Walter P. Landry, a World War II veteran, and his wife, Joyce, own a beautiful Port Arthur home. With red bricks and a red asphalt roof, the home’s decorative sidewalk is welcoming and the yard well kept. The Port Arthur breeze rushes through the towering oaks in the front yard, and the screened front porch tells of happy gatherings in front of the barbecue pit.
But the home, sitting vacant in an upscale area of Port Arthur, has a story to tell to seniors and their families in Southeast Texas.
Aging and with no source of income other than Social Security and veterans benefits, Landry and his wife entered into a reverse mortgage to help supplement their income.
In order to receive payments from a reverse mortgage in Texas, seniors who own their home must keep current insurance and pay their state property taxes each year. With money coming in from the reverse mortgage, Landry couldn’t have known his financial house would soon no longer be in order.
Landry was contacted by a Jamaican company promising to turn a cash investment equal to some $1,800 in property taxes into an $18 million return. There’s only one problem: The Jamaican company took Landry’s money in an apparent scam and never sent the Landrys a dime, much less $18 million. And now the Landrys could lose their home.
Reverse Mortgage Solutions Inc. of Dallas is seeking to foreclose on the house in Port Arthur because about $1,800 in property taxes and insurance have not been paid on the home, as is required by the contract the Landrys signed.
The money the Landry could have used to pay the taxes instead went into the pockets of the Jamaican scammers.
“They called him saying he won $18 million,” said Landry’s daughter-in-law, who declined to be identified. “He gives them the ‘taxes’ and they never sent the money.”
The woman said her elderly father-in-law, 90, suffers from dementia, so when Western Union contacted Landry telling him the money transfer was likely a fraud, Landry pushed their warnings aside.
Landry’s neighbor across the street, Eudora M. Haber, said the couple was active in the Port Arthur community and a joy to be around.
“They were lovely people,” she said. “Very active in the church.”
Haber, who has lived at her Forest Drive home for more than 20 years, said she was worried, having not seen the couple in months.
“I heard they were victims of some sort of scam,” she said. “But we didn’t know what.”
Both Landry and his wife, Joyce, have since been admitted to a nursing home in Center Point, Texas, northwest of San Antonio
The woman said the Jamaican company has repeatedly called her father-in-law asking for more money. She said they forwarded the Jamaicans’ calls to the Kerrville police department.
“They weren’t too happy about that,” she said.
Neither Reverse Mortgage Solutions Inc. nor the attorneys retained by the company returned calls for comment, but the daughter-in-law said they are just fulfilling the terms of their contract with the Landry’s.
“They aren’t the bad guys here,” she said.
She said her research has revealed similar scams across the country. She said families with elderly parents should be able to prevent such scams, but can’t by law without power of attorney. She added children with elderly parents should help watch their finances to prevent scams.
“I see identical stories on the Internet,” the woman said. “It’s just a sadness. We couldn’t do anything about it. It was his money and his choices, and we couldn’t interfere.”
For an Examiner story about another scam, click here: