Good Samaritan helps disabled combat veteran, family
Family forced from home in real estate scheme says 'thank you'
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A heartwarming update to the News4Jax I-TEAM's home hijacking investigation that's captured the attention of Florida's attorney general. A disabled Army veteran and his family who were facing eviction -- due to a rental scheme uncovered by the I-TEAM -- now have a new home thanks to a News4Jax viewer who saw the story and stepped in to help.
That viewer, who is also a military veteran and wants to remain anonymous, has chipped in time and thousands of dollars to pay it forward to a comrade.
Just weeks ago, he saw the I-TEAM story regarding James and Tiffany McCollum. The couple and their kids thought they would be homeless after being told they had to get out of the house they rent in Argyle Forest -- despite the fact they didn't have the money or a place to go.
WATCH: The McCollums' story
"It's such a relief. I didn't know what we were going to do," James McCollum said.
While the McCollums had a lease and were paying their monthly rent, they had no idea the home they were living in was in foreclosure. The bank came calling -- even suing -- to get them to get out.
But after the I-TEAM aired their story, that anonymous good Samaritan came forward.
"He basically just called and said, 'Hey, let me know what I can do to help you guys and I'll be there.' He wanted to relieve some of our stress and our worry and just let him know what he can do to help," James said.
The secret donor, wanting to help a fellow military veteran, not only found the McCollums a new house, he also paid the deposit and picked up the first month's rent.
"How big is this gift for your family?" the I-TEAM asked the McCollums as they were happily packing up their home.
"Our girls are so happy. They're so excited. Just so ready for everything to just be normal again," Tiffany McCollum said.
After packing up every item, from drinking glasses to family souvenirs, they moved just one neighborhood away into a new home.
"It's such a relief," said the McCollums.
The I-TEAM discovered the McCollums were living in one of at least 25 Northeast Florida properties that could be wrapped up in a real estate scheme. Based on the I-TEAM's investigation, Florida's attorney general is now trying to determine if the company, HOA Problem Solutions, is working within the law by placing tenants -- like the McCollums -- into homes going into foreclosure.
Then rental companies -- which the I-TEAM discovered have ties to the same owners of HOA Problem Solutions -- collect rent from those tenants, but the mortgages are not paid to the banks. So once the foreclosure process moves forward, the paying tenant could be forced out seemingly overnight.
That's exactly what happened to the McCollums.
"We've contacted lawyers, we've contacted real estate agents and no one has been able to get answers," James said. "The only one who has been able to step up and say this is what's going on is the I-TEAM. I don't think without the I-TEAM we'd be in the situation we are in right now."
Now, the McCollums are unpacking in their new home with their financial fears replaced with gratitude.
"It does restore my faith somewhat to know that there is someone that will step up when they see someone else hurting and help in their situation and be willing to relieve the stress," James said. "You know, I know that he doesn't want to be named or anything but there's just -- credit has to be given where it's due and I just, I want to say 'thank you.'"
The I-TEAM has been in contact with Attorney General Pam Bondi's office to find out any new information in its investigation into HOA Problem Solutions.
Since the I-TEAM's first story aired in August, they have received four official complaints from families spread across three local counties. They are still interested in hearing from anyone who may have done business with HOA Problem Solutions.
You can contact the Attorney General's Office at 1-866-9NO-SCAM or online at MyFloridaLegal.com.
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