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Officials: Slow Justice At Fault In Chicago Man’s Long Con

CHICAGO (AP) – The Illinois Attorney General’s office sued the owner of a Chicago remodeling company almost 30 years ago, accusing him of taking money from property owners for work that was either shoddy or never done. Without admitting wrongdoing, Mark Diamond agreed to change his ways.

But authorities say Diamond merely changed up his scheme, continuing what amounted to a nearly three-decade career of scamming hundreds of people — primarily poor, older and African-American — with home repair and mortgage-related frauds.

They accuse him of stripping millions of dollars in equity from homeowners, even as state regulators took away his business license, the Federal Trade Commission and two consecutive attorneys general sued and dozens of homeowners filed lawsuits.

Federal investigators last week executed a search warrant on Diamond’s Chicago office, an FBI spokeswoman confirmed, but no criminal charges have been filed. He’s scheduled to appear at a hearing Monday on a 2009 state lawsuit against him.

How Diamond has managed to remain in business is a frustrating indictment of consumer protection laws and a civil justice system that moves too slowly, both prosecutors and consumer advocates say. If determined enough, they say, unethical business people can change corporate entities, reappear with different names and continue the same crimes.

“That’s exactly what’s going on here,” said Illinois Attorney Gen. Lisa Madigan, in an interview with The Associated Press. “This is hands-down one of the most horrific cases that I’ve had to contend with.”

Michelle Weinberg, a lawyer at Chicago’s Legal Assistance Foundation, said she’s seen roughly a half-dozen “repeat players” in consumer fraud schemes over the last 20 years. She agreed it’s not unusual for it to take a decade or more to stop them.

“It’s very sad, and it’s very frustrating,” said Weinberg, who has represented multiple clients against Diamond.

Madigan said in addition to the civil case and possible criminal charges, her office is working with the Illinois Legislature to pass a bill aimed at better protecting consumers who consider reverse mortgages.

Diamond didn’t answer repeated phone calls from The Associated Press, and his office appeared closed when the AP tried to visit last week. His attorney, Dennis Both, also did not respond to multiple emails and phone messages.

The 58-year-old Diamond owns several Chicago properties, including condos overlooking Millennium Park, according to property records. He’s faced foreclosure on some of his own real estate, court records show, and has been repeatedly sued by his condominium association for not paying fees.

Two lawsuits, Madigan’s and one from 2002 filed by then-Attorney General Jim Ryan and the FTC, accuse Diamond of using high-pressure sales techniques, falsifying closing documents and taking equity for repair work that’s sometimes never done.

People who say they’re his victims and prosecutors allege Diamond, who is white, has employed at least one African-American woman identified only as “Cynthia” whose job it is to approach homeowners on Chicago’s South and West sides.

Robert Rash says he first met Diamond in 2006. Shortly after his wife died, the college security guard started getting unsolicited phone calls from a woman asking if he needed any home repairs. He eventually told the woman — Cynthia — he wanted to install a bathroom in the basement, but that he couldn’t pay for it.

Cynthia said the company she worked for could refinance his home, take cash out to pay for the new bathroom and do the work. Rash agreed, thinking he was getting a lower house payment and a $5,000 cash payout. But Diamond — who Rash says took $17,000 to put in the small bathroom — never completed the work.

Rash tried for years to get Diamond to finish and had to enroll in a state program to help people facing foreclosure before a free legal service helped him file a lawsuit against Diamond, which was settled for $7,000.

“These have been some miserable years,” the 68-year-old said. He describes Diamond as a master manipulator. “If there were an Oscar for being a crook, he would win,” Rash said.

At the time Rash met Diamond, he was still subject to a three-year consent decree as part of an agreement to resolve the 2002 case. It set several requirements, including that Diamond not mislead consumers.

By 2009, authorities say, Diamond had moved on to hawking reverse mortgages, in which homeowners take equity out of their property to live on. Authorities said he sent women into Chicago neighborhoods with offers of home repairs presented as a free city program for seniors.

Lillie Williams, an 88-year-old who bought her Chicago home in 1974, was among those who signed up. She said “Cynthia” drove her to Diamond’s office to sign paperwork, and agreed to put in a new kitchen and bathroom.

But only some of the work was done before Williams started getting notices that she was delinquent on her house insurance. Her kids realized their mother had signed a reverse mortgage and had given Diamond access to the equity in her home.

She’s currently facing foreclosure.

“It meant the world to me,” Williams said. “I thought I’d be here until I leave.”

(TM and © Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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Bronson Pinchot Foreclosure: ‘Perfect Strangers’ Actor Loses Properties After …

Bronson Pinchot’s foreclosure situation is making headlines as the former Perfect Strangers star has now lost four properties to the bank due to non-payment. The properties taken over by First National Bank of Pennsylvania will now head to a sheriff’s sale in April unless the former actor steps in to pay up.

According to NBC Philadelphia, the Bronson Pinchot foreclosures come after his unpaid totals rose to more than $270,000. The properties, said to consist of dwellings, a barn, a shed and a commercial building are located in Harford Township and include the area’s post office.

Not all of Pinchot’s real estate holdings are in foreclosure, however. Fans may remember Pinchot doing a reality TV show called The Bronson Pinchot Project for the DIY Network. That main home featured on the show, also located in the Harford area, still belongs to Bronson.

However, the home renovated on the DYI Network show is currently on the market and listed for $399,000. The town is said to have about 1,400 residents, and unfortunately Pinchot may find that the home will be a tough sell in that area at that price point.

The Times-Tribune shares that the bank tried for a year to connect with the actor to resolve the debt, but it seems he’s been completely out of touch. The Bronson Pinchot foreclosures come after he fell behind $185,590 on payments for three properties and another $85,384 on another holding. It is said that Bronson also owes nearly $14,000 in taxes as well.

Prior to his reality show, Pinchot was known by many primarily for his role as Balki Bartokomous in the comedy Perfect Strangers, which ran from 1986 to 1993. He has popped up on a number of shows over the years, including Step by Step and The Young and the Restless.

While Pinchot does have until the April 28 sheriff’s sale date to pay the amounts due and stop the foreclosure, it looks unlikely he’ll do that. Reports indicate that he has not made himself available for comment on the situation and the bank reportedly went to great lengths to connect with him prior to foreclosing on the properties.

It seems that previously, Pinchot told the Times-Tribune that he was seeking a financial partner and he hoped to continue the commitment he made to the Harford area. He said at the time that he was not in hiding, but he also did not indicate where he was living. He never responded to the inquiries from the bank, thus the court moving ahead on the Bronson Pinchot foreclosures.

[Image via NBC Philadelphia]

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Foreclosure probe digging deeper into title work done on cases

State investigators digging into Colorado attorneys who controlled the bulk of the business during the foreclosure crisis are taking a closer look at a title insurance company with ties to those law firms.

In a Denver District Court filing, the Colorado Attorney General’s Office said a company with connections to former foreclosure powerhouse Lawrence Castle “might be improperly charging an additional $175 for title commitments” it never actually issued to consumers.

In a related development, Castle said in a separate court filing for the same case that he’s considering suing state investigators for allegedly causing federal mortgage agencies to dump his law firm from handling its cases, effectively forcing the state’s biggest foreclosure processor to close shop.

The filings are part of the state’s investigation into Castle and a number of affiliated companies that dominated the state’s foreclosure business for years, reaping millions of dollars by allegedly overcharging for a variety of services it monopolized. The state filed a civil complaint last year and is seeking millions of dollars in fines and penalties.

One of the related services came from Colorado American Title, a company Castle’s various law firms used on foreclosure cases not tied to Fannie Mae, the federal mortgage insurer.

Castle’s law firm used Colorado American to perform title commitments on properties that did not have federally insured mortgages.

Efforts to reach Castle for comment were unsuccessful.

Disclosure of the state’s latest line of inquiry appeared in its challenge of a request by Colorado American Title’s attorney to withdraw from the case, citing irreconcilable differences with his client, court records show.

Investigators say they want additional documents from the lawyer to determine whether Colorado American charged for undelivered title policies, according to the filing.

Colorado American is owned by Castle’s longtime personal and business accountant, Ryan O’Connell, court records show. O’Connell also owns RE Records Research in Morrison, which Castle used for title commitments on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac properties he was foreclosing.

It was O’Connell whom AG investigators said called the title business “the cash cow” of the foreclosure industry, where attorneys had the chance to reap windfall profits, court records show.

Castle has fought the AG investigation into his law firm’s foreclosure practices since it surfaced in court hearings regarding state efforts to acquire documents and other information about the lawyers and their clients.

That battle continues as Castle points toward investigator tactics as the reason for some of his business troubles.

Castle said his side had “information that the state may have applied undue pressure on servicers and investors — including Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac — to stop hiring the Castle Law Group to conduct foreclosures in Colorado and other states.”

The loss of that business “was the proximate cause of the Castle defendants’ firms going out of business, with hundreds of employees losing their jobs,” according to the filing.

“Because we are in active litigation with Mr. Castle, we cannot discuss this matter outside of the court process,” AG spokeswoman Carolyn Tyler said Monday.

The case is slated for a two-week trial in January 2016 in Denver District Court.

In a separate matter, Wells Fargo Financial Leasing recently landed a $684,000 judgment agreement with Castle over unpaid leases on a dozen high-end copy machines and data collection systems the law firm and an affiliated business had rented. Wells Fargo had sued in Denver District Court.

David Migoya: 303-954-1506, or

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George Soros’ SunTrust Bank Takes Hit For Wrongful Foreclosure Suit

George Soros' SunTrust Bank Takes Hit For Wrongful Foreclosure Scam

George Soros’ SunTrust Bank Takes Hit For Wrongful Foreclosure Scam

North Carolina foreclosure victims who are owed money from SunTrust bank as part of a wrongful foreclosure class action suit should start receiving claim forms in the mail this week, according to Attorney General Roy Cooper’s office.

A release from Cooper’s office stated that 2,286 people in the state who lost their homes to foreclosure are owed a total of $2 million. The deadline to submit all claims is June 4th, 2015.

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Vista Ridge Mall owner looks to walk away and list it for foreclosure

shopping illustration

Interior of a shopping mall

Traditional Gem in Lobello Estates13 photos

Candace Carlisle
Staff Writer- Dallas Business Journal


The ownership of Lewisville’s Vista Ridge Mall is looking to unload the mall’s keys after three years it making less money than New York City-based Rouse Properties owes on its mall loans.

“If you look at the trailing last few years of financials and it has been performing below one debt service coverage ratio, or making less money than it owes,” Joe McBride, an analyst with Trepp LLC, told the Dallas Business Journal.

In 2012, Vista Ridge Mall made 98 cents for every dollar it owed on the property’s debt. In 2013, that operating loss was 85 cents on every dollar owed. In the first three quarters of 2014, Vista Ridge Mall owed 77 cents for every dollar it owed.

The unraveling of the debt stems back to the original mall owner, General Growth Partners, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2009. The bankruptcy rippled through the North Texas market and some of the low performing malls — like Vista Ridge Mall — were spun off into Rouse Properties.

Rouse has paid the property’s loans for the past several years, but recently decided it was going to stop supporting the property, McBride said.

“The debt was scheduled to mature next year and this was a low-performing property that was just trying to handle its debt service,” he said. “It seems Rouse has made the decision to hand over the keys and stop funding the shortfalls.”

The property is current on its debt obligations, but Rouse has decided to stop paying for the property and list it for foreclosure.

The ownership group owes $67.8 million on a loan originated through the Lehman Brothers. The loan is now secured through a CMBS loan serviced by Wells Fargo. LNR Partners is the special servicer on the loan.

Candace covers commercial and residential real estate and sports business.

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Wake Forest wedding venue falls into foreclosure

The future is unclear for Crenshaw Hall, a historic home that has been a popular wedding venue in Wake Forest.

The property on Durham Road, about 3 miles west of the former Wake Forest University campus before the school moved to Winston-Salem in 1956, fell into foreclosure.

On March 12, American National Bank, a Virginia-based bank with branches in the Triangle, entered a $775,000 bid to buy back the home, which has been plagued by financial problems.

The property owner owes more than $3,500 in delinquent town and county taxes dating back to 2011.

The history of the 5,577-square-foot home goes back more than a century. It was the centerpiece of a plantation in the 1800s and once belonged to William Crenshaw, the first treasurer of Wake Forest University.

According to Wake County property records dating back to 1963, the Jones family – cousins to the Crenshaw clan – formerly owned the home.

Heirs of the Crenshaw family later took ownership, including John Bennett III in 1997. He created Crenshaw Hall Properties LLC and turned the house into a space to host weddings and other events.

Crenshaw Hall Properties filed for bankruptcy twice since 2010. Last year, lawyers for the company attempted to stop foreclosure on the property.

The last relative who lived in the home died in 1992, said Jody Totten, who is Bennett’s sister and lives in Tennessee.

After their mother died, the entire Crenshaw estate was divided among heirs. Bennett got the house, Totten said.

She said siblings didn’t keep up with each other’s dealings from the estate. But she said Bennett renovated the old house into a beautiful space.

At one point, the Crenshaw property was valued at more than $1.4 million, according to Wake County records. It is currently valued at $821,400.

Totten said she is unsure what led to the financial troubles at Crenshaw Hall. Bennett could not be reached for comment.

Totten said it would be tough to see the property belong to someone outside the family. She spent a lot of time at the house as a child.

The home was a landing ground for the Crenshaw family and relatives, Totten said. Some of her distant relatives moved away and would come back to visit or to get away from their everyday lives.

A pair of distant grandfathers lived as bachelors their entire lives in the house, Totten said.

“It was home,” she said. “When you’re younger and move away and don’t have a spouse or a family, it’s where you go back to.”

Hankerson: 919-829-4802;

Twitter: @mechelleh

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Guardrail Whistleblower Puts Own Company Into Bankruptcy

A Virginia man who’s been battling guardrail maker Trinity Industries Inc. over safety concerns has put his own firm, a smaller guardrail maker, into bankruptcy protection.

Joshua Harman, who stands to profit from the largest-ever whistleblower award won without Justice Department help, owns 37.5% of Spig Industry LLC, which filed for bankruptcy Monday. The company said in court papers it has seen no revenue for more than a year.

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Benitez family matriarch asks Manila court to stop foreclosure, seeks PWU rehab

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–> means BUSINESS

MANILA – The matriarch of the Benitez family has asked a local court to stop the foreclosure of properties housing the campuses of Philippine Women’s University (PWU).

In a statement, former senator Helena Z. Benitez, whose family owns PWU, said she has asked the Manila Regional Trial Court (RTC) to suspend the foreclosure on the university’s properties, and to start corporate rehabilitation proceedings. She filed the petition in her capacity as a creditor, citing a P33.6 million loan that she granted PWU.

The former senator’s petition comes on the heels of STI’s bid to foreclose on several properties, including those housing the PWU main campus in Manila and the Jose Abad Santos Memorial School (JASMS) in Quezon City.

STI had moved for the foreclosure on the properties, which were pledged as collateral for a P223-million loan that PWU secured from BDO Unibank. STI had assumed the loan and granted additional credit to PWU affiliate Unlad Resources Development Corporation in exchange for shares in the company, which should have acquired the university’s assets.

The deal however fell through after PWU failed to transfer the assets to Unlad, leading STI declare the university in default.

In her petition, Benitez said PWU’s operations depend on the income generated by its campuses.

“The foreclosure and sale of any of the properties will extremely prejudice PWU and endanger its existence or survival since the properties are vital to its operations and rehabilitation,” she said, adding that, “The foreclosure proceedings will also drastically disrupt and stop PWU’s school operations.”

Benitez said the PWU and JASMS properties are worth at least P1.2 billion, or more than the P1 billion that STI is seeking as payment, including interest, surcharge and tax.

In lieu of the foreclosure, Benitez proposed a rehabilitation plan for PWU, the goal of which is to enable the university to meet its obligations to creditors, including STI, without disrupting classes.

The plan would involve the sale of assets to cover part of PWU’s debts, with the balance to be paid over a 10-year period based on the projected cash flow of the university.

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More Heartache For Teresa: NJ Mansion Going Into Foreclosure While She’s In …

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Foreclosure Attorney Can Stop Foreclosure Sale Dates Immediately

Los Angeles, CA — (ReleaseWire) — 03/16/2015 — With the current state of the economy, many people are still struggling to pay their mortgage. Foreclosure is a very real threat for many people, especially those who have lost income or have struggled with health issues and need help. Consumer Action Law Group is a law firm dedicated to help struggling homeowners who want to save their home.

Why Hire a Stop Foreclosure Attorney?

A foreclosure attorney handles many tasks. They can stop foreclosure sale dates, negotiate to lower the principal balance, negotiate to get rid of the second mortgage, negotiate to lower mortgage payments and negotiate to eliminate the past due balance of a client.

Borrowers who have received a Notice of Trustee Sale or Notice of Default should enlist the services of a foreclosure attorney as soon as possible. Consumer Action Law Group has a strong track record of successful cases stopping foreclosure, with lawyers are dedicated to stopping foreclosures and trustee sale dates.

How to Find the Best Foreclosure Defense Attorney

When it comes to hiring a stop foreclosure service, here are a few factors to keep in mind:

- Reputation: What is the reputation of the law firm? Note their success rate. Look for lawyers who understand foreclosure laws and are able to provide the best results. Consider testimonials or reviews from their previous clients.

- Fees: When looking for a stop foreclosure attorney , a client must focus on their goals. Find a law firm that explains what they will do before hiring them. If the goal is to short sell the house, for example, there is no need to pay attorneys fees. Filing a lawsuit, on the other hand, will be time consuming and is usually expensive for a borrower. Most attorneys do not offer contingency fees for stopping foreclosure. Consumer Action Law Group charges affordable fees and does not charge at all to determine whether there is a case and how best to save the home.

How to Stop Foreclosure

Filing a lawsuit stops foreclosure, as long as the judge signs an order to stop the sale. A client can also choose to file bankruptcy to stop the foreclosure. Hiring an attorney who is focused on foreclosure is a wise decision. It extremely difficult to take on this problem without the help of experienced professionals. Consumer Action Law Group attorneys stop foreclosure by filing lawsuits based on the situation and the facts.

A modification can and should be handled directly by the borrower and can be an effective way to delay foreclosure until a lender approves or denies the application. Lastly, a deed in lieu of foreclosure provides borrowers with extra time to delay the foreclosure.

Instead of trying to take care of this stressful matter, many clients prefer to let an attorney do the work for them. The seasoned attorneys at Consumer Action Law Group are dedicated to handling cases that involve illegal and wrongful foreclosure.

Owning a home is a testament to hard work; Consumer Action Law Group fight very hard to make sure that a borrower can stay in their house as long as that is viable. Consumer Action Law Group provides affordable and effective solutions to foreclosure victims in California, and the firm offers free legal advice to anyone facing foreclosure. Call today to talk to a lawyer at Consumer Action Law Group and to see if there is a case.

About Consumer Action Law Group
Consumer Action Law Group is a law firm dedicated to help consumers in consumer-related matters or consumers that experienced fraud and scam. Attorneys in the team are knowledgeable and experienced in the areas of eliminating debt, mortgages fraud, auto fraud, and home under foreclosures. They have high experience in consumer fraud matters to defense consumers who are facing financial matters, foreclosure, and fraud.

For Media Inquiries:
Contact Person: Lauren Rode, Esq.
Telephone: 818-254-8413

For more information on this press release visit:

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