A web of deceit? How a retired teacher was kicked out of the Houston home she's lived in since 1977

Miya Shay Image
Tuesday, February 27, 2024
Retired teacher tells ABC13 she unknowingly signed away her home
A retired teacher was forced out of 5119 Stuyvesant Lane after unknowingly signing away her home to a contractor, SDP Development, when she was sick.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Wanda Jackson never thought she'd spend her golden years in an apartment off the side of a nondescript Houston highway exit, away from the community she loved.

"Pissed off. Let me just say, (I'm) pissed off," she said with flashes of anger across her eyes that do fade with time.

On a sunny day in September 2023, the retired public school teacher was tossed out of her home at 5119 Stuyvesant Lane, the one she has lived in since 1977. Her belongings, whether precious family mementos or the groceries she bought the week before, were unceremoniously tossed out onto her front lawn.

A bed, some furniture, and the bare necessities were all she took with her as she hastily moved to a spartan apartment a few miles away.

How did she get here? Jackson has never put her house up for sale. She never wanted to move. However, a few years ago, her aging home needed some repairs.

"The air condition (and) the heating units were out," she said.

Jackson said a church friend recommended a man by the name of Malcom Pryor, who promised to fix her house.

In documents reviewed by ABC13, Jackson paid for several major repairs to her home out of her own pocket when the COVID-19 pandemic just hit.

Jackson was seriously ill for several months in 2021 and said she doesn't remember much during that period.

"I don't remember signing anything with (Pryor)," she said.

What Jackson does not remember, property records can show clearly.

On Aug. 12, 2022, Pryor alleged that Jackson did not pay for all the repairs and filed a mechanic's lien on her house through his company, SDP Development.

Exactly one month later, Jackson deeded her property at 5119 Stuyvesant Lane over to South Victory Group, LLC, also owned by Pryor.

"So, you signed your house away. Do you realize that?" ABC13 asked.

"At the time, no," Jackson said. "Because I was going through therapy, trying to get over COVID, trying to learn how to walk again. And I was not necessarily feeling good."

The situation gets worse.

As of Sept. 12, 2022, Jackson no longer owned her home, but she had no idea.

On Sept. 14, 2022, just two days after Jackson unknowingly signed over her house to Pryor, he sold it to James L. Mayer, a local investor, for $50,000.

On Febr. 2, 2023, Mayer sold the house back to Pryor's company for $262,500. Records show Pryor paid for it by taking out a hard money loan from Noble Mortgage, a local financer of real estate deals.

Records also show Pryor never made a payment on that $262,500 loan, and within two months, Noble Mortgage foreclosed on the house Jackson has lived in since 1977.

Within a span of seven months, Jackson's home had four different owners, while she thought she still owned the house the entire time.

"It looks funny. It is unusual, and it looks suspicious," Bill Baldwin, a real estate expert and owner of Blvd. Realty, said. "The timeline is so rapid with how these transactions are happening so quickly that it's just not a typical transaction."

Eyewitness News asked Baldwin to review the property records for Jackson's home. He said in his decades in the real estate business, he has never seen such a fast timeline of signing a house over, multiple sales back and forth, then kicking a homeowner out of their home.

"We're coming out of COVID where typically these things (foreclosures) would have taken 18 months to two years. It's unprecedented in my career to have people closed on six to eight weeks of ownership," Baldwin said.

In April 2023, Jackson got a card in the mail saying the house was being foreclosed upon, and she had to move out. It was the first time she found out she no longer owned the home.

"I was shocked," Jackson said.

The clock was working against her. Jackson hired an attorney and went to eviction court. However, it was too late. Without the money or the understanding to fight the foreclosure process, she was simply dumped out of her home.

The Houston Police Department's financial crimes division says these devastating house scams disproportionally affect the elderly.

"The suspect usually would take advantage of the elderly person because they know they may be living alone," HPD financial crimes investigator Esminda Gomez-Nicholas said. "They know there may not be a family member around, and they may take advantage of them."

Gomez-Nicholas is not working on Jackson's case, though a typical criminal for financial crimes could take well over a year. Even if someone is charged and convicted, the reality is it's unlikely that Jackson could get her home back.

ABC13 went looking for all the players named in various property records. Eyewitness News visited the well-appointed Rosharon home of Pryor several times, but nobody ever came to the door. The one time ABC13 reached a family member on the phone, they hung up before we could ask a question.

Eyewitness News had better luck finding Mayer, the man who bought Jackson's house from Pryor and sold it back to him. Mayer did not want to speak on camera but spoke with cameras turned off. Mayer told ABC13 that he's just a real estate investor who helped Pryor facilitate a deal.

Mayer said the paper trail did not indicate that Pryor took the home under questionable circumstances. Mayer said he would not have purchased the home and then sold it back to Pryor had he known there were questions.

When asked, Mayer said he estimated he made $50,000 to $60,000 for holding the house for five months but emphasized he would not have gone through with the deal had he known the situation.

Noble Mortgage, a company that only lends to investors, had a lawyer return ABC13's calls. They said the deal, in retrospect, raised eyebrows.

The attorney told ABC13 that looking through the timeline now, they feel something was wrong and that the timeline of selling the home and foreclosure was way too quick. However, they did not realize it at the time.

None of the information helps Jackson. Her former home at 5119 Stuyvesant has already been resold to another investor. When ABC13 visited recently, the red brick was painted white, and there were black shutters surrounding brand-new windows. New floors and cabinets could be seen throughout the house. It was clear the home was being prepped for another sale or the rental market.

"I'm mad at everybody concerned," Jackson said, still holding out hope she would be able to return to her home. "It was more than (Pryor) who had something to do with this. You do not walk around to take people's property just because you can."

To add insult to an already terrible situation, Jackson said Pryor also promised to repair her dead mother's house in Marshall, Texas. That small home had been left to Jackson in her mother's will. Jackson said through a series of steps similar to her Houston home, she also lost her mother's home, and it, too, has been sold to investors.

As of Monday, HPD is investigating this case, but there is no timeline or guarantee of criminal charges. Meanwhile, Jackson is still stuck in an apartment. Her lifetime of memories that her family managed to save from her front lawn is stuffed in a storage unit. She cannot afford the storage fees from her retired teacher's salary. There is a real possibility that the contents of her storage unit could be auctioned off in a few weeks.

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