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Real Estate Fraud Town Hall Meeting
Oxnard, Calfornia-People from all walks of life with the common bond of home ownership came to listen with hopes of finding a way to navigate through the maze of information to help save their homes. Some are in default others are considering their options but all came to hear what the speakers had to say. Every home owner had specific items of interest they came to hear.
The event was hosted by local radio personality David Cruz. In attendance were County Supervisors John Zaragoza and Kathy Long. Also in attendance were District Attorney Greg Totten and Senior Deputy District Attorney Miles Weiss and Ventura County tax assessor Mark Lunn. A representative from State Assemblyman Das Williams office was also present along with members of the Real Estate Fraud Advisory Team and other real estate professionals and affiliates. Quite an impressive group showing the community support in our efforts to combat real estate fraud.
After introductions, Senior D.D.A. Miles Weiss presented what the D.A.’s office has been doing to prosecute individuals who are preying on distressed home owners. Spanish speaking and the elderly community are the ones most at risk to falling victim to these predators. Some families have been victimized several times. He said the goal of the meeting from his office’s perspective was to educate the public and prosecute violators.
As Mr. Weiss spoke, a power point presentation showed the mug shots of some of the predators, some had the word “Guilty” written across their photo. The remainder had been charged but not found guilty as of the meeting. Mr. Weiss told how many people view each person who comes to offer aid as just another voice promising the same thing. We are not all the same, there is help.
He emphasized to make a plan of action, and told the crowd that it has been illegal since October of 2009 for anyone to charge fees in advance for assistance in obtaining a loan modification, refinance or short sale. Home owners should open and real letters from their bank. There may be an action plan from the bank inside that letter.
Mr. Weiss ended his presentation with empowering home owners to make an action plan. He said if you own the home, own the problem. Partner up with local professionals who can help free of charge, and work directly with your lender for the best chance to save your home.
Mr. Fernie Campos represented the Real Estate Fraud Advisory Team (REFAT) he informed people that there is a real estate fraud referral hot line (805) 751-5899 they can call to answer their questions There are 25 real estate agents and affiliates on the REFAT team that are committed to combating fraud. One of the factors with regard to fraud is that people don’t talk about it. There is a web site www.refat.org they can also log in to for help. The key is reporting fraudulent activity.
National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals (NAHREP) was represented by Jorge DeLeon. He told the crowd that NAHREP is working with fraud prevention groups and one of the goals of NAHREP is to help people achieve the American dream of home ownership.
Surepath Finanancial Solutions and Cabrillo Economic Development Corporation (CEDC) offered help at no charge to distressed home owners. Some perceive that no charge means there is no fight on behalf of the home owners. That is an incorrect assumption and assured the group that they are advocates for home owners. They are both organizations that are housing and urban development (HUD) approved by the U.S. Government.
The meeting lasted almost two hours. Home owners left with information on where to get free help from local organizations and had an opportunity to see that there is a community of support fighting real estate fraud. They left knowing that we are one of the most progressive counties in the state attacking real estate fraud.
I was able to meet three attendees to ask their thoughts on the town hall meeting; Pedro said he was impressed with the representatives who were in attendance but his experience with CEDC was not a good one. He said he had called them and made to feel that his case was a bother. He was not giving up and will reach out to Surepath in hopes of resolving his issue. He was glad to learn there was more assistance available. I reminded him of the REFAT web site and hotline in case he needed it.
Gerardo heard about the meeting from the radio show. He was glad there was a Spanish speaking interpreter. He is disgusted that his race is being targeted but knew that before the meeting. He wished he could do more to help his community. I told him he can help by spreading the word to everyone he knows. He said there was not enough information on how to do a loan modification and thought the meeting may have given some a false hope that everyone can save their home. He is still hoping for the best in his case.
Jorge told me he was a victim. He had paid $3,000 to a company to help with a loan modification. There was never any action performed by the company and his home is still in default. He would like to see the mug shot of the man who took his money on the wall some day. He noticed that none of the predators offering help were in attendance. Jorge did get some valuable information that he hopes will benefit his situation. He went to the table at the back of the room and gathered information. He will not be paying anyone to help him now that he knows there is free help available.