Hard Money Lender Takes Thousands from Valley Homebuyers
MCALLEN – A hard money lender is another avenue to get a loan. CHANNEL 5 NEWS started an investigation to uncover a local hard money lender’s tactics and actions, which caused families to lose thousands of dollars.
"When you don't qualify under the conventional way of buying a house or a property, you have to go and find other kinds of lenders. They don't take a look at your debt to income ratio, they only look at the value of the property,” said Realtor Nancy Velazquez.
Velazquez said it’s only the value of the property you’re trying to buy.
KRGV’s Angelo Vargas took a look how this hard money lender slipped from authorities’ radar.
A shed in the shape of a red barn does double duty as a business and home. Inside, stereo speakers hold a portable stove and wooden crates act as a foundation for a family's mattress.
"We love this because we get to be close to each other and we know it's not going to be forever,” said homeowner victim Dannon Basaldua.
Basaldua was looking for a new home to raise his family.
"We were in a position where we're looking for help,” he said.
Balsadua has a young family. Their dream home was within reach; at least that’s what they thought.
"We went to look at the property and my wife and I loved it and we could already see our house on there,” said Basaldua.
The family turned to a man calling him a hard money lender. We won't name him since he is not charged, formally. Basaldua said he and the hard money lender agreed to the terms of a loan.
The hard money lender asked Basaldua for several thousand dollars. Basaldua said he could not say the amount because he was embarrassed.
"I agreed to pay it. And to be honest with you it was all that my family had at the time,” said Basaldua.
The contract Basaldua signed had the name American Residential Lending on it. We checked with that company. The owner told us the hard money lender never did any business with them.
He said his company is preparing to take legal action.
Basaldua never closed on his deal. The hard money lender didn't give him the money promised. We discovered he and his family are not alone.
"What he does, he advertises it on Craigslist, he posts homes for sale or I will buy your house on the corners. He's got multiple phone numbers,” said Velasquez.
Velasquez, a licensed realtor, has a long history selling homes. She spent 20 years in the Rio Grande Valley.
When she found an ad on Craigslist, she didn't expect to fall into this hard money lenders trap.
"So, I needed money, you know. I don't have the perfect situation and I have a lot of properties that are free and clear,” she said. “So when I heard he was so good, that he had all this money – and I actually heard he had so many clients going on – I actually said, ‘Okay, well I want a loan, too.’"
Velazquez told us she didn't see any red flags. She ended up losing $1,800.
"He says one thing but does another,” said victim Vincent Capetillo.
Capetillo owns and sells several properties across the Valley. He said he found the hard money lender on one of these signs posted on the side of the road. He took a chance but now, he's out $8,000.
"He picked out a random apartment that was for sale at one point but was no longer for sale anymore. But he used that to lure me in,” he said.
The hard money lender told Capetillo the apartments were still for sale and asked for a larger down payment.
Capetillo said he felt uneasy. So, the hard money lender brought in realtor Velasquez to ease Capetillo's fears. This is how Velasquez and Capetillo's relationship started.
"And that day when we meet, for the first time we start talking about what's going on and has he closed any deals with anybody,” said Capetillo.
Velasquez decided to do more research on this hard money lender. Afterward, she posted a blog online to warn others.
A lot of people responded.
"You know, I know victims from South Padre Island, Donna, Weslaco, Mission, of course, McAllen, Edinburg,” said Velasquez.
She explains this hard money lender also worked with other realtors.
CHANNEL 5 NEWS met another victim in McAllen.
"We met him through the realtor. She knew him and he was going to do the loan for us,” said victim Elma Gallegos.
Gallegos feels duped after losing out on $3,000.
"That's what I thought. I was thinking I was going to save some money. Instead, I lost it all,” said Gallegos.
The victims say this hard money lender did business out of several locations including out of a home in San Juan.
"He had that place. Then all of a sudden he disappeared and got to another place,” said Capetillo.
Velasquez said she knew his address. So, we tried to track him down.
"Yeah, that guy doesn't live there. I really wish you all could find him and have him stop using this address,” homeowner Yolanda Rodriguez.
Rodriguez was out of town but answered us from her doorbell. She said he rented a room two years ago.
"People have gone there to look for him and also my mailbox sometimes is jam-packed with his mail,” said Rodriguez.
The hard money lender had a website called houseloansolution.com. His site said his business was at mile 20 Road and Uresti Road in Edinburg.
CHANNEL 5 NEWS went to the address listed on the website. What we found are empty plots of land in a residential area and no businesses.
In August, we checked his website and learned it's gone and his account no longer active.
Velazquez and Capetillo said they filed a case with the Federal Bureau of Investigations. Although the FBI explained they cannot confirm or deny the investigation into this hard money lender, they sent us this statement, which read in part:
“Pursuant to FBI and DOJ policy, we cannot confirm or deny the existence of an investigation.
We would encourage any members of the public who believe they may have been the victim of a fraud scheme to contact their local law enforcement agency or the FBI. In order for the FBI to investigate, the allegation must generally demonstrate a possible violation of a federal law within the FBI's investigative authority and must meet the statutory requirements including minimum loss amounts. The FBI strives to focus its limited investigative resources on violations of federal law which represent the greatest threat to the community. “
Capetillo wants authorities to make an exception to their rule.
"Put this person on ice for a while; put him on hold. Stop ‘em, in his tracks. Stop him right now before he hurts other people,” said Capetillo.
The victims said they don't know if they will ever get their money back.
The State of Texas does not regulate hard money lending.
Velazquez said the best way to check for red flags is to ask the title company if the hard money lender closed on any deals. In any real estate transaction; always seek an attorney's advice.
To file a complaint with the Texas Department of Savings and Mortgage Lending, click here.
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