Contractors unpaid while Nomad execs live large

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by BYRON HARRIS / WFAA-TV

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wfaa.com

Posted on March 17, 2010 at 11:55 PM

Updated Thursday, Mar 18 at 7:20 PM

NEWS 8 INVESTIGATES

The U.S. Senate now has a 1,300-page bill that would usher in new regulations for the financial industry.

After a News 8 investigation last month, regulators might want to look at the bottom of the financial food chain.

Nomad Preservation is a North Texas company in the thick of the mortgage meltdown that ruined lives of scores of people.

Nomad employed people to care for foreclosed properties. But after about a year in business, Nomad evaporated with more than a million dollars of unpaid wages.

Patrick Murillo lost his house because of the mortgage crisis. But not the way you might think.

Phillip Ranne is ruined, too. "Everything I've worked to build has been ripped out from under me," he said. "It wasn't just me — they did it to a lot of people."

"They" is Nomad Preservation, one of hundreds of unseen, unregulated players in the mortgage crisis.

Property preservation companies such as Nomad clean, repair and winterize foreclosed properties that banks have repossessed. Nomad, in turn, pays subcontractors to do the field work.

Those workers — like Phillip Ranne and Patrick Murillo — work on faith that they will be paid.

In the case of Nomad, dozens of contractors and dozens office workers say they were never paid — or were paid too little and too late..

While she was waiting for her money, office worker Candy Eckert and her daughter were thrown out of their home. Eckert is angry with company executives.

"Their kids didn't go without Christmas," she said. "Their kids didn't go without food. They didn't worry about whether they were going to be evicted."

In fact, company executives Sam El-Haje and Jeffrey Davis lived in an upscale home in Rowlett with a pool and backyard barbecue.

They drove a stable of luxury cars.

And Phillip Ranne, who can never get them on the phone, just wishes he could see them face-to-face.

"How can you look at yourself in the mirror? How can you stand in your skin knowing what you've done, to all the innocent people that were out there trying to make a living?" Ranne asked.

Jeffrey Davis is Nomad's corporate secretary. News 8 found him at a Dallas luxury car dealer, where he was having an $80,000 Land Rover repaired.

"I have one car," Davis said. "It belongs to one of our companies that we're involved in, yes."

Davis' business partner and Nomad's president, Hussein Sam El-Haje, has acquired a Lamborghini, a Viper, three Corvettes, a Hummer, and a Cadillac since he began running the company.

"I can't speak for El Haje; I'm here to clean up the mess. I'm trying to clean up the mess," Davis said. "Yes, it has taken a long time. There's a lot of facets to this."

Now in Michigan, El-Haje shares a house with Davis when he's in Texas. El-Haje said his criminal record for embezzlement and forgery in the 90s is irrelevant to the way he has run Nomad.

"I was a kid, I was a kid," he said in a telephone interview. "I'm 46 years old."

Nomad credit card records obtained by News 8 show El-Haje charged more than $50,000 in furniture, gold, clothing, limousines and other personal items in the first seven months of last year.

"What about the cars? I have no comment about that. That's why we want to give you a comment on everything," El-Haje said.

Both El Haje and Davis had declined to be interviewed previously.

"If you would like to do a real interview, we will do that," Davis offered when questioned at the car dealership. He agreed to an on-camera meeting on the next Monday at Channel 8's studios.

Two Mondays have passed; Davis hasn't shown up.

He promised to provide documents showing Nomad is owed more than a million dollars by Bank of America for preservation work on hundreds of houses. Those documents never arrived.

As for his Land Rover, after checking the vehicle identification number, the car dealer decided the vehicle belonged to someone else.

Davis left in a cab.

But this is not just a story about one company. Nomad's victims say their firm is not the only one ripping off workers.

Patrick Murillo alleges that the system could be corrupt from top to bottom.

Phillip Ranne wants to know why Nomad was so vicious. "They feed on the hopes and dreams of the person that's trying to start a business... trying to build something for their families. They feed on those people just like predators," he said.

Nomad has been evicted from its offices. Jeffrey Davis says the company is still in business.

In lawsuits, Nomad blames its problems on a company it took over and on Bank of America, which owes Nomad money. Bank of America denies that assertion.

News 8 has been getting e-mails from across the country from other workers saying their lives have been destroyed by questionable preservation companies like Nomad.

E-mail bharris@wfaa.com

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