Paying The Price

house and money

Three years ago Mark Diamond showed up on Goldie Johnson's doorstep promising to save her money. And she's still paying the price.

Johnson needed $800 dollars to fix her kitchen floor. So she refinanced her home with Diamond's company. What she got was a mortgage payment $400 dollars higher than her old one, with a final lump sum payment of $80,000 dollars that comes due when she's 86 years old. Like millions of Americans Johnson fell prey to the hidden fees and terms of predatory lenders.

"When you're afraid that you gonna lose the home that you have, even though it's not much to some people, but it means a hell of a lot to me," she told CBS News correspondent Cynthia Bowers.

But today it's her broker, Mark Diamond and the lender, Ohio-based Mercantile Mortgage Company, who are feeling the heat - from the Federal Trade Commission, for deceiving consumers like her.

"The message to lenders is clear and absolute -- we will not tolerate deceptive or abusive practices that cheat honest and hardworking homeowners," said FTC Chairman Timothy J. Muris.

Community activists say predatory lending plays a big part in the deterioration of inner city neighborhoods across the country. To get an idea of the scope of the damage, consider that in Chicago alone, over the last decade, the number of foreclosures jumped from around a hundred a year to nearly 5,000.

Mercantile denies any wrong doing, but as a result of the government probe into deceptive sales pitches, has agreed to pay a fine and as much as $2 million dollars to 1650 homeowners in ten states saddled with high-cost loans.

But the broker, Diamond refused to settle, so the government sued. If he loses, he faces hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines.

None of that means much to Goldie Johnson. "It doesn't change nothing for me, if they take him out and shoot him, it doesn't change nothing for me."

Her loan was sold to another company, one that's still demanding payment and threatening to foreclosure on the house she's called home for thirty years.