Los Angeles attorney Douglas D. Shaffer recently helped an elderly woman, Chirelle Alana Looney, win a settlement of $5 million and avoid foreclosure on her family home in Malibu after she was defrauded by a bank executive.
The 2022 case (Chirelle Alana-Looney v. The Evergreen Advantage, LLC, et al. – SC127792) made headlines as one of the more memorable recent L.A. courtroom stories due to the sheer cruelty of the crime and the proactive solutions implemented by Shaffer and the rest of Looney’s legal team. Looney’s attorneys brokered a settlement that allowed her to pay back the bank, sell her home, and move, avoiding foreclosure and financial ruin. Without a decisive legal strategy, she quite possibly could have lost everything.
The defendants in the case, Maryam Rezaie and her husband, Mohammad Behboudi, were looking at bankruptcy and foreclosure proceedings of their own when they created a bogus commercial lease as an instrument to fraudulently qualify Looney for a hefty loan with Rezaie’s employer, a commercial lender. They then had this loan deposited into a joint bank account to which they had access and subsequently spent the funds themselves. They also sold two of Ms. Looney’s personal vehicles to the tune of nearly $100,000 and spent those proceeds as well. They even transferred funds to Mr. Behboudi’s personal account — an income stream that he failed to disclose during his bankruptcy proceedings.
“Ms. Rezaie was a very experienced banker and had done many commercial loans. She knew that my client, [who is on] Social Security, would not qualify for a loan through a traditional lender,”attorney Shaffer told the Daily Journal’s Antoine Abou-Diwan after the settlement. It took a special level of deceit and cruelty to do this to this woman. She is one of the sweetest, nicest people you’ll ever meet. She put her trust in somebody who abused that trust.”
The order, issued by Judge Karlan of the Los Angeles County Superior Court, noted that Ms. Looney was“particularly vulnerable and susceptible to undue influence from the defendants.”When asked why she didn’t simply say “no” to the fraudsters, for example, she had a straightforward answer that is odd to some but probably all too familiar to Looney’s fellow people-pleasers: “I have a hard time with that.”Unfortunately, possessing this sort of generous and giving spirit sometimes exposes good people to predators and manipulators, and that’s what happened in Ms. Looney’s case.
The deal spearheaded by Shaffer and the rest of Looney’s legal team was critical to her future. The bank took back the $1.26 million loan against Looney’s childhood home, which she had owned outright before becoming a victim of fraud. The interest on the loan was also forgiven. Ms. Looney then sold the property for $2 million. This allowed her to purchase a comfortable trailer-style home in Ventura and put the rest of the settlement into an annuity that can supplement her Social Security to provide a stable income for the rest of her days.
“Seeing that Ms. Looney could not afford to lose, we cut a deal with the bank,” Shaffer explained. “We saw that the case certainly could go wrong. If we did not succeed, foreclosure meant everything was gone. The lender would have taken the house and left her with nothing.”
This landmark settlement is a testament to the hard work and dedication of private attorneys like Douglas D. Shaffer, who fight tirelessly to protect vulnerable individuals like Ms. Looney from the deceit and cruelty of those who would take advantage of them. If you suspect someone is abusing or exploiting an elderly loved one, contact us today.
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