Tuesday, December 29, 2015

rule of law: creative exploitation of the least of these...,

WaPo |  Rex Muller has had lots of tenants over the years, but none quite like Terrence Taylor. He moved into a house miles outside of town but couldn’t drive. He was 30 years old but played with toy cars. His face was badly disfigured by burns, but attractive women often accompanied him. Muller nonetheless trusted Taylor more than most. He had lots of money.

When Taylor moved from Fairfax County to Muller’s Martinsburg, W.Va., townhouse in 2012, agreeing to pay $870 in monthly rent, he flashed an insurance document bearing impressive numbers. It said New York Life Insurance was paying him $10,000 every month as a result of a lawsuit settled in 1989. Muller learned that a malfunctioning electric heater had burst into flames when Taylor was a boy, leaving him disfigured — and rich. His settlement would pay him many millions of dollars over the course of his life.

Two years later, in June 2014, Muller watched as a local deputy knocked at Taylor’s door. Muller had just taken his tenant, who had not paid rent in three months, to court and evicted him. He stepped into the darkened home as Taylor, an amputee, descended the stairs and, without a word, limped past him on a prosthetic leg.

Taylor had left behind a mess of toys, dirty dishes and cards written by “go-go girls,” Muller recalled. Strange documents were strewn across the kitchen table. “It was a lot of legal mumbo-jumbo,” Muller said. “A lot of lawyer talk.”

The landlord, however, understood enough to know the tenant had been doing a lot of business deals. “He was selling off his loan,” Muller reasoned.

Not quite. What Taylor had been selling, chunk by chunk, for pennies on the dollar, was a settlement that had a lifetime expected payout of $31.5 million. In numerous deals approved in Virginia courts over two years, Taylor sold everything owed to him through 2044 and was now broke and homeless.

How did this happen, Muller said he wondered as he picked through the detritus.