Several Prince William County politicos have told Patch today that the Democratic candidate for county chairman, Babur Lateef, might be the target of an investigation into the foreclosure and auction of his home last year and that state party leaders may be asking him to bow out of the three-way race.
Lateef and his campaign manager have not returned numerous phone messages or emails since 9 a.m. but at least one Virginia political pundit has been blogging about the situation since yesterday.
Virginia Virtucon's Jim Riley blogged that sources told him that Prince William County Commonwealth's Attorney Paul Ebert's office is investigating Lateef for alleged wire and bank fraud, but that would be unlikely because both Ebert and Lateef are local Democrats. If Ebert received any complaint against Lateef he is more likely to let a special prosecutor review the allegations because of the political conflict.
Later today, Riley blogged again that three reporters from separate outlets have been unable to get Ebert to return messages.
"Ebert had no problem whatsoever in rushing before the media to tout the initiating of past investigations of Republicans Corey Stewart, Rich Anderson and Steve Chapman during election years, so what gives here? He isn’t even sending out some flack to confirm, deny or say that they can’t comment on ongoing investigations," Riley wrote.
Bruce Roemmelt, Prince William County Democratic Committee chairman, said he has not heard anything about Lateef being the target of an investigation.
Ebert and representatives from the Democratic Party of Virginia have not returned numerous phone calls and emails since 9 a.m.
Lateef, 39, and his wife, Tarannum, bought the 5,474-square-foot, four-bedroom, five-bath estate on Chaddsford Terrace for $1.2 million in June 2006. A few years later the housing market crashed and the value of their home plummeted to a low of $595,400 in 2009.
Lateef, an eye doctor, said that during this same time his practice was struggling and he was unable to continue paying both the mortgage on the Chaddsford Terrace estate and a townhouse he owns in Woodbridge. Lateef also owns two offices that he and his wife use for their practices.
Numerous people, including his challengers, incumbent Republican Corey Stewart and independent John Gray, had questioned if Lateef purposely stopped paying his mortgage as a strategy to recoup the loss from the housing crash.
The first transaction that raised eyebrows was in 2009 when Lateef's wife, who also is a doctor, had her name deleted from the deed.
A year later, the banks auctioned the home. Lateef said the banks were not cooperating with him.
What drew the most suspicion was that the Lateefs never moved out of the house. In April 2010, Lateef's sister-in-law, Najia Shakoor, bought the house at auction. The Chicago doctor paid $616,000 in cash and the Lateefs rent the home.
About six months after Lateef's house sold, his business, Advanced Ophthalmology, became his campaign's top donor with $10,533. Lateef even loaned himself $10,000.
Then in March, the name on the deed changed again to Abdul Bari Lateef, his father.
Lateef has so far refused to release his tax returns, saying he does not think the documents will help verify anything.
In the May article, Lateef had said he was blessed to have family that could help him with his housing troubles because the bank was not cooperating. He said he was not trying to strategically default on the home and he added to his political platform a proporal to help residents who are at risk of foreclosure.
Lateef had said that although he defaulted on his mortgage, he was able to retain all of his employees without cutting hours or pay. He also said he was able to fund his campaign with more than $20,000 less than a year after the auction because his business started to recover.
But Stewart and Gray had questioned how a family of doctors could default on a mortgage, especially when the family owns two commercial properties and a townhouse.
Gray had said in May that what Lateef may have done is called a strategic default, which is a legal way to stop paying a mortgage, but he added that it's not an ethical decision.
One question that Lateef has not answered is how his sister-in-law came up with $616,000 to buy the house. Attempts to reach her have been unsuccessful.
The silence from Lateef's campaign seems unusual, especially considering that on July 18 he issued a press release about raising more cash than both of his opponents in the second quarter, a tall feat for a political newcomer facing a popular incumbent who often gets national attention for immigration control efforts.
Lateef raised $80,084 in the second quarter and incumbent Stewart, raised $64,141. Gray has raised a total of $4,300 in cash and loaned himself $18,200. In total, Lateef has raised $230,109 to Stewart’s $226,136, and Gray had $22,500.
Stay tuned as this story develops...