Elderly woman loses home in tangled web involving an ex-LAPD officer and self-proclaimed Bishop
A tangled web of fraud allegedly involving an ex-LAPD officer and a self-proclaimed Bishop has ensnared an 89-year-old woman who is losing to foreclosure the Lynwood home she paid off more than two decades ago, police say.
Vistula Graham bought the three-bedroom ranch house more than 40 years ago, and owned it free and clear after paying off the mortgage in the late nighties, said her daughter, Keta Davis, who grew up there.
Now the house is scheduled to be auctioned off.
“I want the foreclosure to stop because we’re not at fault,” Davis said.
The story begins with Leroy Dowd, a 74-year-old, self-proclaimed, charismatic leader of a now-defunct South LA church called Triumph Church of God.
“Bishop Dowd is a con artist," Davis said. "Bishop Dowd preyed on my mom.”
Dowd conned Graham into giving him money and unknowingly sign over the house, Davis said.
“He called himself a bishop he called himself a prophet,” she said. Profit off her mother is more like it, she said.
Her mother "didn’t know what she was signing,” Davis said.
Davis claims the Bishop opened a $150,000 credit line with Bank of America using her mother’s information and the house as collateral.
Checks signed with her mother’s name were forged, Davis said.
Dowd also added his name to a Wells Fargo account. Wells Fargo and BofA both determined it was fraud and canceled those loans.
But the last loan Dowd allegedly obtained, through IndyMac Bank, for $410,000 is the one in foreclosure.
Two years ago, Dowd pleaded guilty to one count of grand theft for forging a grant deed and stealing another church member’s house. That victim was 87.
“Mr. Dowd is a smooth con artist,” said Claremont Detective David DeMetz who has a thick file on Leroy Dowd, from that case.
The victim “had no idea what she was signing or that she gave her house away to Mr. Dowd.”
Sound familiar? Dowd was sentenced to 3 years in prison on that case, but in the case of Vistula Graham, the Los Angeles District Attorney didn’t press charges because the primary witness, Graham, can no longer talk.
Davis has offered to testify on behalf of her mother.
But the story doesn’t end there. Sheriff’s investigators say Leroy Dowd could not have been working alone.
Detectives suspect he was working with Darcy Greenfield, who was an LAPD officer at the time and had a real estate business on the side.
Deed records on the Lynwood house show that in 2007 the house was put in Greenfield’s company name: Greenfield and McCall.
Documents show Greenfield and McCall were named beneficiaries of the IndyMac Bank loan, and a received a payout of more than $261,000.
Keta Davis says the loan is clearly “fraudulent.”
“I’d never heard of them,” she said. Davis was stunned to learn that not only did a stranger own her family house, but that the stranger was an LAPD officer.
Greenfield was never charged in Graham’s case, but the former LAPD officer was charged last May in a San Bernardino fraud case.
Greenfield has been charged with ten felony counts all pertaining to real estate fraud, said San Bernardino deputy district attorney Vance Welch who specializes in real estate fraud.
Greenfield has pleaded not guilty, and her attorney Grover Porter has not returned numerous calls to his office.
Greenfield’s connection to Dowd is the subject of a broader investigation by the LAPD and FBI.
DeMetz said that a search during the investigation of the Claremont case did net paperwork connected to Greenfield, who was at that time employed as an LAPD officer.
NBC4 was unable to reach Greenfield, but she told the LA Times in 2010 she was a victim of Dowd’s schemes. Greenfield said she gave Dowd money to invest in real estate, and lost her money.
Greenfield sued Dowd and won a $4.5 million judgment against him, but has never collected.
All of that does little for Vistula Graham, whose home is set to be auctioned off in mid-February. Her daughter doesn’t know what to do.
“I am up against a brick wall,” Davis said.
She sued IndyMacBank and OneWest Bank, which bought IndyMac. Davis claimed fraud, and negotiated a settlement of a one-year extension to stay in the house, but time has run out.
One West Bank of Pasadena issued this statement:
“We are sympathetic to Ms. Graham’s circumstances, and although OneWest Bank was unaware of the fraud that predated our relationship with her, we worked closely with Ms. Graham to identify a mutually-agreeable solution. To be clear, OneWest Bank did not originate Ms. Graham’s loan. A third party originated the loan in 2007 and OneWest subsequently became the loan servicer when it acquired IndyMac’s assets in 2009. Ultimately, all investment decisions are made by the investor on the loan, which is not us in this case.”
Bishop Leroy Dowd is out of prison on the Claremont conviction and his location is unknown. Former officer Darcy Greenfield is out on bail. Keta Davis has started packing.
“It’s so hard, and I have been fighting for so long, and I haven’t got justice.”