Harry Engel loved his home right up to the day it killed him. The retired minister had grown up as an orphan, so he took particular pride in the modest Grand Prairie house he had shared with wife Wanda for 22 years.
In February 2010, the couple received a letter from JP Morgan Chase offering to lower their monthly mortgage payment by refinancing their home. They drove to a nearby branch and met with Michael Paretti, who told them they should skip a payment in order to qualify for the program, which they did only to be bombarded with letters informing them they did not qualify and demanding they bring their account current. The Engels, according to a lawsuit filed on June 29 in Dallas County district court and first reported by Courthouse News, were "distraught, confused, and afraid." They only grew more so when Chase foreclosed upon their house.
When the couple received an eviction notice, Harry "changed dramatically. He was overcome with stress and fear, and was terrified at the thought of losing his and Wanda's home of more than 20 years. His once positive outlook was gone." On July 1, he woke up and got dressed but soon collapsed into a chair, dying of a heart attack in an ambulance en route to the hospital. The bank moved forward with the eviction, changing the locks on the home and forcing Wanda to move into her daughter's apartment.
The lawsuit, filed by Wanda Engel and the couple's three adult children, claims that Chase is responsible for Harry Engel's death by enticing the Engels into refinancing their home, which led to the foreclosure and heart attack-inducing stress. This also amounts to fraud since, the Engels claim, Chase "made illegal, negligent and fraudulent representation to the Engels so that it could secure a loan modification entitling Chase to benefits and financial incentives that the government was providing lenders to make loan modifications," a wrongful seizure of property and an intentional breach of fiduciary duty.
I've left a voicemail for a Chase spokesman. I'll update when I hear back.
Keep the Dallas Observer Free... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Dallas with no paywalls.