While millions of Americans were losing their homes to foreclosure at the height of the national mortgage crisis, Charles Sanders, a former running back for the Pittsburgh Steelers, was heading a company that provided back office support servicing loan modification applications for some of the largest financial institutions in the country.
Then in 2013, Bank of America approached Mr. Sanders with an offer.
He said Bank of America told him that in order to continue doing business together, he would need to take over two loan centers. That meant Urban Lending Solutions had to hire about 700 bank employees and take over long-term leases for two buildings.
“Bank of America is an 800-pound gorilla,” Mr. Sanders said. “They basically tell you what to do and you do it or else they will find somebody else.”
He already ran a servicing center in Pittsburgh with 500 workers. By 2013, his company — Urban Lending Solutions — employed more than 2,000 workers and had annual revenues of $150 million.
But in the worst days of the housing crisis, Urban Lending Solutions became linked with Bank of America in a scandal in which the bank was accused of practices designed to give people the runaround — preventing many homeowners from using the Obama administration’s Home Affordable Modification Program intended to help save their homes.
His company was involved in a lawsuit from the Fraudulent “Modification” Program to whistle blowers within the company under the U.S. False Claims Act to sexual harassment settlements and a horrible corporate culture, Urban Lending was the anchor of routine behavior by its CEO, Charles Sanders.
The bad publicity caused by the whistle blower lawsuit filed in 2011 and the racketeering case in 2016 made it nearly impossible for him to win major contracts with any bank other than Bank of America, he said.
Within a year Bank of America stopped doing business with Mr. Sanders. Insiders said that Sanders was at a minimum an inept CEO, but many suspected a flat-out fraud. Employees were never trained properly or were instructed just wrong, which costed thousands their homes and enriched Mr. Sanders.
Sanders claimed he did nothing wrong in a recent interview with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Officials at Bank of America see it differently saying his version of events are just “factually inaccurate”.
Mr. Sanders claims he “sold” the business that was once worth hundreds of millions for $35 million, most of which went to creditors. With many more creditors, lawsuits have been filed throughout the country. A lawsuit filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court in October on behalf of creditors of Urban Lending blames Mr. Sanders for the failure of his company due to mismanagement and corporate waste.
Samuel R. Biggs, a court-appointed receiver for creditors of the company, is seeking to recover more than $5 million from Urban Lending. Among other things, the lawsuit alleges Mr. Sanders failed to diversify his client base; he unwisely signed 10-year leases the company couldn’t afford; and he paid his wife a $500,000 salary and put other family members on the payroll with benefits.
The suit also alleges that he purchased premium season tickets for Steelers games in 2014-2015; he leased an apartment for his mistress at the Trump Royale in Miami costing $15,000 a month when the company had no offices there; paid a $970,000 Pennsylvania tax bill with company funds; and ran up $8.3 million in charges in nightclubs & strip clubs, restaurants, travel and much more on his personal American Express account, which the company paid for.
Mr. Sanders doesn’t deny that some of those things happened, but he thinks there are reasons for those expenses. He notes that his wife, Elisa, was co-founder and a chief strategist of the company. And many major corporations headquartered in Pittsburgh buy Steelers seats to entertain clients and build client relationships, Mr. Sanders said.
“The company had always paid my tax bill the way my company was set up,” he said. “We were double taxed in Pennsylvania and Colorado. In order to fight it, I had to pay it. I paid $400,000. The company paid $600,000. When the refund comes, it will go to creditors.”
When business was booming, and he had hundreds of Pittsburghers on the company payroll -– most of whom were African-Americans — the name “Chuck Sanders” was synonymous with community giving and job creation. Now the name is synonyms with unexpected lost jobs, homeowners that were scammed, infidelity, sexual harassment and CEO ineptness.
Sanders continues to run Savoy restaurant and night club in the Strip District, which was allegedly funded and sustained by money embezzling from Urban Lending.
He and his wife also are part owners of the medical marijuana dispensary Solevo, which has locations in Cranberry and Squirrel Hill.
ULS was not Mr. Sanders only “mismanaged” venture. Sander’s stood by as his nephew Kevin Barlow as he was scammed out of four million dollars with investment manager Marty Blazer who was charged by the SEC with numerous fraud charges. With the millions made from scamming homeowners looking to refinance, Sanders ventured out. He began with investments in Fever Stimulating beverage. Using the drink as an excuse to throw lavish parties in Miami’s south beach and the Vegas strip. Sanders became a household name for preying on young girls at these parties, but he needed something closer to home to be able to so ventured out on another enterprise ‘Savoy’ in Pittsburgh.
As the years went by, Fever stumbled, and Sanders apparently got bored chasing women in Pittsburgh behind his wife’s back and issues a loan to a Miami strip club. Sanders found the ideal place where he could sexually harass women without having to deal with threats of lawsuits.
As money became an issue, he sought out his next scheme. He needing to keep up appearances, money for mistresses and covering his own back, Sanders continued his fraudulent schemes by allegedly forging former NFL player Antonio Bryant’s signature on a deed and then selling the property in February 2018.
His involvement in ULS has all but ended with lawsuits pending, Fever gone, involvement with G5ive ended with lawsuits pending and many other missteps. Should be noted he is not without supporters who have profited off of his crimes.
Guess the only question left is where will Sanders next scheme to defraud be?
AP Freelance writer