NBC 5 Responds

More Chicagoans speak out against iFLIP Chicago following initial NBC 5 Responds report

iFLIP Chicago is accused of running a ‘real estate Ponzi scheme’ by luring inexperienced investors into predatory loans

NBC Universal, Inc.

For months, NBC 5 Responds has been digging into an alleged "real estate Ponzi scheme" that has financially devastated dozens of South Side families.

In lawsuits, Ramo & Michaele Bey, the owners of iFLIP Chicago, are accused of luring inexperienced investors into predatory loans, resulting in bankruptcies and a slew of foreclosures across communities on Chicago's South Side.

Since our first report aired last month, more alleged victims have contacted NBC 5 Responds, revealing this supposed scheme may have an even bigger impact than we first thought.

Ramo & Michaele Bey are the founders of iFLIP Chicago, and combined, they claim to have 20 years of home flipping and real estate experience. The business promised a path to financial freedom and a shot at building generational wealth.

“Make an investment and leave a legacy for your children and your children’s children,” Michaele Bey said in a 2021 promotional Facebook video.

Online, iFLIP Chicago describes itself as a “premier real estate group that focuses on providing hands-on learning experiences to new real estate investors with regard to buying, rehabbing and selling single-family homes across the Greater Chicagoland Area.”

Tiffany Brwon, a realtor and trucking business owner, said she was trying to diversify her assets and was looking for guidance.

“Someone told me about them, looked them up. It seemed legit," Brown said.

Several times a year, the Bey’s held eight-week boot camps for inexperienced investors interested in learning how to flip homes.

Many of the attendees were realtors, entrepreneurs or doctors with strong ties to Chicago’s South Side communities.

Bey spotlighted several boot camp graduates on social media, including a South Chicago Pastor, a former classmate and Michaele Bey’s own cousin, Dr. Ameera Haamid.

But many of those graduates said Bey used those eight weeks to win their trust, establish himself as a mentor and set them up for the “scheme” ahead.

After boot camp, several attendees said the Bey’s approached them about joining the iFLIP Joint Venture Program.

For those that had a certain amount of money to invest in a property, iFLIP claimed they would provide everything you would need to find, renovate and flip the home.

“You had to have $60,000 liquid cash in order to do a joint venture and they had everything else covered, the lawyers, the general contractor, everything,” Brown said.

Brown, a mother of five, signed up for an iFLIP boot camp in 2021 and said she was impressed by the company's social media videos and online success stories.

"[Bey] presented himself as a viable resource to trust and teach Black people how to do real estate," Brown said.

Per their Joint Venture Agreement, once the renovations were completed and the home was sold, iFLIP would take 30% of the profits.

In a promotional Facebook video from 2021, Bey described what iFLIP offers in his own words:

“We have over nine licensed contractor teams are part of our business. You don't have to go out there and find the money. We have over $30 million of rehab funding. And if we use that, we will get $30 million more. Money's not a problem. We have four to five large attorney offices that work with us to handle all of our rehab projects.”  

‘Real Estate Ponzi Scheme’

According to two recently filed lawsuits, the Bey’s are allegedly running a ‘real estate Ponzi scheme’ by luring inexperienced investors into signing up for predatory loans with Ramo Bey.

The loans are similar to commercial mortgages, meaning they are high interest and short term.

Investors were told Bey had to be signed onto their loans in order to get approval from iFLIP’s preferred lender, Envision Funding.

But none of the dozen iFLIP investors NBC Chicago spoke with were initially aware their loans were “cross collateralized."

The cross collateralization clause meant that if Bey fell behind on any other loan in his name with the lender, the iFLIP investors he recruited would be responsible for paying his debt.

Many investors said they paid iFLIP’s preferred attorney, Alex Ranjha, to represent them at closing, but said he never discussed that clause with them.

Ranjha is also named in the lawsuits for allegedly failing to disclose the terms of the loans. His attorney said they plan to fight the allegations in court.

“[The loan] essentially says that if anybody that's signing on this loan has more accounts with this lender, they can utilize any of your payments to satisfy those past due balances. And Ramo had several past due balances,” Dr. Haamid said.

“All of us are facing bankruptcy, are facing foreclosure, short sale, etc. because the loans then went on to fail. They were never written to succeed. They were predatory loans.”

Haamid is currently suing iFLIP Chicago for fraud after learning $60,000 in Bey’s late interest fees were tacked onto her loan.

“This was never about flipping property. This was about taking loans out to pay a debt that didn't belong to us,” realtor Tatianna Barnett said.

Barnett said she had several thousand dollars in Bey's delinquent interest fees tacked onto her loan as well.

Barnett’s loan documents show money from her loan was also being transferred to other loans associated with Bey.

Barnett has also filed a lawsuit against the Bey’s, alleging fraud.

Both Haamid and Barnett said they have lost close to $200,000 each after partnering with iFLIP, leaving their credit destroyed.

As a result of these so-called “predatory” loans, many other investors said they couldn’t access the loan money they needed to finish their flips.

'It's like getting in bed with the devil'

NBC 5 Responds is now hearing from another group of iFLIP investors who said the company’s deception goes beyond predator lending.

“It's like getting in bed with the devil,” Brown said.

“He sold …pipe dreams and now we're living a nightmare,” Miranda Booker, an iFLIP investor, single mother and childhood friend of Bey’s said.

Booker signed up for a joint venture with iFLIP along with her sister and best friend.

“Everything I came in the game with, I lost,” Deshon Carr said.

Carr also invested in iFLIP and reached out to NBC 5 Responds after seeing our initial report on iFLIP.

Brown, Booker and Carr are all graduates of the iFLIP boot camp and said they signed up for cross collateralized loans with Bey, with the clause never being disclosed to them.

After closing on their properties, they said they had difficulty accessing their draw money for renovations and Bey would give them different excuses each time about why the money wasn’t available.

“I reached out to the funding company and asked them what was taking place and they told me my loan was cross collateralized and I'm like, ‘OK, what is that? I didn't authorize that. I've been paying you guys on time. I never missed a payment with you guys. What is going on?’” Carr said.

Cross collateralized loans

E-mails between the lender and Bey show money that should have been earmarked for renovation costs or “draws” was being rerouted to Bey’s overdue accounts.

It turns out those overdue accounts didn’t solely belong to Bey.

Real estate documents and loan statements show those overdue loans belonged to Bey and the other iFLIP investors he signed up for cross collateralized loans with.

Like a domino effect, if any of the 20+ loans Bey had with iFLIP investors incurred late fees or defaulted, the investors who were paying their loan payments in a timely manner were automatically charged the amounts due.

For example, when Barnett’s iFLIP property was put into foreclosure last year, interest fees from her unpaid loan with Bey were added to Dr. Haamid’s loan, which was still current.

"I actually ended up getting calls from investors saying that money was taken from them to pay my loan," Barnett said.

“We were told that we owe $375,000 because the lender tacked on an additional $60,000 of debt from properties that have absolutely nothing to do with us,” Haamid said. “We all want justice.”

“All my payments probably went to cross collateral interest payments because I'm trying to see how I paid $90,000 and [the lender] still telling me I owe [them] $429,000,” Carr said.

Financial Pressure to Finish The Flip

With the clock ticking on their short-term, high interest loans, the investors told NBC 5 Responds they had no choice but to dip into their own funds to pay iFLIP’s contractors to begin renovating their flips.

“I used money from my other businesses to fund the rest of the project to hope that I get it sold in the nice summer market.” Carr said.

“I was paying the contractor $11,000 a week, sometimes $22,000 a week, 'cause [Bey] was like, ‘Well, if you give them $22,000 they can go ahead and finish electric and plumbing,'” Brown said. “That was about $88,000 that we had paid them … in a month's time.”

But the investors would face several other challenges they didn’t anticipate, from multiple failed city inspections to runaway contractors.

After closing on their properties, Brown and Carr said Bey failed to apply for city permits, resulting in their renovations being delayed for roughly nine months. In the meantime, interest was already accumulating on their loans and costing them money.

Carr said iFLIP's contractors weren’t showing up to meet with city inspectors, with work stopping at one point when one of the contractors had their license suspended.

Carr said his home failed multiple city inspections, even after paying $50,000 in overages to iFLIP’s contractors, which was not originally included in the scope of work.

“It's falling apart. it's going to snap,” Carr said, pointing to a splintering, crooked support beam in his kitchen. It’s one of the many things around the home Carr said has to be completely redone.

Out-of-state construction manager

As part of their agreement with iFLIP, Bey was to serve as "Construction Manager" and oversee the renovation and contractors. But the investors said Bey moved to Atlanta in early 2023 and didn’t tell them.

“Real estate is not something that you can manage [out of state], especially if you got 10 or 12 projects going on. You cant, … manage from a different state,” Carr said.

In Brown’s home, videos show garbage behind the dry wall, while another video shows rain pouring into the second floor of the home through the roof. She and Carr said drywall in both their homes had to be torn out because there was no insulation behind it.

“[City inspectors] were telling me how there's no structure upstairs and they showed how it was slanted inside because the structure of stairs. It was going to cave in,” Brown said.

Brown said she couldn’t let her flip fail. She had used the LLC of her existing business, a trucking company, to obtain funding with Bey.

If her loan failed, her family’s livelihood would be in jeopardy. By this point, she said Bey wasn’t answering her calls or providing any help.

“So we got our boots on and we went over there and started demoing,” Brown said. 

Over the next six months, Brown said she spent 16-hour days learning how to do the work of a general contractor. Eventually, she was able to refinance her loan without Bey.

Her property is finally rented, and Brown said she is on track to make her money back in about seven years.

“It's not draining us anymore. It's like we stopped the bleeding of it,” Brown said.

Carr was able to renovate most of his property on his own, but he said there is still plenty of substandard work done by the iFLIP contractors that he will have to pay to have redone.

Eventually the expenses became too much, as both Carr and Booker’s properties ended up in foreclosure.

“It's sitting here 'cause nothing else could be done. Why? Because all of our funds had run out,” Booker said. “Everything that originally was done had to be removed, torn out and redone again. So after you've spent money constantly, we're doing the same thing over and over you're running out because we're paying a mortgage, we're paying utilities.”

“I came in the game with a 750 credit score. Now my credit score is low as possible,” Carr said.

“We were doomed from the beginning with the cross collateralization agreement. We're just stuck in a limbo with properties that we bought that were unable to finish. I felt that I was being scammed,” Barnett said.

Ramo Bey Responds

In a statement to NBC 5 Responds last month, Bey said he and his clients were a “victim of predatory lending,” and that language in the loans was “never disclosed or explained at closing."

But e-mails and documents obtained by NBC 5 Responds show Bey signed up more than 20 iFLIP investors for cross collateralized loans. Bey was repeatedly told by the lender via e-mail that his debts were being tacked onto other investors' loans. We asked Bey about this but he did not respond our question.

It’s also unclear how Bey could be unaware of the cross-collateralization language when, according to his own promotional videos and materials, iFLIP had “four to five large attorney offices” working with them as part of the Joint Venture Program, including Ranjha, who was paid to represent several investors at closing.

On their now defunct website, Bey and his wife also boasted about having “20 years combined experience in fix-n-flips, cashflow properties, wholesaling, funding deals and real estate coaching." Bey did not respond to our request for comment on these claims.

The lawsuits offer a possible motive for all of this, accusing Bey of conspiring with the lender, Envision Funding, to profit off the pricy loan extension fees many investors paid to avoid defaulting on their loans.

“I got five extensions and I paid $95,000 total,” Carr said.

Brown said she paid another $30,000 for her extensions.

Though Bey denies the allegation, he does not explain why he is listed as a "Loan Officer" for Envision Funding on Carr's closing paperwork from 2021.

It’s another strand of a web that has led more than a dozen iFLIP investors into foreclosure.

“This ain't just a bad situation. This was a scheme,” Brown said. “At least help the people if something goes wrong. You know, be accountable for your actions in this.”

I'm not sure what's being implied here…”

Bey did not answer our questions regarding his alleged role as a "Loan Officer" for Envision Funding, but in an e-mail, he denied that Brown, Carr and Booker’s properties failed multiple city inspections with iFLIP’s contractors.

“I'm not sure what's being implied here, but the GCs I refer have their own City license and insurance. I am not a licensed contractor. Sometimes inspections pass on the first try, sometimes the City has to come back out after they've identified what needs to be corrected," Bey said in an e-mail to NBC 5 Responds.

Last month, Bey agreed to do an interview with NBC Chicago and even posted online about how he was looking forward to defending himself in court.

Bey did not respond to our latest requests for that interview, and neither he nor his attorney has shown up in court to answer to the two civil lawsuits he’s facing from iFLIP investors Ameera Haamid and Tatianna Barnett in Cook County.

Regine Lane, the president of Envision Funding, said they are "unable to comment on pending litigation."

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