Legal Aid asks financial institution to help victim of deed theft in Queens

A Queens man who lost his home in a mortgage scam is about to be evicted from the home he’s lived in for most of his life.

Johnnie Jackson, 64, and his lawyer from the Legal Aid Society are asking Wilmington Trust, a division of M&T Bank, to stop the eviction and return title to Jackson.

“Our client was the victim of a large-scale mortgage fraud scheme that stripped him of his most important asset, his family home, and now he is a victim of Wilmington Trust Bank again,” said Jennifer Levy. , staff attorney in foreclosure. Landlord Prevention and Preservation Unit at the Legal Aid Society.

A Wilmington Trust spokesperson declined to comment.

In New York, there have been more than 3,350 Deed theft complaints — where title to property is taken without the owner’s knowledge or approval — since 2014, disproportionately affecting communities of color, according to the Legal Aid Society.

These scams have declined in recent years. Last year, 154 complaints were lodged with the Department of Finance, up from 665 in 2015. But deed theft was a persistent feature amid the 2008 financial crisis.

In 1994, Jackson bought the St. Albans home, where he grew up, from his parents, who had owned it since 1956, according to the Legal Aid Society. Jackson and his brother continue to live on the property, which Jackson at one point owned entirely.

Jackson’s troubles began in 2010 when he took out a $108,000 loan to fix the house, according to the Legal Aid Society. The man who arranged Jackson’s loan was later convicted in a mortgage modification scheme that involved more than 1,000 financially troubled homeowners.

As part of the fraud, the deed to the Jackson home was illegally transferred to a ‘straw buyer’, a person who purchased the home on someone else’s behalf, according to Legal Aid. Society. Unbeknownst to Jackson, the straw buyer then took out mortgages on the house, extracting equity, and sent the property to foreclosure.

The straw buyer relinquished ownership of the property and transferred the deed to Wilmington Trust, according to the Legal Aid Society. In 2019, Wilmington Trust went to court to ask a judge to evict Jackson so he could take possession of the house.

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