Mary Ward, the 82-year-old Bed-Stuy resident facing eviction following a predatory loan debacle, has been granted a meeting with the investigation team of Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office next week, her lawyer Karen Gargamelli tells us.
The meeting, which will happen on Tuesday, September 13th, marks the first time the Attorney General’s office will sit down with Ward to look into whether the sale of her home was legal or fraudulent. Ward has maintained in her 15 year fight to stay in her house (recapped in the video above by Michael Premo and Rachel Falcone of Housing is a Human Right) that she was a victim of predatory lending. She says she never got the money for the loan against which she used her home for collateral. (Indeed, the lender went out of business and the broker lost his license.) Still, her home was foreclosed upon, getting repackaged and resold to an unknown number of entities over the years until Ward faced eviction last month.
Since then, Gargamelli points out, “It’s been pretty incredible to see what’s happened and to see how force and pressure work. On August 19th, there was an order to evict Ms. Ward, and through an eviction blockade we were able to keep her from being thrown out of her home. Afterwards, we weren’t able to communicate with [the “alleged” landlord Shameem] Chowdhury. But now we’ve been able to talk to him because of that pressure.”
Ward’s supporters have been calling the marshall’s office every day, to see if they will be coming the following day. They’ve “been given verbal assurances by Mr. Chowdhury,” Gargamelli says, that he’s not going to hire them again to try to force her out. But they’re monitoring the marshall’s agenda every day, and are prepared to blockade an eviction again if necessary.
In the mean time, Ward has wanted to make her case to Attorney General Schniederman that he should look into the legality of the sale of her house in the first place (which, if illegal, could make all subsequent reselling of it moot). According to Gargamelli, it appears that Wells Fargo ended up with the home before it was auctioned off to Mr. Chowdury and made about $200,000 on the sale. But, because the original lender of the bad loan went out of business, the chain of title is confusing, and no one can produce the physical deed to the house, just exactly who owned the house before it was sold to Chowdury is not certain. An investigation by the Attorney General’s office could help decipher these unknowns.
On Monday, Ward and her supporters held a rally outside of Schneiderman’s Brooklyn office. “Mr. Schneiderman is a very strong and powerful voice on predatory lending,” Gargamelli says, “but before the rally, the message to us was that ‘We’d be happy to make a date sometime in the future to talk.’ “
Pinning them down to just when that would happen was another issue. And then, “When the announcement came that we’d be rallying outside of their office, the message was, ‘Let’s meet on September 13th.’ “
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