Anthony Williams’s Politically and Financially Disastrous Property Deal
State Sen. Anthony Williams — the guy a lot of people thought would be the city’s next mayor — was involved in a unsavory mortgage deal in New Jersey that left him battling with a recalcitrant tenant, damaged his credit and raises some serious questions about his judgment, according to a story posted overnight on Philly.com
Reporters Ryan Briggs and Brian X. McCrone do a great job unspooling the entire mess in their investigative report. In short, Williams bought a home in Atco, New Jersey, that was on the brink of foreclosure, and rented the home back to the prior owner. The government generally takes a dim view of these sort of deals.
Williams says he’s a victim in all of this. The deal was put together, Williams told Philly.com, by a “friend of a friend.” Williams says he was in it for altruistic reasons. Per Philly.com:
“A friend of mine approached me about using my credit to help people who were losing their homes,” Williams said. “If you’re born into a life of service, this is the kind of stuff that you do.”
To put it mildly, the deal didn’t work out. The old owner — who became Williams’s tenant — stopped paying rent. Williams dispatched an associate to the Atco house, spooking the occupants. The police were called. The tenant and a police report indicate Williams’s associate was there to try and change the locks on the house. Williams says that was not true.
Eventually, Williams gave up on the property, and it was foreclosed upon in 2009. He says he lost money on the deal, and Philly.com reports that it “ended with Williams’ credit in shambles.” And what about the guy who arranged the deal, the one that Team Williams is trying to cast as the bad guy in this sad story? That would be Troy Wallace, a Camden barber. He’s in the wind.
Anyway, you get the idea. This is sticky stuff, at best, and hardly the sort of transaction you’d want a mayor — or state senator, for that matter — to be involved in. Philly.com has been doggedly pursuing this story for months (they started asking questions during the mayoral campaign), and when Williams finally agreed to talk, it was in the office of premier criminal defense attorney George Bochetto.
What does any of this mean, politically, for Williams? Nothing good, obviously. His stock had already taken a hit after his shellacking in the mayoral primary. Some surmised that Williams would become a bit of a back-bencher in the State Capital, but that’s not what people close to him expected. Williams is still the Senate’s minority whip, and some associates were expecting him to regroup and make a run at becoming still-more consequential in Harrisburg.
Now this: an incident that calls his judgement into question, looks bad and cost him money. That’s pretty much the trifecta.