Bamboozled: Afraid to put liability on the line

Effie Marie Bradley may get a loan modification after all.

We brought you her story in October. Bradley and her brother James Mango inherited a home in Dover when their father died in 2000. They lived there together, and in 2006, Mango persuaded Bradley to co-sign a home equity line of credit for $120,000. 

Unbeknownst to Bradley, Mango spent it all. Or, more accurately, lost it all.

“He came to me and confessed that he had gotten taken in by countless online scammers: the Nigerian scam, the Spanish lotto, the Euro lotto and the Canadian lotto, to name but a few,” Bradley said.

The bank — PNC — threatened to foreclose on the home when Mango couldn’t pay. The balance on the maxed-out credit line then jumped to $217,000 because Mango deposited a fake $97,000 check from a scammer. PNC had cleared the check and Mango withdrew the money, and when the check was later deemed a fake, the $97,000 was added to the loan balance.

Mango died in February 2008, leaving Bradley with the loan that she had co-signed.

Bradley asked PNC to forgive the loan, but her request was denied. Over the months and years that followed, she fought PNC in and out of court, and was able to get the loan balance reduced to the original $120,000.

But Bradley continued to get a series of confusing account statements that listed different account balances. She says she didn’t want to make payments on the loan, for fear that a payment would be interpreted as her agreeing to the loan amount, which seemed to change with every statement.

Finally, in March 2011, a judge granted forbearance on the foreclosure so Bradley could apply for a mortgage modification, which would have lowered her payments by more than half.

PNC denied the modification on the $450,000 home, stating several reasons, including that Bradley’s signature wasn’t on the note, so she wasn’t an authorized borrower. But if she was a co-signer and then responsible for payments, how could she not be authorized?

After Bamboozled profiled the mess, Bradley was contacted by PNC, which said it wanted to modify the loan.

In mid-November, Bradley received a financial packet from PNC. This was supposed to be the paperwork to start the modification process, but it read: “Dear James Mango …”

The second page asked for Bradley to confirm that she was Mango and other personal information that obviously didn’t apply to her. PNC is asking her to impersonate her brother?

The next day, Bradley spoke to her PNC rep.

“I asked him why this financial packet was prefaced with a letter that addresses James Mango, who has been dead for going on four years,” she said. “He tried to umm, uh, uh, uh, it away by saying that, that was actually meant for me and that I should just go ahead and fill it out.”

But Bradley said no way. Under Mango’s name, the loan was $217,000, but under Bradley’s name, it was $120,000.

“He said he would send me a letter with his signature on it stating this modification being applied for will be for Effie Marie Bradley,” she said.

By Nov. 23, Bradley still hadn’t received the letter or any paperwork in her name.

On Dec. 9, the loan modification officer sent Bradley another letter, asking her to call and saying he wanted her to fill out the packet that was in her brother’s name.


On Dec. 13, Bradley once again talked to PNC, and was again told the paperwork didn’t have her name because she’s not the borrower. “Although he said they can make the loan modification at 1 percent interest, I’m more than a little bit concerned,” she said.

We contacted PNC to see what the problem was. If it was finally ready to modify the loan, shouldn’t it be in Bradley’s name?

“In order for us to help her, she must complete and return the package containing her financial information,” said spokesman Frederick Solomon. “I know that’s her brother’s name on it, but this is the way we must proceed toward a plan that will work for her. If we do not receive the package with the information completed, we will be unable to assist her.”

But why can’t her name be on the paperwork?

Because his name is on the loan, Solomon said.

Yes, it is, but as co-signer, Bradley is being held responsible for the loan. Her name must be somewhere.

The consumer attorneys we spoke to agreed than most banks are not prepared to handle cases that fall outside of more typical parameters. It seems that’s what’s happening here.

We explained again to PNC what Bradley has been saying all along — she’s not comfortable because the documents are not in her name, yet the loan will be her liability.

“The information we receive will enable us to propose a workable payment plan that keeps her in her home,” Solomon said.

Would the new payment plan be in her name?

“Any agreement with her will have to be,” he said.

Bradley said she feels she has no choice but to fill out the paperwork, but she said she’s going to add her name to the documents.

“They stated there could not ‘legally’ be a loan modification for me because I was not the borrower,” she said. “Now, magically, since your first write-up on my situation, it’s not illegal anymore and they want to be able to set up a loan modification? I don’t trust them any farther than I can throw them, but I’m out of options.”

We’ll keep you posted.


Back in November, we shared the story of Victorio and Lucia Tolentino, a 70-something Bloomingdale couple who needed copies of old bank statements for a Medicaid application.

Wells Fargo wanted the Tolentinos to pay $5 per statement, or $300 total, before handing over the statements. The couple couldn’t afford it because they had depleted their assets paying for treatment for Victorio’s end-stage renal failure.

Bamboozled helped the couple get their statements at no cost, and we learned earlier this month that the Medicaid application was approved.

“(My father) will soon be receiving home health assistance, which will allow for more intensive monitoring and care at home,” said Vic Tolentino, the couple’s son.

We’re very glad to hear it.


April and Tennyson Whitted finally have their wedding photos.

The couple married in July 2010, but 14 months later, they were still missing their thank-you photo cards, photo albums and other items — which had been paid for in full.

The photography company, ThinkMedia, finally met with the couple in October after our story ran, and we’re glad to report the Whitteds now have all of their items.

Thanks to ThinkMedia for doing the right thing for these customers.