By Tanya Dennis
Jerome Loston, who almost lost his life in Vietnam, is a totally disabled war veteran who has built a successful life with his wife and children, who both graduated with honors from UC Berkeley. Now, he is the fight of his life to keep Wells Fargo Bank from taking away his home.
Despite good credit and a large down payment, the couple was tricked into a home loan with monthly payments that were double what they had told. Within two years, their note rose to $4,200 a month.
Seeking a loan modification, like so many others, they were advised to skip several payments in order to show need. But that made their situation worse. They also were told they had too much equity to qualify and are now battling Wells Fargo Bank, which wants to foreclose on their home.
Loston’s story starts in Vietnam on Jan. 9, 1969, when he was assigned to convoy security, a supposedly safe job. On the first run, the convoy came under attack. The vehicle in front of Loston’s was hit by a Rocket Propelled Grenade (RPG) and blew up. Bodies flew over his head, as three RPGs hit his vehicle, one in the front, one through the side and one through the rear.
Of the four soldiers in the vehicle, he was the only survivor. With the rear portion of his left leg blown off, and his stomach blown open, the “out call” to Medivac was the last thing he remembered. He awoke from a coma 30 days later in excruciating pain with his body full of tubes and wire sutures.
For two months Loston’s parents believed he was dead. He was sent to Camp Zama in Japan, Oak Knoll Naval Hospital and the Presidio for a total of 18 months of rehabilitation.
Five years later he married Linda Griffin, and with the help of his family, the couple was able to purchase their first home in Hercules in 1979, where they lived for the next 30 years.
After their children graduated, they sold their home and moved to Alamo. With prime credit and a large down payment, they chose a prime location to retire comfortably. Because they had been clients of World Savings on their first loan, they applied and prequalified for their second home. Despite the prime credit rating and down payment, their second loan with World Savings turned out to be a subprime toxic Pick-a-pay loan.
World Savings representatives also misrepresented the loan, telling the couple that the monthly note would be $1,800. Upon receiving their first statement, they discovered the $1,800 was a bi-monthly payment, which meant if there were five weeks in the month they’d have to make three payments. . They immediately went back to the bank, but World Saving refused to work with them, saying they would have to ride it out. Within two years their note had escalated to $4,200 a month.
After four years they asked for a modification but were told in order to qualify they had to miss payments for two months. Until that time the couple had never missed a payment or ever been late.
After following Wells advice not to pay, they found themselves on the bank ineptness merry-go-round did not qualify for a loan. Then, when they did qualify, they were told they could not get a modification because the home’s equity value was too high. They applied 10 times and finally qualified under the HAMP program last July but were still refused a modification. They stopped trying when a Wells Fargo agent told them to get an attorney because the bank wanted their home.
Jerome and Linda Loston have joined the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE) to assist them in making Wells Fargo deal equitably. With the support of ACCE, ministers and other veterans, they held a protest in front of Wells Fargo Headquarters Wednesday on Harrison Street in Oakland.