Prince George's Fairy Tale Unravels For Woman at Center of Fraud Probe
Sunday, August 26, 2007
Joy Jenise Jackson glided down the aisle of the Mayflower Hotel ballroom wearing her handmade oriental silk wedding gown and tiara with Swarovski crystal rhinestones. Trailing her was a 42-foot train, it, too, adorned with bling.
The June 2006 reception was equally glitzy, captured, like the wedding, on video. Patti LaBelle serenaded Jackson, 39, a former exotic dancer turned mortgage broker, and her groom, Kurt Fordham, 38. Later, the video shows the couple and their 360 guests sipping Moï¿½t and Cristal champagne and dining on lobster and shrimp fried rice, followed by four wedding cakes. As gifts, the couple gave one of their attendants a Porsche, another a house, and a third a $10,000 check, wedding guests said.
The price tag for the nuptials, Jackson told friends, was nearly $800,000.
It was a fairy tale wedding born of a booming real estate market. But even as Jackson was basking in her platinum wedding, her dreams and those of hundreds of homeowners in the Washington area were crumbling around them -- just like the market.
Investigators and attorneys say it appears that Jackson paid for her wedding and her lavish lifestyle, in part, with money from an elaborate foreclosure rescue business she operated out of her Lanham-based Metropolitan Money Store Corp.
Last month, a class action lawsuit was filed on behalf of homeowners who say they have collectively lost as much as $60 million in home equity through her business.
"Joy Jackson concocted a scheme to defraud people," said Phillip Robinson, an attorney who filed the federal suit against Jackson, Fordham and 12 other defendants. "The sole motive seemed to be to enrich her lavish lifestyle. She took from people who were cash poor but were equity rich."
The red-hot real estate market of the past few years created billions in home equity for owners and opened up credit to those who thought they could never afford a home. But it also opened the door for foreclosure rescue operations, such as Metropolitan's, that require homeowners to turn over their deeds and, in effect, their equity to the lender.
Attorneys suing Jackson's company say as many as 400 homeowners lost at least $100,000 in equity. Some are now facing foreclosure.
Darrin Blackford, a spokesman for the U.S. Secret Service's Washington field office, said the agency is investigating Metropolitan for possible fraud, but he would comment no further. The FBI is also investigating the company, a law enforcement source said.
David Schickner, an investigator with the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation, said the agency has been looking into Metropolitan since November 2006.
Jackson and Fordham did not respond to requests from The Washington Post for comment; they have moved out of their Fort Washington house, and efforts to locate them were not successful. Jackson's business partner, Jennifer McCall, did not return calls for comment, and a man who answered the door at her Lanham home said she would not comment.