Finding Hidden Value in the Tremont Tower

Tremont Tower, 3311 Yupon St., Houston

It didn’t garner much local attention, but a certain local condo building — along with a few close friends — made a star appearance in last week’s big mortgage-scam announcement by the FBI. More than 400 people were charged in 144 separate mortgage fraud cases nationwide over the last 3 months as part of the agency’s “Operation Malicious Mortgage.” Six of those arrests were in Houston:

This indictment charges Houston-area residents Frankthea Annette Williams, Ishmael Boyd Laryea, Charles Joseph-DeShawn Wilson, Kristen Anne Way and Robert Wilfred Stanley, and Tasha Rene Bellow, of Burbank, Calif., with engaging in a scheme to defraud by providing false and fraudulent information to residential lenders to induce the lenders to fund the purchase of single family homes and condominium units.

11 News reporter Allison Triarsi describes how the scams worked:

The suspects would find a home for sale, let’s say $200,000.

They would then get a phony appraisal that would almost double the home’s actual value. In that case, $400,000.

The culprits would then look for an investor. That’s someone to actually put the house in their name using their good credit for the closing and title.

A bank would then loan the money for the house, which has the phony appraisal value. The crooks would then pay the seller the $200,000 asking price and pocket the other $200,000.

Here’s a question. If you were trying to run this scam, where would you find properties you could get appraised for as much as twice their actual value? Sure, Houston had some price runups . . . and yes, appraisals can be played. But why fake something you don’t have to?


Stop thinking so hard. Why not target properties that are actually worth a lot less than what most people think they are? Triarsi delivers the punchline:

It’s alleged the group used this scheme to purchase expensive condominiums on Yupon Street in Houston as well as near The Galleria area on Briar Hollow and McCue.

Photo of Tremont Tower: HAR

12 Comment

  • Tremont Tower has plenty of value for me. Amusement value. It’s a gift that keeps on giving.

  • I worked for a mortgage company when things started going south. A woman appeared on the local news, face covered, portrayed as a victim in a mortgage scheme. She was losing her house. Our company was the wholesaler behind her loan and our logo appeared on the paperwork shot by the camera. I called the reporter and asked to talk to the woman. She had let her boyfriend use her credit to buy not one, but two, houses and he refinanced her house at the same time. She got a lot of cash, which she spent, because the boyfriend told her he’d flip the houses right away for a profit. When she had re-fi-ed her home through us, she had not told us she owned two other properties, nor had she told the truth on her salary. Overstated it by 50%, and a friend at her office reconfirmed it. And, she didn’t go to closing. The boyfriend had signed the paperwork on all three mortgages.
    I explained to her that I could help her by not filing charges of mortgage fraud against her. Other than that my hands were tied. There are lots of cheaters out there, and a lot of honest, dumb people, too.

  • The general partners for Tremont Tower were Jorge Casimiro, Thomas Thibodeau and Armad Al Banna. They boasted that together they had 67 years of experience. We wonder in what field of endevor this experince was gained?

    Tremont Homes tried to get yet another name registered with the TRCC and the TRCC ask them to withdraw their application so they would not have to turn them down.

    March 10,2006 the letter said:
    “By statute the comission must be satisfied with the applicant’s honesty, integrity, and trustworthiness before approving a builder application. Unfortunately the commission has recieved complaints concerning the business enties closely affiated with Tremont Homes of Houston,LP, and you as an individual. Additionally, the commission is concerned about your relationship to Norman L. Chapa, a recently convicted felon, who has served as an agent for companies with which you have been affiliated.” Mr Chappa was also head of the warrenty divison for TremontHomes/Stature Construction Company for Hyde Park Cresent.
    Please google my name for pictures of more examples of their expertise. Jordan Fogal

  • Keep being the squeaky wheel, Mrs. Fogal. It’s astonishing that those builders aren’t in jail.

  • What a shame that local and state officials refuse to listen to consumer activists like Jordan Fogal who tried for years to stop the housing fraud in the state of TX. Substandard construction is fraud upon the buyer of a new home just as mortgage fraud harms honest lenders.

    Just imagine the tax money that could have been saved on long FBI and IRS investigations as well as the homeowners lives that were destroyed by substandard construction.

    Now taxpayers are paying for the investigations AND bailing out the lenders, many of whom were party to the fraud. There are millions losing their homes while many builders, lenders, and realtors are laughing all the way to the bank.

    Dismissing consumers who have proof of fraud has put our entire nation in danger of severe deep recession. Shame on ALL of you who refused to listen and act in a timely manner.

  • I totally agree with Nancy, and stories like Jordan’s shouldn’t happen to anyone. The industry likes to blame consumers by saying they “didn’t do their homework,” or must have been complicit in fraud. But where is the industry’s “personal responsibility” to do honest, ethical, legal business? Where is the industry’s duty to act professionally? The consumer is relying on the builder to build right, the loan officer to be above board, etc. The consumer didn’t invent construction shortcuts, didn’t make the state laws that protect bad builders and other crooks, and didn’t invent and push toxic loans. There are a lot of foreclosures now due to new construction and toxic loans, and outright mortgage fraud. Nancy is right, if the law had been interested when just consumers were being hurt, this economic mess would’ve been averted. The industry doesn’t deserve any govt/taxpayer help and many of these professionals deserve to do jail time.

  • Realtytract listed 3 more foreclosures at Tremont Tower yesterday.

  • Debacle far from over.

    This economic crisis is not going to get better. The crooks continue to bleed the American public, forcing families to financial and emotional chaos.Homeowners have hung on by their finger nails trying to give their families some similance of Christmas and the holidays before declaring bankruptcy and going into foreclosure.

    Bail out the crooks that brought our great nation to this?
    Let Big business learn what it is like to live on a budget. Let them learn to live on money they don’t steal. The middle class has been put on hold. No one listens. We just hear recorded messages in the great cyberspace, where no one cares.The people we elected to govern our interest, govern their own. We are bombarded by the slick, small printed greed of big business. They have stealthily stabbed us with: substandard construction, defective homes, inflated appraisals, fraud, crooked mortgage companies, glutinous banks, arbitration companies, high interest bank cards, over priced drugs and claim denied insurance companies. This is what has destroyed the middle class, the back bone of this economy.

    At first the powers that be said it was our fault. We were just stupid and bought more than we could afford.Then they said it was a down turn in the economy, liquidity, a market correction, bla, bla, bla… when it is really greed. Greed protected by arbitration clauses and guarded by the checkbooks of big business.

    This all makes me think of American Indian. They signed pieces of paper and trusted our government and they too became homeless.
    Jordan Fogal

  • Where I live, there is no county building inspector and few requirements. Coming from the rules-and-regs Northeast US, I worried about construction quality here – from guage of wire used to # of plumbing stacks to everything in-between…
    I thought: surely in Harris County, and Houston city, there is so much oversight and hoops-through-which-to-jump! Wrong, I guess.

    I’d like to add that there’s a need for Appraisers to be held accountable, because their word is taken as (and USED as) truth by all sides of a RE transaction.

  • My Birthday is coming up and I wish someone would go to the court records and pull up just how many cases are against Tremont’s Tom Thibodeau and Jorge Casimiro, Stature Construction and University Development… and all their other shadow companies. They might even be suprised how many people they have hurt and destroyed. Someone out there with computer skills knows how can do this. I would if knew how.
    Jordan Fogal

  • It would be nice if the Attorney General’s Office took over these matters through its “Consumer Protection Division” and just pulled the plug on these shmucks. Starting with Bob Perry. But of course the schmucks buy the politicians. And the courts. And everyone else. Including the Attorney General. Politicians of late don’t announce their candidacy so much as they merely hang a “for sale” sign around their necks.

    You can’t fight City Hall. Or the schmucks who buy City Hall. But god love those who try.

  • The Tremont Tower had turned around. Many of the Condos had been foreclosure and purchase by Homeowners and investors.
    Now they do have plenty of good buys in the Building.