Under oath, Amir Bey later admitted he was just a straw buyer for his mother.
When arrested and charged with unrelated public benefits fraud, perjury and grand theft in July 2004, Peters made bail with Thurman’s Sinbad’s Bail Bonds.
As investigators also began probing her real estate activities, Peters gifted her Hayward condo to Johnson’s daughter, Nisa Bey, who sold it a month later for about $400,000.
Peters then lived with Nisa Bey in Pittsburg until going to prison. Because her bail had been secured with the condo, Thurman later asked a judge to exonerate the bail and return more than $50,000 – to Nisa Bey.
The Alameda County District Attorney’s office interviewed Johnson, Thurman, and their attorney, Githaiga Ramsey – who had represented Peters until just two months earlier, and who had just arranged the Chicago D&P deal for them – in September 2004.
“Johnson seemed evasive when questioned about irregularities in the loan and application process,” inspector Paul Wallace wrote in court papers.
But Johnson wasn’t charged.
“We didn’t think we could prove the case against her beyond a reasonable doubt,” Deputy District Attorney Alyce Sandbach said. “We didn’t have enough to make her on a case of fraud… of having made knowing misrepresentations.”
Among additional charges filed against Peters in November 2004 was a felony grand-theft count for equity and title to the Stewarts’ home; she pleaded no contest to that and 15 other, unrelated counts a year later, and was sentenced in February 2006.
The Stewarts got the $50,374.10 bail money Thurman had tried to direct to Nisa Bey. A judge in January ordered Peters to pay $486,083.90 in the Stewarts’ civil lawsuit, but they haven’t seen a dime, their lawyers say.
Amir Bey and Johnson tried to evict the Stewarts, court documents show, but backed off when the couple obtained free legal help.
The Stewarts then sued Johnson, Peters and Amir Bey; Johnson eventually offered to deed the house back to Stewart, but with the equity drained, the Stewarts couldn’t afford the higher mortgage payments.
A judge in September 2006 ordered Johnson and Amir Bey to pay the Stewarts $100,000 – $20,000 up front and $1,667 per month for 48 months.
Rebecca Saelao, the Stewarts’ attorney, said this civil judgment became a lien on the house, and was subordinated to massive mortgages Johnson and Amir Bey had taken on the property and eventually defaulted on. The house was sold at auction last year for $80,900, public records show.
The Stewarts got only about $5,000 from the sale of the home they’d lost. They no longer live in the Bay Area, and couldn’t be reached for comment.
Wrapped in a thin, sea-green blanket, Donald Taylor lay in a narrow bed at a Stockton nursing home recently, his frail 61-year-old body ravaged by diabetes and hypertension. His wheelchair was parked at his bedside, a walker he wants to learn to use, a few feet away.
Taylor is broke and relies on Medi-Cal, the state insurance program for the indigent, to bankroll his care and board at the Elm Haven Care Center.
His room is dingy and, fluorescent-lit with peeling blue wallpaper and a television, foil wrapped around its rabbit-ear antennae, issuing forth static-filled sound. He spends his days “just doing nothing.”
He said he wonders what his life might be like now if he never encountered Antron Thurman. “I think about it quite often, but there’s nothing I can do… I think about how they took the house from me,” Taylor said haltingly in a soft, gravelly voice that contained little emotion.
In the 1950s Taylor’s parents bought a cozy two-bedroom home on a tree-shaded street in north Berkeley. He grew up there and lived there still as an adult, while working as a bus-station porter. When his parents died, he and his sister, Loretta Alexander, inherited the house; the mortgage was paid off.