It seems like yesterday and a lifetime ago all a once. Back in 2005, our neighborhood in North Dallas was invaded by mortgage fraudsters, or property "flippers." My husband and I own a mortgage brokerage, and I'm also a real estate broker, so neighbors began asking advice about the rumors swirling about unbelievable sale prices some of our neighbors were getting for homes that weren't even on the market.
Twenty homeowners on our block came together in an unexpected and unconventional way to save our neighborhood. Some said what we planned couldn't or shouldn't be done, but we're a group that's never been too keen on being told what we can and can't do.
In brief, several homes on one block fell victim to mortgage fraud, but our neighbors fought the good fight against it. You can read and see all about the details here:
The bizarre events that ensued after these homes fell into the hands of various occupants is the stuff of legend on our block and beyond. It was no small task getting the attention of local, state, and federal officials. But with the help of Becky Oliver and her producer at FOX4, the media interest catapulted our story all the way to national coverage. (Charles Gibson's office called me for an interview but cancelled because it was scheduled for the same day as the Bear Stearns collapse...btw, Mr. Gibson, I'm still available!)
Federal authorities finally decided to prosecute, and the trial is scheduled for September 2009. The 51-count indictment charges the accused (he gets no face time in this blog until I post his mug shot) with conspiracy, bank fraud, wire fraud, money laundering and related charges. If convicted, he faces a maximum statutory sentence of 600 years in prison, a $13.75 million fine and restitution.
We've been through the "ups" of skyrocketing property taxes due to artificially inflated sales prices on fraud homes to the "downs" of home values after all the foreclosures. The last of the six homes involved on our block finally sold a few days ago, so it appears that the long battle is approaching its conclusion. I know our situation reflects that of other neighborhoods across the nation who have all fought back to stabilize our neighborhoods and home values through the whole subprime mortgage debacle. Our heads are "bloody but unbowed" to quote William Ernest Henley.
If one positive thing came out of the nightmare that we neighbors shared, it's that most of the remaining homeowners became close in a way that I've not observed in other Dallas neighborhoods before or since. We know each other, we truly watch out for each other, and we trust each other as neighbors in ways that I've only ever experienced in small town living.
I promised neighbors a keg party as soon convictions in the case are announced, so I'm saving my pennies in preparation for a bittersweet bash...