June 15, 2024

An array of individuals residing in the Chicago area are mulling over whether the prevalent home-flipping business known as iFLIP Chicago is an ill-suited business venture or a Ponzi scheme. This comes as iFLIP Chicago faces numerous legal actions, with claims that the firm allured novice investors into malevolent loans.

These loans have had financially crippling repercussions for several families in Chicago.

Ameera Haamid, a medical practitioner within the emergency space, shares an avid interest in home refurbishment. She expressed that venturing into home flipping was something her mom had long desired to do.

Haamid was one of the individuals captivated by iFLIP Chicago.

“Are you interested in attaining actual knowledge of home flipping? If you’re aspiring to do this genuinely, our business, boasting of over two and a half decades of experience, is ideal for you,” said Ramo Bey in a Facebook promotional video for iFLIP Chicago.

In the latter part of 2020, media content such as this from iFLIP Chicago seized Haamid’s curiosity.

“Our bootcamp at iFLIP Chicago is completely hands-on, it may be intensive but it is quite enjoyable,” stated Bey in a Facebook clip for iFLIP Chicago.

Haamid, whose relative is iFLIP Chicago’s co-founder, recollected that it appeared to be a brilliant chance.

“Who wouldn’t trust their family?” Haamid posited.

iFLIP Chicago organizes “boot camps” on house flipping and also proposes “joint venture” collaboration opportunities to those ready to make financial investments in their flip.

“At times, social media lends an individual instant credibility,” uttered Tatianna Barnett, a real estate agent who enlisted for the iFLIP Bootcamp in 2021 to NBC Chicago.

Even though Barnett had previously undertaken individual property flips in Indiana, she believed she could gain some knowledge from the Bey’s.

“A multitude of people had successfully completed flips with him, thus I chose to at least attend the class,” conveyed Barnett.

 courtesy: Ameera Haamid

Following the boot camp’s conclusion, both women narrated that they were approached by Ramo Bey who invited them to be part of the iFLIP joint venture programme.

This programme was anticipated to supply participants with some advance capital before identifying a financially distressed property for the investors.

Subsequently, iFLIP would offer a linkage to a lender for obtaining funding to purchase and refurbish the property before taking charge of the residence’s renovation.

Then, iFLIP would oversee the selling of the house and walk away with 30% of the aggregate profit.

”The dread of having to hire the contractor is none as they possess one. There’s no need for anxiety about real estate lawyers. The worry of it all is out the window since they have all these associations,” Haamid emphasized, elucidating why the programme was extraordinary appealing to her as a first-time investor.

 courtesy: Ameera Haamid

To secure funding through iFLIP’s favored lender, Bey informed the women that they had to include his name in their loans.

“Being a player in the real estate sphere, it’s not unprecedented if you lack an established record of performing, you know, fix and flips with lenders,” Barnett acknowledged.

The ladies were approved for short-term hard-money loans by Envision Funding, bearing high interest rates.

A few weeks after registering with the joint venture initiative, they said iFLIP proposed homes in Woodlawn for each one of them to purchase.

While finalizing, both women engaged real estate lawyer, Alex Ranjha, for their representation. Ranjha was named on iFLIP’s website as being a member of the “iFLIP Chicago Team”.

However, Barnett disclosed that Ranjha didn’t appear in person at her closing.

Haamid mentioned that Ranjha was present at her closing but kept mum about a significant part of the iFLIP loan deal.

“CROSS DEFAULT AND CROSS COLLATERALIZATION”

Here’s where the duo – Haamid and Barnett consider things took a disastrous turn. Hidden in the multitude of documents they signed during closing was a clause in the loan agreement that implicated them for Ramo Bey’s financial liabilities.

That clause was a “cross default and cross collateralization” section. It implied that if Bey defaulted on any of his loans, the lender would offset what Bey owed against the loans he held with other iFLIP members like Haamid and Barnett.

“It fundamentally indicates that if any loan signatory has other accounts with this lender, they can avail any of your payments to settle those arrears. And Ramo had numerous late balances,” stated Haamid.

The duo’s financial documents indicated Bey’s debts were being offset against their loans.

Email communication between iFLIP members, Ramo Bey, and Envision Funding revealed that Bey was frequently informed by the lender that his overdue balances would be cleared from other borrower’s accounts.

Loan statement records from Barnett demonstrated that several thousands of dollars were recurrently moved out from her loan account to another LLC that she wasn’t familiar with.

Later, she discovered that the LLC was run by another iFLIP joint venture participant who had also enlisted onto a loan with Ramo Bey.

“After finalizing, I never received the amount to rehabilitate my project,” said Barnett.

Barnett led NBC Chicago around her property in Woodlawn, which she acquired with iFLIP Chicago in 2022. The place is fully dismantled and has been unoccupied for the past two years.

Barnett estimated her renovation activities require around $200,000 to be fully realized.

Every time she beckoned funds from her loan for renovation expenses, Barnett noted she was either rejected or handed significantly lesser than what was asked for.

Barnett expounded that Bey would comfort her by emails, asserting it “all balances itself out with time” and “occasionally you will get lesser on the draw reimbursement than what was given. Conversely, sometimes you will obtain more than what you offered”.

Barnett admitted that she is clueless about the whereabouts of the money and estimated a loss of $169,000 to NBC Chicago.

“Even with the cash on hand to restore the residence and resell it, as we all intended to do, we couldn’t put the finances to actual use, given the vicious language of the loan,” Haamid commented.

“CROSS INTEREST”

Haamid’s loan statement from March reveals seven entries for ‘cross interest’ charges.

“Apparently, a noteworthy chunk of our cash was consumed to appease numerous other accounts,” narrated Haamid. “Anything between $25,000 and $35,000.”

NBC 5 Responds managed to track the loan identifiers for the “cross interest” entries on Haamid’s statement to several iFLIP participants who had enlisted for loans with Bey.

One such “cross interest” entry originated from Barnett’s loan. 

“This venture was never about property flipping. It boiled down to drawing loans to meet a financial obligation that we weren’t responsible for,” mentioned Barnett.

“PROPERTY INVESTMENT FRAUD”

Lawsuits filed recently by the ladies against iFLIP resume accusations of them being entangled in a “real estate investment fraud.” while accusing Envision Funding and Ranjha of participating in the fraud.

The lawsuits label iFLIP, Ranjha and Envision Funding

All of us are on the brink of bankruptcy, facing the possibility of foreclosure, short sale. My mother’s retirement savings, her 401k, are invested in this scheme and we’re staring down the loss of more than $200,000,” lamented Haamid.

Haamid’s lawsuit contention is, “Ramo Bey, Michaele Bey, and iFlip violated the joint venture agreements by intentionally and fraudulently tricking the plaintiffs to enter the agreements in bad faith. Their primary goal was to get hold of the plaintiffs’ hard money loan proceeds, and use these proceeds in a classic Ponzi scheme style to pay off loans of other investors, who joined under the Joint Venture Program, and to fund other real estate and construction ventures which iFlip was engaged in.”

Haamid claims she attempted to refinance her loan with a fresh lender after her loan matured in February, but her debt was beyond her means and her property’s value had depreciated.

She approached Envision Funding to request a pay-off letter, only to find that she was in for an additional $60,000.

“Our payoff letter from December stated we were indebted to the loan company for around $315,000, and that’s what we were basing our actions on. But when we asked for the next payoff letter to facilitate refinancing from another source, we were informed that we owed $375,000 due to the lender adding an extra debt of $60,000 from properties we didn’t own,” said Haamid.

Both women claim they were ignored by Bey when they started asking questions.

Haamid recalls a disappointing conversation from last summer with her cousin Michaele. “When I discussed the situation with her, she dismissed it saying it wasn’t her area of expertise. She suggested I could always consider filing for bankruptcy,” said Haamid.

Barnett’s loan is due in 2023. Seeing her renovation far from complete, she admits to paying $30,000 in charges to delay her loan for three months.

Despite her property going into foreclosure, Barnett is struggling to retain her investment property and hopes her lawsuit against iFLIP could be a potential solution.

A COMMUNITY BLIGHTED BY FORECLOSED, ABANDONED BUILDINGS

In his social media posts for iFLIP Chicago, Bey expresses his passion to contribute towards improving Chicago’s Black neighborhoods.

“We established iFLIP Chicago about four years ago keeping the African American community in mind. Our intention was to uplift this community, renovate and reinvigorate the neighborhoods,” Bey proclaimed in a promotional video for iFLIP Chicago, shared on its Facebook page.

Now the Woodlawn community, that Bey claimed he wanted to revitalize, has two more empty and deteriorating houses marring its landscape.

Mortgage documents reveal at least seven other iFLIP joint venture properties are currently in the process of foreclosure, including the one owned by Barnett.

Sandra Robinson lives adjacent to the house Haamid was unable to finish rehabilitating.

“It’s an irritating blight on the landscape. I hope there’s a resolution soon,” said Sandra Robinson, a longtime resident of Woodlawn.

“We all deserve some form of justice from this predicament,” said Haamid.

“It’s infuriating that two years later, we’re left with more queries than answers,” Barnett exclaimed.

RAMO BEY RESPONDS

“Everyone is aware that my company is legitimate. Over the years, I’ve aided many individuals in achieving success in real estate. Last year, me and my clients fell prey to predatory lending, with the lender employing a cross-collateralization policy that wasn’t disclosed or clarified at closing. This is the root cause of most of these problems. I will stand up against any misleading allegations and will retaliate against the lender, who is responsible for this chaos,” Bey retaliated in a statement given to NBC 5 Responds.

An attorney for Alex Ranjha informed NBC 5 Responds of their intention to present a motion to dismiss the case in court.

“The loans are transferred at closing. After the closing, I have no control over the loans. The servicing lender decides upon fees etc. The decision to cross collateralize the loans was taken by the new lender Roc Capital/Loan Funder to recover their overdue loans. My company has no involvement in this decision so all complaints against my company should be dismissed,” was the statement issued by Envision Funding.

Roc Capital advised us that the “cross collateralization” clause is standard in all their loan agreements. They refrained from offering any further feedback.

RESTORE HOMES

Bey continues to conduct iFLIP investment seminars in a private Facebook group for novice investors. Haamid and Barnett mentioned that Bey seems to have relocated to Atlanta recently, and could be operating a new venture by the name Restore Homes.