It’s Time To Stand Up To Predators!

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by Alex Chaparro

By day, I’m a real estate broker in Chicago where I specialize in REO listings. Like those of you who are also working in this space, part of what comes with the job is often the unpleasant task of advising delinquent homeowners that it’s time to leave their homes. The offer: financial incentives for relocation or more commonly known as “cash for keys.”

This week during one of those visits I encountered a Latino homeowner, who emphatically claimed that he had hired a “professional” firm to negotiate a loan modification for him after the foreclosure sale. I knew from the paperwork I had in hand that it was too late for any modification to help this client save his home. The trouble was that he had paid a firm $1,500 cash to help him. They promised him they would save his family’s home.

As luck would have it, he offered me the phone number of the firm he had contracted. So I called the number and to my surprise a Latina answered. I stated the purpose of my call and my role with the client’s property. The conversation that followed gave me a knot in my stomach.

A paralegal working on her own (and not affiliated with a legal firm), the woman had charged the homeowner for services knowing full well that it was too late to stop the foreclosure. She had no idea who I was or of my prior role on the Chicago Board of Realtors or at NAHREP. I was just another nosy Realtor to her. When she recognized that I am Hispanic, she tried to move the conversation to Spanish in hopes to make a cultural connection with me.

I managed to get her name and other contact info before we hung up. My next two calls were to the district attorney’s office and a local community taskforce where I have numerous contacts. This woman should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

I’ve seen enough of the heartache and loss these predators have caused our community. The Latinos that are guilty of these deeds should be doubly shamed. They know their in-language appeal woos desperate Hispanic families into believing them. They know their victims will go to any lengths to save the family home. They know the right heartstrings to tug.

I have zero tolerance for these predators. I can’t look the other way. With all my obligations I’m not too busy to make a phone call that puts these people in jail. I’ve had enough.

The fact that practitioners like this are still wreaking havoc in our community is a sign that we’re not doing enough. Those of us who do business ethically have the power to stop predators. We just need to have the courage to pick up the phone. Every time a Latino family gets victimized, we all pay the price. Families are derailed. Our community is weakened. And future business opportunities vanish.

I’m sick and tired of seeing our families preyed upon. When government regulations close loopholes, predators simply invent a new way to scam people. That’s the sad truth. Those of us who are entrenched in our local communities have the most power to drive these people out of business. We can do it by educating our clients, creating awareness for the latest scams and by bringing predators to justice. This is how I’m responding to predators in my community. What are you doing in yours?

Alex Chaparro

About the author:
Alex Chaparro is a second generation Realtor serving Chicago land homebuyers and sellers for over 17 years. He is co-founder and past president of the NAHREP Chicago and has served on the boards of the Illinois Association of Realtors and NAHREP national. He is also the first Latino appointed to the office of president of the 124-year-old Chicago Association of Realtors. He was listed in Hispanic Business 100 most influential Business leader. He now serves as the 2010 Chairmen of National Association of Hispanic Real Estate professionals.

8 Responses to “It’s Time To Stand Up To Predators!”

  1. These practice characteristics started in California in 2000. NAHREP Ventura County was formed originally as a backlach against those who began identifying predators. Fortunately, this group of talented professionals now leads the charge against them. Our board of supervisors instituted a $2 surcharge for every deed recorded in Ventura County to build a fund to investigate and prosecute.

    The Real Estate Fraud and Advisory Team now acts as the watchdog for fragile consumers. http://da.countyofventura.org/refraud_unit.htm

    See your local supervisors or leadership will consider such a charge. It helps everyone.

  2. Olivia Pineda says:

    Just read your blog “It’s Time To Stand Up To Predators!” As a REO Agent myself, I am seeing the same issues here in Arizona. Community awareness & education is vital in preventing these type of unethical acts. It would be great to see all the NAHREP Chapters do a national community awareness campaign.

  3. gloria soria says:

    I am agreed with you. I hate when I know Spanish real estate Agents or loan Officcer works againts their own community.
    I am doing my best to educAte people to avoid this kind of situation of reports, articles. and talking with them.
    Gloria soria
    Century 21 laffey associates NY

  4. Yamila M. Ayad says:

    Great but unfortunate story, Alex. Even sadder is how these type of situations seem to manifest themselves throughout the country. We’ve gone from sub-prime predators to loan-modifier/loss-mitigation/loan auditors, now preying on homeowners on the brink of losing their dream. Vultures would actually be a better description of “Latinos who eat their own.”
    As others have already stated, it takes all of us to be diligent and watchful of our community. We cannot look the other way and then pretend that we care about the outcome.
    The education of both our industry and our homeowner community is the key to change!
    Yamila M. Ayad

  5. Alma Rucker says:

    Thank you Alex for brining this story to light! And exposing and reporting those that prey on trusting good people. We must never look the other way, and when we see an injustice it is our moral obligation to act. If we do not act, then we just perpetuate the injustice. As the voice for Hispanic Real Estate we must ensure we educate our community. My Mother always told me if I save a dollar here and a dollar there; pretty soon, I’d have a hundred dollars, to use this analogy, if we help one person here and one there, pretty soon we will help 100 people. Each of us one by one can educate others one by one. NAHREP is 17,000 members strong; imagine what kind a difference we can make. Educating our community is the first step and NAHREP must take a leading role. As for San Antonio, TX, we will be organizing a consumer educational workshop where Foreclosure Prevention and Sustainable Hispanic Homeownership are the two key messages we will be brining to our Community. Let’s all play a leading role in educating our community.

  6. Rene Mendieta says:

    Alex,

    Excellent conscientious article on the victimization of distressed homeowners. I also believe that licensed attorneys, through regional representatives such as a paralegal, offer this same type of “service” to distress homeowners. For a retainer fee of about $3,500 to $5,500 or more, they give the homeowner the impression that they have a good chance at saving their home…knowing full well that the odds of achieving that goal are poor and that the customer does not have sufficient capital to undertake a full fledged case against the lender. In one instance where my client signed up with one of these attorneys back in April of this year, he hasn’t receive one piece of correspondence on the status of his case from his attorney. Better publicity should be conducted to warn distressed Latino homeowners of this practice primarily through public service announcements on Spanish language radio and television stations on a regular basis. I will attempt to follow through on this effort in my local chapter; thanks for the inspiration. Much continued success.

    Rene A. Mendieta
    Legacy Real Estate & Associcates
    Fremont, CA

  7. Paola Ferguson says:

    Alex, I found a person still practicing here in Chicago after reading some horrible things about her practice and fraudulent acts. I reported it to Joe Nery as the chapter President. It is our job to stop predators, we are working on it.

  8. Atenas says:

    Just read your blog “It’s Time To Stand Up To Predators!” As a REO Agent myself, I am seeing the same issues here in Arizona. Community awareness & education is vital in preventing these type of unethical acts. It would be great to see all the NAHREP Chapters do a national community awareness campaign.

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