Thursday, August 06, 2015

Philadelphia-Area Lawmaker Describes Experience Of Being Roped Into Role As Straw Buyer In Sale Leaseback, Equity Stripping Foreclosure Rescue Scam

In Philadelphia, Pennsylvania reports:
  • WITH THE MAYORAL primary behind him, former candidate Anthony Hardy Williams has eased back into his day job as a state senator. Last week, he clasped hands with the other losing Democrats and winner Jim Kenney in a show of unity. Williams had moved on.

    He was also ready, finally, to talk about a revelation about his past. His campaign staffers had dodged questions about it - a disastrous New Jersey real estate deal at the height of the subprime lending crisis that ended with Williams' credit in shambles, an investment property at sheriff's sale and a tenant accusing him of impropriety, according to court documents.

    In a recent interview, Williams confessed that he'd been the victim of a sophisticated mortgage scammer. He laid out a series of events that he said showed how even powerful people can be taken advantage of.

    In 2005, Williams said, he purchased a house in Atco, Camden County, after a friend in real estate told him he could help a woman on the verge of foreclosure named Darlene Johnson.

    "A friend of mine approached me about using my credit to help people who were losing their homes," Williams said. "If you're born into a life of service, this is the kind of stuff that you do."

    The friend, who Williams could only identify as a man named "Achmed" from West Philly, told him that he could help by getting into a "leaseback" or "lease buyback," a transaction that would become emblematic of the mortgage bubble of the 2000s.

    The idea was for Williams to get a mortgage to buy the soon-to-be foreclosed property, while Johnson remained in her home and paid rent to Williams to cover his costs. When Johnson's finances improved to the point where she could qualify for her own mortgage, she would buy the property back from Williams.

    The senator, who said he never saw or visited the property, was told he would get a "fee" for his trouble.

    At least, that's how it was supposed to work.

    Altruism to nightmare

    After months of requests by to speak with Williams about the transaction, the lawmaker agreed to discuss it at the law offices of Center City criminal defense attorney George Bochetto.

    Williams said he saw the real estate deal as a chance at altruism. What it became, he said, was "a nightmare that won't go away."

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