so.
After perhaps a half hour of drama in which King hid in one of the offices within the suite as disgruntled visitors chanted, “the people united can never be defeated” and other slogans, while a battery of receptionists and office staff begged or threatened the ACCE members to leave, the Jacksons received a check for $1,000.
Valerie noted that she and her husband have engaged three other businesses to help with modifications. In many cases, these companies or individuals have moved, or simply changed company names or phone numbers to complicate efforts by their dissatisfied customers to track and identify them. In essence, the Jacksons and other clients who have engaged them for financial services that never materialized will have to write these expenditures off.
After achieving this small success, the group went to a firm that had taken $1,500 from Dina and Victor Beltran of North Hollywood under similar circumstances, and replicated the above scenario, but were unsuccessful in collecting a refund.
The group then made their way to still another venue on Wilshire called Homezip Realty. After repeating their scam-action tactics, the involved parties relented and cut the Beltrans a check for $1000.
ACCE plans to continue to confront such businesses, and take the additional step by proclaiming Nov. 5 as “Take Your Money Out of the Bank Day.” On Saturday, ACCE members are encouraged to withdraw all their money from accounts in banks and financial institutions deemed to have engaged in unfair lending practices.
Mears is reaching out to other distressed homeowners.
“Anyone having problems with foreclosures, or feel they are being otherwise scammed, are encouraged to contact www.homedefendersleague.org, or to call the ACCE telephone number at (213) 863-4548.”
Other plans in the immediate future include a week of action similar to the “Make the Banks Pay to Refund California” mass mobilizations that took place in early October.
For 28 years Ronald and Valerie Jackson lived on Harlan Avenue in Carson. They raised their three children there, had started on the grandkids and had accumulated years of happy memories.
Valerie worked as a civilian employee for the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, and Ronald worked for the city of Los Angeles, before becoming a real estate investor.
Then the real estate market crashed, and “so did I,” said Ronald of his 2008 economic slump.
In the wake of another swell in the number of foreclosures in California (as conveyed by RealtyTrac, the online foreclosure listing), a recent report declared that the plight of home-buyer defaults has cost the state in excess of $130 billion, with an estimated $78 billion lost in homeowner equity just in Los Angeles.
Several years have passed since the housing “bubble” burst, and with the passage of time scores of homeowners still find themselves unable to meet their mortgage payments. Along with that reality comes the menacing threat of eviction, the specter of homelessness and all the attendant problems that go with it.
Another side effect of the stagnant economy has been the surplus of short-term methods devised to extract cash from a public desperate for financial relief. Among the more visible of these ventures are the ubiquitous cash advance outlets, payday loan facilities, and other such franchises that maybe found throughout the southland, especially in minority neighborhoods.
BERKELEY, Calif.—The Greenlining Institute Wednesday called for a 90-day moratorium on foreclosures in California and asked Attorney General Jerry Brown to join the push to halt foreclosures until it can be confirmed that California consumer protection laws are being followed.