He also noted that Arbuckle may not, in the end, be the highest bidder for the bakery. A hearing on her offer is scheduled for Nov. 29. If the $899,999 bid of Johnson’s client, Arbuckle, is successful and Johnson is “entitled to receive the commission, then we really don’t have an issue with it,” Nyberg said.
A spokesperson for the state Department of Real Estate, Tom Pool, wouldn’t discuss the Johnson and Thurman transactions.
Markus Machado and Gail Mateo said that when they wanted to buy a newer and bigger home in 2005, they went to a real estate broker they thought they could trust: Esperanza Johnson.
A Compton native, Johnson became involved with the Bey organization, a spin-off of the Nation of Islam, at the age of 12, taking the name Noor Jehan Bey.
She’s returned to using the name Esperanza Johnson, though she’s been listed in judgments against her by banks and credit-card companies as Nellie Bey, Nuri Bey, Noojean Bey and Noor Jehan Esperanza, a review of records by the Chauncey Bailey Project shows. And, in 2005 testimony, she said she still occasionally uses the name Noor Jehan Bey.
Johnson had hired Machado, a graphic artist, to create flyers for her Signature One Mortgage and Real Estate.
In a recent interview at his lawyer’s office, Machado described her as warm and gregarious – at first, anyway. Machado said Johnson arranged what seemed like an incredible deal: the couple could sell their 50-year-old Pittsburg house and move into a spacious four-bedroom home in a verdant Antioch subdivision, an ideal place to raise their three children and grow old together.
Johnson promised they’d pay about $1,600 a month for the new home, only a little more than their mortgage at the time. Machado said Johnson even agreed to forgo her usual commissions “because we were like family.”
They said Johnson had told them their credit was poor, and talked them into selling their Pittsburg house to one of her employees, Araceli Moreno, for $350,000 while putting the new home and mortgage in Moreno’s name as well. They expected to refinance the loan in about a year, when Moreno would sign the house over to them.
It seemed perfect – until the bills arrived.
The payments were $2,700 a month and soon ballooned higher, they now say in court records. And then Johnson – who in sealing the deal had diverted almost $58,000 of equity from their old home to others, and had won large commissions for herself by getting them an unfavorable mortgage – stopped taking their calls, Machado said as his wife sat next to him weeping.
The couple had trouble making the payments almost immediately and Moreno began receiving calls from the mortgage company. She sued Machado and Mateo last year.
“The point of (Moreno’s) lawsuit was to get them to refinance to get my client’s name off the loan and for her to go ahead and salvage what of her credit picture she could,” said Moreno’s attorney, Richard G. Hyppa of Tracy.
The couple counter-sued in November 2006, naming Moreno and Johnson as defendants, claiming that Johnson defrauded them. They are now months behind on the payments and stressed to exhaustion.
“I don’t sleep. Gail doesn’t sleep,” Machado said. “I was very naive. We were led down this primrose path because I trusted (Johnson) implicitly.”
After paying off what they owed on the Pittsburg house, about $190,000 was left over that should have been used for the down payment on the Antioch house. But the suit alleges that Moreno used only $77,973 toward the down payment.
Meanwhile, court records say Johnson arranged for another $10,000 to be paid out to Moreno, and for someone named Harry Hawkins to get $45,830 as “repayment of loans.” Machado’s lawyer, Ken Koenen, said attempts to locate Hawkins have been fruitless.