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Elderly Black Chicago Residents Losing Homes After Falling Victim to This Ruthless Scam Artist

The Illinois Attorney General’s office has won a $2.4 million lawsuit against a white contractor who ruined the lives of several elderly Black Chicago homeowners.

In a Dec. 14 investigative report by Chicago’s WGN 9 News, reporters discovered that contractor Mark Diamond took advantage of Black homeowners in need of home repairs. For 30 years or more, elderly homeowners have been refinancing their mortgages just to afford Diamond’s work. However, they usually were left with shoddy work and exorbitant bills that they could not afford, forcing them into foreclosure.

That’s what happened to Barbara Herron. After living in her home since she was 12, Herron is now packing up 50-plus years of life and moving out. Her townhouse was originally a gift from her brother, former New England Patriots running back Mack Herron, to their mother. Now, her brother and mother have both died and Herron has to leave.

According to the WGN 9 News, Herron was the victim of Diamond’s scam. Herron’s mother originally took out a reverse mortgage to pay for the repairs, but Herron is now responsible for the bill and she simply can’t afford to pay it. So, she’s leaving.

“I didn’t know it would come to that,” Herron tells reporters. “Because under the conditions Mack was telling my mother that we could always live in the house. There was no way the house could be taken.”

While Herron has received $80,000 from the lawsuit, she still has to move out because the money will not be available in time to prevent foreclosure.

There are other victims with similar heartbreaking stories. The two daughters of Della Brownlee, Shari and Shelia Brownlee, are now picking up the pieces after their mother’s untimely death in 2011.

According to the women, Diamond reportedly refinanced their mother’s home for nearly $500,000, even though the home was originally purchased for $25,000. To make matters worse, the two said it took years for him to complete the work. But upon completion, there were more problems than repairs.

“The stove didn’t work ! The heat didn’t work,” Shari Brownlee tells reporters. Both daughters also attribute their mother’s death to the stress of her predicament. “Right after this happened, she was bedridden for two weeks,” Shari Brownlee recalls.

Attorney Dennis Smith, who works with reverse mortgages and sees their effects on the Black community, said reverse mortgages rip away generational wealth from Black families because parents cannot pass on already paid-off homes to their children.

“These homes were purchased in a period of time where there was blatant redlining of lenders,” Smith said. “So, many of these people couldn’t get normal loans to begin with. Yet, they did. They brought the house. Their intention was that it would become a legacy for them. And they would pass that on.”

The FBI is now investigating Diamond, but he is not facing any criminal charges as of this report.

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