The suit also claims Johnson structured the Antioch mortgage so monthly payments would increase dramatically after a year, and so Machado and Mateo would have to pay an $18,000 penalty in order to refinance – thereby earning her a much larger commission.
Machado and Mateo now are several months in arrears on the mortgage in Moreno’s name. Default notices have arrived at the house.
“It’s an extremely painful thing,” Machado said. “We have been robbed of our peace of mind. We have to make decisions about whether to put food in the refrigerator or gas in the car. We’ve not even sure we’re going to have a place to live.”
Johnson hasn’t responded to the couple’s lawsuit and will likely be subject to a default judgment, Koenen said.
Johnson and Thurman in 2004 acquired a Hercules home after a federal judge had ordered it frozen as an asset of an investment company, Chicago D&P, that the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission had accused of fraud.
The property was supposed to be sold to help pay back investors – reportedly including at least 30 active-duty Marines and several churches – which had been cheated out of millions through Chicago D&P’s pyramid schemes.
The daughter of the company’s president had bought the property years earlier using a straw purchaser – a friend with better credit – as a front, according to court records.
That friend had been trying to get her name off the title for some time, and the daughter’s attorney – Githaiga Ramsey, who also worked for Thurman and Johnson on another case – persuaded her to sign the house over to them. Records shows Ramsey offered the friend $20,500 to complete the transaction but that the payment was never made.
The transfer of the house occurred after U.S. District Court Judge Charles Breyer ordered the property frozen. Thurman then turned around and sold it a month later to one of the employees of his bail bond business, Jamie Bonilla, for $460,000. Johnson filed Bonilla’s loan application.
Most of that money appears to have eventually gone to pay mortgages against the property when Thurman and Johnson acquired it for free. But first, Thurman received $60,213 from the deal’s escrow; and Ramsey got $31,000.
It remains unclear who lived in the house after Bonilla bought it.
Stephen Anderson, the receiver representing Chicago D&P’s bilked investors, wrote in April 2005 that he believed Johnson’s daughter, Nisa Bey, had lived there.
Other documents show Madeeah Bey – another mother to several of patriarch Yusuf Bey’s children – used it as her mailing address in two December 2004 real estate deals.
It’s also unclear whether Thurman and Johnson knew of the court order freezing the house when they took possession of it. But in February 2005 Breyer held Ramsey in contempt of court for defying his order.
Ramsey and Thurman both repaid the money they received from the escrow when Thurman sold the house to Bonilla.
Bonilla, within a few months, then sold the house for $625,000 – a profit of $211,690 from a property that the receiver had originally wanted to sell to help repay the defrauded investors.
Anderson said a long legal battle to regain title to the house would’ve been too costly.
“We made an economic decision,” he said. “The objective of the receiver is to return as much money as possible back to the investors, and it was not difficult to determine we were going to get more money” by taking the $91,000 from Thurman and Ramsey than by “trying to unscramble that whole mess.”
Ramsey, who surrendered his law license while facing disciplinary charges from an unrelated case, wouldn’t discuss this case or others in which he was involved with Johnson and Thurman.
“My God, am I never going to get away from this?” he said. “I’m not involved and I don’t want to be.