Foreclosing on Bed-Stuy

Predatory Loans Have Residents Seeing Red

The problem is that the elderly borrower in need of cash rarely can tell the difference between the predatory lenders and others. In 1995, when Mary Lee Ward needed $10,000 to continue a legal fight for her great-granddaughter, she was told by Tarheel Funding on Flatbush Avenue that in order to receive a loan of that amount the company would have to pay off an outstanding debt of hers that was not in fact in arrears. She only received $1400 of the loan and then found herself over $80,000 in debt to Delta Funding Corporation, a lender that has since settled a class-action suit brought about by the company's lending practices. When Ward, who lives on Tompkins Avenue in Bed-Stuy, found out Delta had not only made a deal to finance $10,000 that she never received but refinanced her old debt at a higher interest rate, she rescinded the loan. "I said, 'Oh no. They have to kill me first,' " says Ward. "They can't just do elderly people like this."

Loan company victim Alberta Barnabas
photo: Pak Fung Wong
Loan company victim Alberta Barnabas

Seven years after she rescinded the loan, Ward still finds herself in danger of foreclosure. Ocwen Financial Corporation has since acquired the loan from Delta, and now has gone all the way to Brooklyn Supreme Court in hopes of foreclosing. Should Ward's home go into foreclosure, she will likely test the boundaries of the new state law. "What they did to me shouldn't happen to a dog," says Ward. "That's a tough thing. If I wasn't a true Christian, I'd be dead."

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