Occupy Miami protesters took a break from camping out at Government Center this afternoon to fight an ill all too familiar to the Magic City -- mortgage fraud and a foreclosure suffered by one of their own.
Angela Samuels, a longtime community activist with One Miami, local unions, and Occupy Miami, expects to be tossed any day from her family's longtime Liberty City home after falling behind on a loan that she considers to be mortgage fraud. A crowd gathered with her at the downtown civil courthouse this afternoon to protest her pending eviction.
Samuels' mother and father bought the family's house in 1970. "I grew up there, I've been there 43 years," she said of the house where she now lives with her niece and her blind sister. "After the death of my father in 2002, an investor came and said that he could help me."
The house was, at the time, stuck in probate court. A speculator offered a loan with ballooning interest rates, and Samuels says she unintentionally got caught in the predatory scheme.
When she couldn't keep up with payments any more, Samuels says CitiBank foreclosed on the house. "I'm just suffering," she says. "I'm homeless tomorrow."
Samuels is far from alone in South Florida. In September, reports showed that almost 20 percent of all mortgages in the area were in foreclosure -- a huge increase on the national average of 3.5 percent.
Mary Anna Ogilus was among the protesters who came to support Samuels at the courthouse. Ogilus, who immigrated from Haiti 35 years ago, says her house was foreclosed upon on September 12.
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She was in her home for 30 years before being evicted. "I am homeless," she said, choking up. She wants to go back to nursing school, but she can't afford to complete her studies.
Samuels says her case in endemic of the larger problems with the American economy at the root of the Occupy movement: banks capitalizing on homeowners who fell victim to predatory loans.
"I hope to let people know that Congress needs to look into these illegal foreclosures and people committing fraud," she says. "I think the law needs to look into this."