San Diego District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis was bombarded twice this week by angry community members who confronted her about the foreclosure crisis in San Diego County.
A group of East Chula Vista tenants, activists and their supporters confronted Dumanis Tuesday afternoon during a Lion’s Club meeting downtown, demanding answers to their questions about bank fraud.
Many people from the same group also demonstrated Tuesday night with signs outside East Village Tavern and Bowl where Dumanis held a San Diego mayoral campaign fundraiser.
The group included Dexter Brown, husband of Dianne Harmony Brown, who was arrested Feb. 6 by the District Attorney’s Office and charged with 61 felony counts including burglary and allegedly filing more than 50 false deeds on foreclosed properties, including 31 in Chula Vista and then renting them out.
Dexter maintains his wife did nothing wrong and believes she will be exonerated of the charges.
“We were foreclosed out of our home,” he said. “We learned how to fight it and wanted to help others. Harmony has a good heart. She was working to fight for people who were wrongfully kicked out to begin with.”
During the hour-long protest, the group passed out fliers to promote a foreclosure workshop and held signs that read:
“Bonnie Dumanis you betrayed me” and “Return our homes.”
Foreclosure victim June Reyno, who was present, said Dumanis’s answers were unsatisfactory.
“I don’t believe she is being forthright about her responses,” Reyno said.
Dexter and others say the houses were stolen from homeowners with forged documents by mega banks and that, as the district attorney, Dumanis is responsible for prosecuting the crimes.
“These banks have been paid at least 10 times over and have the nerve to kick out the renters to get more money,” he said. “Instead of going after banks, she’s (Dumanis) coming after my wife.”
San Diego real estate attorney Michael Pines, who is hosting the March 17 workshop, said his role is getting people the help they need by putting them in touch with lawyers.
“Foreclosures are getting worse and worse,” Pines said. “Banks have used their power to influence local politicians.”
Dexter said the group is working on building its political support with Assemblyman Juan Vargas and Congressman Bob Filner to prevent further bank fraud and wrongful evictions of homeowners.
Attorney General Kamala Harris’s office has also been contacted.
Protester Ismael Rodriguez said he is a victim of a predatory lender who took his home so he decided to band together with people with similar stories.
“We submitted 30 to 40 cases to the DA’s office (in 2010) and they never gave us an investigation,” Rodriguez said.
Reyno was evicted from the home she lived in for 20 years in 2008 and was arrested for trespassing.
Since then, she has been actively speaking out against wrongful foreclosures and demanding something be done.
Reyno, 57, said homeowners are being stripped of their due process rights.
“Ms. Dumanis’s role is to protect and serve the public and she hasn’t done anything at all to stop the foreclosures,” she said. “She needs to stop supporting the corporations and start supporting the people.”
Dexter said there is a lot of intimidation going on from the police and realtors against the renters, who are being called squatters by others in the neighborhood in an effort to scare them away.
Neighbors also say that the Browns are running a scam and pocketing money from the renters.
At a Chula Vista Police Department Community Advisory Committee meeting Wednesday, police Capt. Gary Ficacci provided an update on the “real estate scam.”
He said the Browns collected approximately $60,000 each month from some 31 renters between Aug. 30 and Dec. 13, 2011.
Ficacci said Brown walked into the County Recorder’s Office with the intent to commit fraud.
“Brown was taking the deeds and refiling (them) under her name or an alias and listing the properties on Craigslist for rent,” he said. “It’s pretty clear that she (Brown) does know some of the folks (renters), some are very close associates.”
However, he said that some renters were also completely innocent.
In addition, Ficacci said that the banks have been slow to respond to the DA’s request for information, which he said has left police “in the lurch.”
Dexter said that on a maximum of 10 homes, he and Harmony cleared around $16,000 to $17,000 month and that money from litigation will go into a trust fund after cases are settled and given back to victims of the foreclosures.
“We’re renting houses at dirt cheap, paying the taxes and mortgage…” he said. “We’re not interested in a profit, we’re interested in justice. The last thing we want to do is take a home over that still belongs to someone.”
The free workshop is in the Malcolm X Library on March 17 from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at 5148 Market St. in San Diego.