It was the moment many of Mark Diamond’s victims had waited for, some for more than a decade.
And for Gloria Muldrow, whose mother was one of the victims of Diamond’s reverse mortgage scheme, it was hard to contain her anger.
“I was physically sick today just to see his face,” Muldrow said. “I’ve seen a snake that has manipulated elderly people and now his revenge is coming.” Muldrow’s mother, Lillie Williams, died last year.
Diamond, a defendant in numerous civil suits and a target of investigation by the Illinois Attorney General’s Office, had finally been called before a federal judge. He was charged with bilking elderly homeowners, most of them black women from the West Side, out of $10 million. The final tally of victims: 122.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeffrey Cole denied bond for Diamond last week, calling the crimes Diamonds is accused of “horrible, odious and villainous” over the course of the two-day bond hearing. Diamond, 60, will remain in custody awaiting trial.
As The Chicago Reporter has chronicled in several stories since 2015, Diamond is accused of conning his victims into signing over the equity in their homes by telling them they were participating in a city-sponsored home repair program. Many of the victims unwittingly signed reverse mortgages, and Diamond swindled them out of most of the proceeds from the transactions. The promised home repair work was usually shabbily done or never completed, according to the federal complaint and stacks of civil court filings.
Last July, Cook County Circuit Judge David B. Atkins had ordered Diamond to pay more than $2.3 million in restitution to 47 victims in response to efforts by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan to seek justice for Diamond’s victims. Madigan’s office has been working to untangle Diamond’s assets, some of which he apparently transferred to relatives, to retrieve money for the victims, but with little success.
Atkins’ order was issued a little more than a week before Lillie Williams died. Diamond was supposed to pay Williams’s estate $107,000, but has paid nothing.
Muldrow still blames Diamond for her mother’s death last July. Muldrow, 67, said her mother grew despondent and feared she would lose her house in foreclosure because of the scam. With assistance from Madigan’s office, the family has been able to stall foreclosure and keep the house, where Muldrow lives with her family.
West Side community activist Rev. Robin Hood said that Diamond’s scheme cast a long shadow over the North Lawndale community. Hood was tipped off to the scheme by young men who were threatening to take revenge on Diamond. Hood later learned that his own aunt, Williams, was a victim.
“He is a predator and he is a danger to our community,” he said of Diamond.
The federal complaint and 72-page affidavit from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Office of Inspector General details some of the same allegations found in the civil suits filed by Madigan’s office. In addition, it outlines the roles of up to five others who were part of Diamond’s scheme.
One of the co-conspirators is identified in the federal complaint as Cynthia Wallace. Wallace is the same woman who was identified by Diamond’s alleged victims in previous Reporter stories as helping to set up victims. Wallace, who is African American, often befriended the elderly black victims. Diamond is white.
According to the complaint, Wallace, who is cooperating with federal authorities, has worked with Diamond since 2006 as a go-between and accomplice who sometimes drove victims to Diamond’s office.
On at least one occasion, according to the complaint, Wallace even posed as the granddaughter of one of the victims at a reverse mortgage closing to ensure that the person did not inadvertently tip off others to the scheme.
Diamond’s attorney, James Tunick, argued at the bond hearing that Diamond did not have a criminal history and should be allowed to remain free under the supervision of his brother, Terry Diamond, or his mother, Esther Diamond.
But Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian P. Netols countered that neither was appropriate. Terry Diamond had been an employee of Diamond while the illegal conduct had taken place, Netols said, and Diamond’s mother had been an unwitting accomplice. Netols described how the evidence included copies of Esther Williams’ Social Security statements that had been cut and pasted to appear to belong to one of the victims.
During the bond hearing, both Cole and Netols voiced dismay over the charges and the targeting of vulnerable older people.
“What he took from them is really the only significant asset they had,” Netols said. “He took the equity in their homes.”