After two years of paying a mortgage and believing that her home was fully paid for, one of Detroit’s most vulnerable is now facing eviction. The 65-year-old woman was a victim of a “fake landlord” enterprise that fraudulently took her money in a rent-to-buy scam.
According to NBC News, June Walker had been paying $550 a month for three years to purchase her $15,000 home. She used all of her savings and her disability check to secure what she thought would be her permanent domicile. In addition to faithfully paying her mortgage each month, she poured thousands of dollars into the refurbishing and restoration of her new home.
However, a con artist swindled her out of her money, leaving the senior broken-hearted. Now, she is a part of a “legal eviction process.”
She said, “I made the last payment April of 2021.” She stated that she was paying since 2019 on what is called a “land contract” with an option to buy lease that was tailored specifically to fit her needs according to her income.
“When I made the last payment,” she shared with NBC News. “I was running around the house, just thanking God. I was a homeowner.”
That was cut short. Two months later she received a letter from the 36th District court ordering her to leave as she was trespassing. She immediately contacted the United Community Housing Coalition to obtain legal advice, and that is when she was made aware of the scam.
Despite remaining in the home, she has to work through the legal red tape to rightfully stay in the home.
Devastated and facing the threat of becoming “unsheltered,” Walker represents a sad reality in American culture: Elder Abuse.
The term elder abuse is usually associated with poorly managed senior living facilities or neglectful children, but term can be applied to cases where older people’s financial resources are exploited by wolves in sheep’s clothing. These swindlers do their dirt in a plethora of ways. Issues around homeownership (like Walker’s case or the popular reverse mortgages) are at the top of the pile.
Not all of these bad guys get away with elder abuse. Patch reports that a Long Island man was recently sentenced to 7 1/2 to 15 years for conning an 85-year-old out of six figures.
For half a year, James Mcinerney lied and misrepresented himself to the woman, stealing $103,050. This octogenarian got a measure of justice when Judge Joseph J. Spofford convicted him of grand larceny in the second degree, attempted grand larceny in the third degree, and resisting arrest. He is also ordered to pay all the money back.
An investigation into Walker’s case by Outlier Media and NBC News discovered that over the past 10 years, many people in the Detroit community have fallen victim. The actual statistic, per their discovery, is that 1 in 10 persons evicted in the city was duped by a “fake landlord.”
Michigan Attorney General, Dana Nessel, is now stepping in. His goal is to provide resources and tools to help citizens avoid falling for these types of scams.
Nessel released a statement about the scams: “I was appalled and saddened to read the hardship these victims are facing at the hands of scam artists who target tenants. The best way to prevent a scam from happening is to know the red flags to look for, so you can spot them before a bad actor tries to take advantage of you or someone you know.”
One resource is the Home Lending and Foreclosure Rescue Scams Consumer Alert, a project that shines a spotlight on scam artists who target the elderly, those with low incomes or poor credit, and individuals in danger of losing their homes in foreclosure.
Walker didn’t pay attention to the details when she purchased the home. The paperwork for the home that she signed said on Feb. 8, 2019, that she was entering into a “residential lease with an option to buy.”
But she didn’t notice missing from the document was an owner’s address, the name of a city, nor a ZIP code. She also did not research City Manager Group, that company offering her the home. Had she looked into the company, she would have found out that it is not a legally registered business in Michigan.
The report also revealed that the Pennsylvania-based company RHMS Group that owned the home, had no idea that she was in the home or that she was paying rent or a mortgage.
To her chagrin, the company sold the property to a Florida company called Boccafe LLC for $25,000 in June, exactly two months after her last payment.
Although Walker remains in the home, her future there is uncertain.
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