Aaron Aguilar and his wife took out a second mortgage when they decided to build an apartment on the second floor of their Berwyn home in 2004. They never thought they would be battling the cold pouring in through an unfinished roof, let alone risk losing their house altogether.
Within months of securing the loan, Father & Sons Contractors Inc. refused to finish the work it had started, and a finance company, Candice Company, Inc., foreclosed on the home. According to Illinois Secretary of State records, Father & Sons is registered to a Countryside address. However, the business, along with the Candice Company, is located in Riverside in the Tower Building on East Avenue.
So, Aguilar and his wife, Maria Tenorio, filed a countersuit in December 2005 charging the two companies with fraudulently obtaining their signatures for a 15-year balloon loan as part of an elaborate series of mortgage scams.
The Spanish-speaking couple state they did not understand the terms of the English language contract they said they were coerced into signing. Their lawsuit seeks $300,000 for damages to their home, as well as $3 million in punitive damages.
Documents were filed in late January in Cook County Circuit Court by Candice Company requesting more time to reply to the suit’s allegations.
Candice Company’s attorney, Paul Arvites, said Thursday his firm’s request had been granted, but he would not comment further.
Court documents say the couple wanted the second loan to prepare space for their daughter and granddaughter from Mexico, who were to move in with them.
The couple’s son, Jose Aguilar, stated in court papers that a Father & Sons Contractors representative, Ronald Kafka Jr. told them he was “very honest” and that the remodeling would cost only $99,500. Kafka Jr. then said he would find the family a lender and presented them with a document he claimed was an authorization form to check their credit, according to Aguilar’s affidavit.
Aaron Aguilar signed what he says he was made to believe was a credit check and nothing more.
“Part of the argument of Father & Sons Contractors, Inc. is that we understood the contract, but we didn’t,” Aaron Aguilar said through the help of a translator from Aguilar’s lawyer, Matthew Katz. “They said they had to do a credit check, so we signed it.”
Bill McCaffrey, a spokesman for Chicago’s Department of Consumer Services, said Illinois law prohibits a close relationship between the finance company and the home remodeler. This would bar any contractor from receiving any money directly from a mortgage.
“The ordinance prevents contractors from recommending lenders,” McCaffrey said. “You can’t go to a house and sell a contracting service, and then say, ‘If you can’t afford it, let me send you to my friend at some company.’
Lenders can’t pay contractors directly, either.”
However, the Berwyn couple claim that as the work began, Candice Company, whose president is Michael Kafka, continually brought other mortgage offers at the contractor’s request because “additional work” was required. Aguilar said he eventually became suspicious and refused to sign.
Jose Aguilar said he was then convinced to forge his parents’ signatures, being told that it was not illegal and was just “routine anyway.”
The lawsuit charges that throughout this ordeal, Aguilar’s requests for Spanish language contracts were ignored.
“The statute states that if any negotiations are done in a language other than English, they must provide any documents in that language as well,” Katz said.
Aguilar said Ronald Kafka, Jr. eventually presented him with a large stack of loan closing documents stating the end-of-term payment as $116,099.19?”over $20,000 higher than what he’d been told initially. When Aguilar could not pay, Candice Company foreclosed on the home in October 2004.
The Aguilar-Tenorio suit states further that an investigator hired by Katz discovered the two companies are involved in a “pattern of racketeering” and that company officials Ronald Kafka Sr., Ronald Kafka Jr., Michael Kafka and Donna Dibrito have held managing position with “dozens of since-dissolved businesses.”
Michael Kafka and Donna Dibrito are also listed in Secretary of State records as involved with Reliable Management, the firm that manages the Tower Building in Riverside, which houses offices for Father & Sons Inc. and the lawyers that represent it.
The suit goes on to say the four attempted to “defraud Illinois’ consumers through their home repair and loan scheme … by promising work never intended to be completed and subsequently obtaining kickbacks from mortgage payouts to the contractor business and directly from the consumers through demands for additional payments to continue work.”
Steve Bernas, vice president of operations for the Chicago and Northern Illinois Better Business Bureau, said that the two companies do not have a record of complaints.
Today, Aguilar and his wife use a plastic cover to protect themselves from the cold coming in through the unfinished upstairs construction. Aguilar said that the heating bill is now more than $1,000 a month just to keep their granddaughter warm.
“We hope this lawsuit gets bigger,” Aguilar said as he shivered while giving a tour of the unfinished construction. “When we placed the Father & Sons sign outside, lots of our neighbors told us to be careful. We want people who already know about this to come forward.”