Chauncey Bailey Project

Former Your Black Muslim Bakery matriarch to lose real-estate license

Esperanza Johnson, center, following auction of the defunct Your Black Muslim Bakery, Nov. 28, 2007, in Oakland (D. Ross Cameron/The Oakland Tribune)
Esperanza Johnson, center, following auction of the defunct Your Black Muslim Bakery, Nov. 28, 2007, in Oakland (D. Ross Cameron/The Oakland Tribune)

Esperanza Johnson, center, following auction of the defunct Your Black Muslim Bakery, Nov. 28, 2007, in Oakland (D. Ross Cameron/The Oakland Tribune)

By Josh Richman and Thomas Peele, The Chauncey Bailey Project

Esperanza Johnson, a former Your Black Muslim Bakery matriarch who left a trail of dubious real-estate deals from Antioch to Oakland, will have her real-estate broker’s license revoked effective today after a judge found she’s not “sufficiently honest” to keep it.

The California Department of Real Estate last year filed charges against Johnson — now 54, also formerly known as Noor Jehan Bey and Nora Bey — and her business, Signature One Mortgage & Real Estate, alleging they’d made misrepresentations during real-estate transactions; lost a lawsuit in which they were accused of fraud and deceit; employed an unlicensed broker or salesman; and employed licensed salespeople without a written contract or without notifying the department as required by law.

Administrative Law Judge David Benjamin wrote in his May 7 decision that although Johnson, of Oakley, faced emotional stresses including her own illness and her sister’s, “the fundamental issue “… is whether she is sufficiently honest to carry out the fiduciary duties of a real estate licensee.”

“The evidence demonstrates that she is not,” he wrote, noting not only the misconduct of which she was accused but also that “her testimony at hearing on the material issues in this case was not credible. ”

Johnson’s attorney, J. Anne Rawlins, of Sacramento, didn’t return phone calls seeking a comment.

Johnson bore four of bakery founder Yusuf Bey’s children, and later testified he had sexually and physically abused her. She became the legal guardian for two girls who later accused Bey of raping and impregnating them; he died in 2003 while the criminal charges were pending. Her name appears in several real-estate transactions in the 1980s involving the bakery and its members; although she left the bakery in 1988, records show at least one of her children was involved with bakery leaders as recently as 2007.

In 2007, she represented Paulette Arbuckle, of North Oakland, as Arbuckle unsuccessfully tried to buy the bankrupt bakery’s San Pablo Avenue compound. At the time, The Chauncey Bailey Project — investigating the bakery and its role in the August 2007 killing of the Oakland Post editor — found Johnson and her then-husband, Antron Thurman, since 2003 had racked up a string of real-estate deals tainted with allegations of deceit, in which alleged victims claimed to have lost at least $1.77 million in property, cash and equity.

Among those, Markus Machado and Gail Mateo said Johnson had talked them into trading up from their Pittsburg house to a larger Antioch house — and ended up with a high-interest adjustable mortgage that ballooned after the first year, with no way to refinance without substantial penalty. Johnson allegedly diverted $58,000 of their equity to others, which diminished the down payment on the Antioch house, and received a higher commission for the ballooning loan. They lost the house but won a $169,878 lawsuit judgment against Johnson and Signature One in March 2008 as Contra Costa County Superior Court Judge Thomas Maddock ruled “Johnson’s actions and representations “… were fraudulent.”

“I don’t know if I will ever get a red cent out of her,” Machado said Thursday, adding the license revocation “isn’t quite just rewards.”

“We lost our home and it would be nice if we could get our money,” he said. “But it’s good to know that she won’t be able to do this to anyone else.”

Independent journalist Mary Fricker contributed to this story. Reach Josh Richman at jrichman@bayareanewsgroup.com and Thomas Peele at tpeele@bayareanewsgroup.com.

 

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