Friday, March 18, 2016
Home Repair Contractor w/ Decades-Long History Of Targeting Elderly Chicago Homeowners In Equity Stripping Scams Using Subprime, Reverse Mortgages To Fund Shoddy, Incomplete Home Improvements Continues To Dodge Criminal Prosecution; Illinois AG: He's A "Conman Of Unimaginable Magnitude!"
In Chicago, Illinois, Columbia College Professor Jeff Kelly Lowenstein writes in The Huffington Post:
Life for Chicago businessman Mark Diamond got harder last week, even as questions remain for some about why he has not yet faced criminal prosecution.
On Wednesday Cook Count Judge David Atkins granted Attorney General Lisa Madigan's request for an injunction against Diamond while the 2009 cases her office filed on behalf of dozens of homeowners makes its way through the court system.
"The court finds that Plaintiff has carried its burden of proof to obtain a preliminary injunction against the Defendants," Atkins wrote in his 10-page decision.
In the 2009 suit Diamond was accused of bilking elderly black homeowners out of more than $1.3 million through a reverse mortgage/home repair scam.(1)
Reverse mortgages are loans that allow homeowners 62 years or older to convert some of their home's equity into cash. Although the mortgage is not due until the homeowner dies or the house is no longer used as a primary residence, mortgage holders must pay insurance premiums.
Madigan told me in January for a story I wrote for The Chicago Reporter that she filed the injunction in October 2014 because her office had received an uptick last year in complaints about Diamond's activities.(2)
"For too many years, Mark Diamond defrauded the most vulnerable people in our society," Madigan said in a statement. "He stole the financial security that these families struggled to build over a lifetime. It is deplorable that he got away with his scheme for so many years. The preliminary injunction provides a small victory for those who have already lost so much but will at least prevent additional people from losing their homes and savings to one of Diamond's reverse mortgage scams."(3)
Diamond's lawyer Dennis Both declined requests for comment.
Diamond has been the subject of dozens of lawsuits in circuit and federal court in Illinois stretching back nearly 30 years.(4) Many of the actions allege that he targeted elderly black homeowners on the city's South and West Sides. Madigan has sought to thwart Diamond's activities since she assumed office in 2002.
A number of these homeowners recounted their experiences in the injunction Madigan's office filed last year. Their testimony creates a consistent picture of Diamond's misrepresenting the nature and terms of the reverse mortgage, taking a substantial portion, if not all, of the money, and doing little, no or shoddy repairs.
The homeowners who testified included Clyde Ross, a member of the Contract Buyers League that fought for West Side residents' housing rights in the 1960s. Ross, who is in his 90s, said in his testimony that he wanted to make his home accessible for his son Tim, a disabled Marine who was injured in the war in Iraq. Diamond took more than $35,000 from Clyde Ross and left his home more dangerous than before he started, according to the testimony.
Legislation filed by Sen. Jacqueline Collins (D-16) that would require a cooling off period for prospective reverse mortgage applicants and that would prohibit those involved in granting a reverse mortgage from getting access to the money has not moved since passing the House in late May.
Collins said she was relieved that Diamond will not be able conduct the business activities that have allowed him to prey for decades on senior citizens of color, but noted that he is "not the only scammer at work in our neighborhoods."
"I urge the governor to sign the reverse mortgage consumer protection legislation I sponsored so these individuals have fewer opportunities to defraud homeowners," Collins wrote in a statement.
Catherine Kelly, spokeswoman for Gov. Bruce Rauner, said the governor will take seriously any legislation that crosses his desk.
The Rev. Robin Hood, founder of the Illinois Anti-Foreclosure Coalition and the nephew of one of Diamond's alleged victims, also applauded the move by Atkins and said he will not stop advocating until Diamond faces criminal charges.
"We will not quit until Mark Diamond and others like him, are completely out of business and face the full extent of the law," said Hood, adding that he had spoken with an attorney in South Dakota who said Diamond had victimized hundreds of families across the country. "We will seek restitution for all the victims, and their heirs."
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Eve's beloved Ivan died thirteen years ago in an automobile accident. Her charming, boyish Chuck has taken a different exit out of her life: hopping into his car in the middle of a garage sale with no forewarning and departing their formerly happy upstate New York home for points unknown. Now Eve's a boat adrift, subsisting on a heartbreak diet of rue, disappointment, and woe-left alone to care for Ivan's brilliant teen aged son, Marcus, and Chuck's precocious, pragmatic nine-year-old daughter, Noni, while contending with Charlotte, Eve's acerbic mother, who's come north to "help" but hinders instead.
But life ultimately must go on, with its highs and lows, its traumas and holidays, and well-meaning, if eccentric, friends. A house and a heart in disrepair are painful burdens for a passionate woman who's still in her prime. And while learning to cope with the large and small tragedies that each passing day brings, Eve might end up discovering that she's gained much more than she's lost.
A poignant, lovely, funny, and ultimately uplifting story of love, family, and survival, Liz Rosenberg's Home Repair is an unforgettable introduction to a lyrical, wise, and wonderfully vibrant new literary voice.-- Avon
In preparation for Book Club Girl's BlogTalk Radio show tonight, I read HOME REPAIR by Liz Rosenberg. This novel is about a woman's attempts to deal with her life after her husband unexpectedly deserts her and her children. As if dealing with the loss of a husband for the second time isn't enough (her first husband was in a fatal car accident), she also has to deal with an aging mother, problems with her job, her love life, her children and even money matters. As I read this novel, I kept wondering how much more poor Eve could handle.
My heart definitely went out to Eve, and she really was just a trooper despite all the "bad" things that happened to her along the way. I really liked her (and her family), but for some reason, I just didn't feel a connection with the characters in this story. I was very much bothered by my reaction to this book because I felt like I should felt something more. As I reflected on this novel, I think my problem is that I have led a very blessed life -- I guess that's not really a problem, is it? This book reflected some painful life experiences that I just couldn't relate to (thank goodness), and I think I was unable to make that connection to the characters. I have a feeling that I'm going to be in the minority with these feelings -- many readers are going to love Eve and see pieces of themselves in her character.
I did like Eve and think she was a remarkably strong woman. I can't imagine losing a husband and being left with a small child; however, my sympathy kind of dried up when her second husband left her because he was such an immature and selfish man. I know that women make bad relationship choices all the time, but I felt like she and her kids were better off on their own. I also felt bad about Eve having to deal with her mother's aging all by herself. My grandmother recently broke some bones in a fall and had to be admitted to a nursing home so I realize how difficult that can be for everyone involved.
What I really liked about this book were the messages that I could take away from it. To me, this book was really about life -- both the good and the bad, and the ups and the downs (although there seemed to be a lot of "bad" and "downs" for poor Eve.) I think Ms. Rosenberg showed the readers that change does occur in each of our lives whether we want it to or not -- stuff happens, people die, and life must go on. What happened to Eve in HOME REPAIR and how she handled it shows that life is full of both joys and sadness, and we can only control how we can deal with these things.
This book would make a very interesting book club discussion book. I wasn't able to find a reader's guide, but I think you could easily come up with some fantastic questions on your own. There are just so many universal themes about life that most everyone will relate to. I would love to spend an evening with my friends talking about the changes that occur in our lives and how we all cope with them. I also think there are some other interesting themes such as grief, friendships, parent/child relationships, guilt, and self confidence that will make for an exciting meeting.
I am really looking forward to tonight's show because I am very anxious to hear Ms. Rosenberg discuss HOME REPAIR. I absolutely love hearing authors discuss their books, and I also appreciate getting further insight into their characters and novels. If you want to learn more about Ms. Rosenberg before tonight's show, check out this video or this "fun stuff section." You can find more about the book as well as read an interesting little Q&A with the author.
Read more here - http://www.bookingmama.net/2009/07/review-home-repair.html
Home Repair causes me no small amount of despair. This is made worse by the fact that I own very few tools so even if I venture forth to remedy some ill that has befallen my most humble abode it is very likely that I’ll get half way through with it and discover some specialized instrument is required and then it will sit on the porch, unfinished, staring at me, until the next bonfire. I am mechanically reclined. There is nothing that I can say I do well with tool other than create jobs for other people in home repair. There is no job so simple that I cannot turn it into a catastrophe.
Then there are the dangerous job involving such things as electricity. That’s one of the few things inside of a home that can kill you outright. I’ve made just a couple of mistakes with electrical current and it’s never been as simple as getting cut with a razor knife or accidently hitting my knee with a hammer. True, falling off a ladder or a roof might cause serious injury or death but electricity is invisible. You have no idea of a wire is hot or cold until you do something that would cause you to find out.
Of course, there are tools for this, too. There are devices that will allow you to know each and every wire’s most inner secret, if you own these tools, and if you know how to use these tools, and if you know where the wires are. I’m a blind doctor doing surgery on a patient who is many feet long and tucked under a house. Somewhere, and I am sure of this, there is a wire that has been chewed through by a rat under the house. I must find this wire, cut the power off to the house, and then repair the wire. That is my mission.
The last thing I want under the house with me is four dogs; two large and two medium dogs and in particular I do not want a medium sized striped dog with a high prey drive under the house at all. This means I have to put all of the dogs inside of the house and go spelunking all my own. My biggest fear with the dogs is that they will tear asunder any and all insulation looking for rats. And no, rats I usually do not have because I toss a rat snake or two under the house each Summer. This Summer a striped dog with a high prey drive has kept the snakes away from the house.
The Quest for the Rodent Rendered Wire was as anticlimactic as it would seem to be. First, there’s only a few places under the house where there are wires to be found. Second, none of them were chewed at all. But there was nowhere else to look. I took five separate trips down under to find wire and rats and all I found was damp, musty, uh, musty damp stuff. I also discovered that I am not nearly as limber as I once was and crawling around on my back in the dirt isn’t nearly as much fun as it once was and it never was. I did mess with the dogs’ minds by calling them from one room to another. That was all the fun there was to be had.
Dark, damp, and closed in spaces do not bother me at all. I had a decent flashlight and a decent backup flashlight, and I took a razor knife with me, just in case of rats. Yet there isn’t any fear that I have of the darkness that is inherent. There’s enough light under the house for me to tell where I am and even if it was awesomely dark I could still find the way to the trapdoor. What is there to fear in a space where there is no light? It is the same space. There is nothing missing but sight. There is nothing added but the mind’s attempt to translate what is to what was and the darkness itself causes to harm. I cut the flashlight off and navigate by the light of the vents that appear on the house’s foundation blocks. East, east, east, then South and I’m out. I could do this at midnight and still get out quickly. But my back and neck both hurt.
One of my worst habits is to keep trying to fix something the same way even though it hasn’t worked before. After trip five under the house I realized that it gave me the sense of having accomplished something through effort without having any real results. It’s like those people who stare at a page without being able to read it but they keep staring without ever making the effort to begin to study what’s there. Sooner or later, and likely sooner, I’m going to have to find someone who knows a little more about electricity that I do.
I call around and explain the problem and most tell me the same thing, “We will come out to your house and look at your problem but before we do anything at all it is $$$!!! Per hour just for us to drive to your house then $$$!!!+$$$$!!!! to do any work.”
This has been going on now for a few months. I finally told a guy who said he would tell me what was wrong for one hundred dollars I would get back to him in a couple of weeks. That was a week ago.
Last night, I decided I wanted to do four things at one time while sitting on the sofa; watch a movie on the laptop, charge the laptop, charge the phone, and use the reading lamp. This would require three places to plugs thing in and near the sofa there is one outlet with two receptacles. I thought using the power strip where the tv once stood would be a good idea. I plugged the power strip in, plugged the lamp into it and WHAM, out goes the light. This was a surprise and so I unplugged the power strip and plugged the lamp back in. Nothing. I plug the lamp into a receptacle in the other room and light! I check the break box and sure enough, there’s a breaker that’s tripped. I flip it back on and then stop. There’s that breaker that’s been tripped. I flip it over and it stays.
Back in the living room everything works. Everything. It was the power strip that was causing the problem all along!
I have no idea how this is possible but I’m happy.