Author Archives: pgcpsmess

Prince George’s County: Jurisdiction, courts, and filings – Political Corruption in Transition – The worst of the worst

Dr. Haitham Hijazi, Director, DPIE

Dr. Haitham Hijazi, Director, DPIE

Searching for trustee filings is not a quick-and-easy process.

The idea is that the filings would show which houses will be coming up on the market in foreclosure sales; this is the kind of tip passed along in online conversation threads for would-be investors who want to dabble in real estate. In Maryland, however, getting such information is easier said than done. I just spoke with a nice clerk at the Prince George’s County Circuit Court, who told me clearly that “we are not required to keep any lists or [that] information.”

Let’s backtrack a little. In an earlier post, I clarified on the basis of information received that, in Maryland, the Circuit Court handles foreclosures. A Circuit Court judge explicitly confirmed the language of the law in writing to a troubled homeowner. All District Court judges know that house foreclosures are not to be handled in the Landlord-Tenant division of the District Court. Regrettably, this crystal-clear law has been repeatedly violated, especially in Prince George’s County, and in the chambers of Judge Crystal Mittelstaedt–where, regrettably, foreclosures have in fact been processed. In legal terms, the District Court lacks jurisdiction to help a house flipper foreclose on a homeowner.

Trying to track down ‘substitute trustee’ filings in Prince George’s County corroborates the principle. When a bank or lender plans to foreclose on a homeowner, often it will arrange with a ‘substitute trustee’, as previously written. By law, a record of the arrangement has to be filed with the county. As one typical legal website explains,

             The trustee named in the deed of trust carries out the foreclosure action.  While the     original trustee named in the deed of trust may institute the foreclosure, the lender will generally appoint an individual, firm, or company that is experienced in foreclosure matters to be substituted in place of the original trustee.  This is accomplished by the execution of a written document properly recorded in the county where the real property collateral is located.  N.C.G.S. § 45-10 and 11.

Figuring that since foreclosures have in fact been processed in the District Court in Hyattsville, Maryland, I should start there, I called up the court to ask how to look up trustee filings. A nice clerk in the Hyattsville building told me that was “not something we actually handle here,” and transferred my call to the District Court in Upper Marlboro. Another nice clerk there told me, very politely, that the information I wanted “sounds like it may be Circuit Court,” and transferred me there.

Once in Circuit Court, it still took a couple of tries to land in the Foreclosure Department. Note that foreclosures are indeed a department in the Circuit Court, not in the District Court. To put it bluntly, beware of anyone pushing a foreclosure who proceeds through the wrong court. Furthermore, it is a sound principle that the records should be kept in the building where the cases are adjudicated.

Last resort

Even in the right department, however, it would not be an easy or at-a-glance task to look up forthcoming foreclosures by means of substitute trustee filings. One would need a case number and would have to come in requesting to see a specific case.

With that information, one could go to Maryland Case Search, or to some law firms; some large banks have foreclosure sections in their websites; real estate firms have access to foreclosure listings. Everything is easier if you have the information already.

For example, if you already know that one major ‘foreclosure mill’ attorney is John S. Burson, you can find ready confirmation with a quick look at the multi-page list of some of his cases. If you know that the Wittstadts are walking foreclosure mills, you can easily look them up. Each of these names generates more than 500 results in the quick Maryland look-up.

Looking up the name Hijazi also generates more than 500 results. Many of these cases belong to Abdulla Haitham Hijazi, the attorney son of P. G. County DPIE Director Haitham Hijazi. Some of Mr. Hijazi’s foreclosure cases–indicated as such in the Maryland case list–are actions in district courts in Maryland. Mr. Hijazi did not communicate in reply to a request for comment.

Each page shows 25 results. One can find the results here, or go to Maryland Judiciary Case Search and fill in the search boxes with the name/s.

In a quick search of the first page, I counted two cases in the District court in Hyattsville, six in the District court in Frederick County, and five in the District court in Silver Spring. These are all cases involving real property in which Hijazi is listed as “Attorney.” In fact, Hijazi is a party in each. On the entire page of 25 cases, only seven were handled in Circuit Court (none of those in P. G.).

Second page, another 25 results. All 25 were handled in District courts–fourteen in Rockville; one in Glen Burnie; ten in Hyattsville. For those of you keeping score at home, seven of the Hyattsville cases date from 2016 or 2017 and are currently listed as “ACTIVE.”

Presumably there is still hope for those homeowners. Sadder are all the cases listed as “CLOSED.”

Third page, another 25 results. Not all are indicated as foreclosures, but most involve real property and are being processed in District courthouses with Hijazi as the “Attorney” for his company as party–twenty in all, with five in the Upper Marlboro District Court and the rest in the Hyattsville District Court.

As a citizen, I am beginning to wish that our Judicial Disabilities Commission would take an interest in this pattern.

It also looks like a viable class action lawsuit. That could be hard to pull off, admittedly; people who have already been forced out of their homes might be hard to find.

More to come.

via Margie Burns

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Judicial Disabilities Commission should take an interest in this pattern and work closely with judges who have no ties to corruption. Maryland Judges well known to be heavily involved in corruption should be removed from office without further delays.

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Judicial Disabilities Commission located at 100 Community Place, Crownsville, Maryland should take an active interest in this pattern as well as the law enforcement community.

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County Executive Rushern Baker III is aware of the scam but fails to act due to conflicts of interests. Mr. Baker is also presiding a county with major trash problems this year while 2million dollars for the job allocated by the county council went without being utilized.

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The other side of house flipping: pushing out the homeowners through Corruption

Dr. Haitham Hijazi, Director, DPIE

Dr. Haitham Hijazi, Director, DPIE

Ironically, the Director of the Prince George’s County Department of Permitting, Inspections and Enforcement (DPIE) acquired his own residential property in the aftermath of the 2008-2009 mortgage derivatives debacle.

The real property on Willes Vision Drive in Bowie, Maryland, owned by DPIE Director Haitham Hijazi, sold in October 2004 for $600,728. Real estate near Bowie and Upper Marlboro was looking up back then. Sadly, Maryland public records show that the couple who owned the house sold it to a family member of Hijazi’s in October 2009 for about half what they had paid–$332,000. The purchaser, Fawaz Hijazi, then sold the house to Haitham Hijazi in July 2012 for $480,000–an apparent profit of $148,000, which might not be enough to retire on but was not a bad sale for the still-difficult market of 2012. Hijazi also got a reasonably good buying price on a house now valued by Zillow at an estimated half-million dollars. Hijazi’s office has not yet returned a call with questions.

Members of Hijazi’s family live in the house. The residential address is also listed in Maryland’s state Department of Assessments and Taxation as the office address of Integrity Professional Contracting, one of the Hijazi family members’ real estate businesses.

Yet more ironically, following up on the previous post on this topic, one can further track the family’s house-flipping business generated from this address. As found in state database real estate transaction listings and Washington Post home sales, typical examples are listed below. The list looks like the previous one. All properties are located in Prince George’s County:

  1. In October 2012, Integrity Professional Contracting bought the house at 9805 Walnut Avenue in Lanham, Maryland, for $109,000 (foreclosure). In April 2013, the company sold the house for $240,000.
  2. In August 2012, Integrity Professional Contracting bought the residence at 8516 Potomac Avenue, in College Park, for $148,000 (foreclosure). The company sold the house in April 2013, for $280,000.
  3. In April 2013, the company bought 5701 44th Avenue, in Hyattsville, for $207,000. Sold that July for $340,000–an affordable price considering its current valuation.
  4. In August 2013, Integrity Professional Contracting bought another immigrant-owned house, at 2305 Belleview Avenue in Cheverly, for $136,000. The seller of record was William M. Savage, who has acted as a ‘substitute trustee’ in a number of foreclosures. The Hijazis’ company has also bought other properties from, or through, Savage. The company sold the Belleview house in April 2014 for $250,000.
  5. In October 2013, Integrity Professional Contracting purchased 4814 Snowflower Boulevard, in Oxon Hill, Maryland, from another immigrant householder for $105,500. The homeowner had bought the house in July 2006 for $376,295. The company currently owns this property, according to the state real property database; the owner mailing address is the Hijazis’ residence and company office in Bowie.
  6. In April 2013, the company bought the property at 4815 Heath, in Capitol Heights, for $41,000 (foreclosure). The company sold the house in December 2013 for $190,000.

Further examples follow the same pattern, visible to anyone who checks. Even without delving deep, the effect on neighborhood property values is obvious. A house that the lender could resell within a few months–apparently, since that’s what the flippers are doing–is instead sold to a house flipper at a loss for the lender and at a terrible loss, sometimes, for the unwilling homeowner. Since the house flipper is dignified by terms like “foreclosure attorney” and “substitute trustee,” all this is nominally at the behest of the bank/lender, even when to the lender’s loss. And the next buyer gets a cut-price house, often without knowing much about the previous foreclosure sale, including the fact that the nominal ‘seller’–the flipper–was actually one of the parties in the foreclosure.

The Hijazi family also owns another real estate entity, this one registered in the SDAT database by the name of Secured Improvements, LLC (a limited liability company). Like Integrity Professional Contracting, Secured Improvements LLC has a mailing address at the Bowie property owned by Haitham Hijazi. According to the LexisNexis business database, Secured Improvements LLC was established in April 2004, as was Integrity Professional Contracting. Its Maryland state filings date from 2011. Those for Integrity Professional Contracting date from 2004.

House sold by Secured Improvments LLC

As with Integrity Professional Contracting, the company designation for Secured Improvements in WaPo house sales is “Corp.” rather than the technically accurate LLC.

Again as with Integrity Professional Contracting, Secured Improvements LLC has established a track record as a house-flipping company. Again, its business pace picked up in the years after the elder Hijazi began working in supervisory positions for Prince George’s County. A quick check of WaPo home sales shows seven home sales for the company from 2006 through 2009. For 2011, eight deals. For 2012, nine. For 2013, thirteen. Then seven, six, and seven respectively for the years 2014-2016.

Like Integrity Professional Contracting, the Secured Improvements company has obtained some houses through ‘substitute trustees’ including Mark H. and Gerard W. M. Wittstadt.

Sad to say, there are more ways to game the system even than the intermingled interests sketched above.

More to come.

via Margie Burns

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County Executive Rushern Baker III is aware of the scam but fails to act due to conflicts of interests. Mr. Baker is also presiding a county with major trash problems this year while 2million dollars for the job allocated by the county council went without being utilized.

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PGCPS High School Student, 17, Killed in Crash

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Norman White

A PGCPS teenager Norman White has died after police say he lost control of the car he was driving and struck a tree in Clinton, Maryland.

Prince George’s County police say Norman White was driving southbound on Temple Hill Road in Clinton when he lost control of his car and struck a tree. Patrol officers responded to the crash at around 10:15 p.m. and White was pronounced dead at the scene.

Norman White, 17, was driving southbound on Temple Hill Road when he crashed into a tree near Woodelves Way about 10:15 p.m. Tuesday, Prince George’s County police said. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Police are trying to learn how White lost control.

He was a student at PGCPS Gwynn Park High School in Brandywine.

School officials at PGCPS Sasscer said White was a junior at Gwynn Park High School and was a member of the varsity football team. Gwynn Park head football coach Danny Hayes said the 17-year-old was gearing up for his senior season and looking to switch positions.

“Norman was one of the biggest little guys that I have known since the 20 years I have been coaching here at Gwynn Park,” said Hayes. “We call him Stormin’ Norman. We gave him that name because basically we don’t play favoritism here at Gwynn Park. He played the line for us – a 175-pound lineman going against 300-pounders. He was constantly meeting the challenge, constantly saw him at practice, what he was doing and how he was doing it – he was doing a great job at it.”

Grief counselors were at the school on Wednesday.

Police are asking anyone with information to call 301-731-4422.

Callers wishing to remain anonymous may call Crime Solvers at 866-411-TIPS, text “PGPD plus your message” to CRIMES (274637) on your cell phone or go to http://www.pgcrimesolvers.com.

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PGCPS Gwynn Park High School in Brandywine.

BOE Chair Segun C. Eubanks Cuts Off Burroughs in PGCPS Board of Education Meeting

“That can be a one way street but it wont be a one way street for long” threats from Eubanks to Mr. Burroughs after “conflicts of interests” are cited by Mr. Burroughs concerning Mr. Rushern L. Baker III, who is County Executive for Prince George’s County and brother in law to Mr. Eubanks.

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Prince George’s County school board chairman Segun Eubanks (Brother in Law to Rushern Baker III)

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Mr. Rushern L. Baker III, County Executive for Prince George’s County is the brother in law to Mr. Segun Eubanks . 

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BOE Chair Segun C. Eubanks Cuts Off Burroughs in PGCPS Board of Education Meeting

“That can be a one way street but it wont be a one way street for long” threats from Eubanks to Mr. Burroughs after “conflicts of interests” are cited by Mr. Burroughs concerning Mr. Rushern L. Baker III, who is County Executive for Prince George’s County and brother in law to Mr. Eubanks.

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Prince George’s County school board chairman Segun Eubanks (Brother in Law to Rushern Baker III)

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Mr. Rushern L. Baker III, County Executive for Prince George’s County is the brother in law to Mr. Segun Eubanks . 

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“PGCPS CEO Dr. Maxwell Should Resign” Due to Mismanagement of PGCPS Schools

A PGCPS parent recently called on the PGCPS CEO Dr. Kevin Maxwell to resign due to myriad of issues.

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