Bishop who's spoken out about affordable housing accused in hous - KCTV5 News

Bishop who's spoken out about affordable housing accused in housing scam

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Tony Caldwell camping out on a rooftop to draw attention to the lack of affordable housing. Tony Caldwell camping out on a rooftop to draw attention to the lack of affordable housing.

A local pastor who has spoken out about affordable housing is now being accused of taking part in a housing scam himself.

The Missouri Attorney General's office filed a lawsuit claiming the pastor advertised for a company that preyed on low-income residents.

Reeva Ford's basement offers just a little peek into the condition her house was in when she moved in. Besides plumbing leaks, her furnace is non-functioning, rusted, falling apart and tilted on the floor, not connected to anything for almost a year.

“I heat my house with my stove and oven,” Ford said.

The burners were burning red Wednesday to keep out the spring chill. A space heater tucked away gets pulled out in the winter. She has several broken windows covered with boards and blankets. Below the kitchen sink is a bucket of stale water due to loose pipes.

It's hardly what Ford signed up for when she signed on the dotted line.

“That they would fix everything in the home and I was required to do the painting and the small work in the house,” she said.

The rent-to-own offer at East 59th Street and Michigan Avenue seemed like a great deal to the mother of two, who'd never owned a home. At this point she still doesn't.

“I was like, no credit check, $500 down... ‘Oh yes, I need this,'” Ford said.

The attorney general's lawsuit claims her situation was one repeated again and again with at least 22 victims. It says Tri-State Holdings bought houses with delinquent taxes, then sold the houses with a promise to pay the back taxes and make major repairs. 

Attorney General Chris Koster says the promised renovations went uncompleted in all cases. In some, cases, he says, back taxes were not resolved. He also says that when some of the rent-to-own tenants stopped paying rent due to the unfulfilled renovation promises, Tri-State tried to get them evicted.

Ford says she stopped paying in July and has a stack of eviction and late payment notices. She refuses to pay and refuses to make any repairs on her own dime until things are resolved.

“I'm not going to start doing work when I'm taking the chance of losing the house because I'm not paying and I'm not on the deed,” said Ford.

The flier Ford saw states, “All Homes are Only $500 down and Average $399 a month. We will do all major work like (Electrical, plumbing, Heaters, Hot Water, Windows, doors, cabinets, ) You do all the painting, small work and clean up…”

Below that info is written, “Time to go get your Blessing ( Be A Home Owner ).” 

The person answering the phone when she called was Bishop Tony Caldwell.

Caldwell has been on KCTV5 News before when he went to the statehouse this year to lobby for Medicaid expansion. He was also seen in 2014 when his group, the Peacekeepers, decided to monitor bus routes hit by violence as well as in 2013 when he camped out on a rooftop to draw attention to the lack of affordable housing.

Caldwell's name appears on the suit just below Tri-State owner Brandon Miller. His alleged involvement was creating advertisements for Tri-State.

His lawyer says he had no ownership in the company and agreed to get the word out under the impression that the plan was legit.

Ford says her involvement with the bishop leads her to believe he was just as unknowing as she was.

“I feel like all he did was work inside your office. That's like if I was to get a job, then I work for this company, I'm working for y'all. I'm not scamming with y'all. I'm just doing what you ask me to do so I can collect my paycheck,” she said.

Caldwell's lawyer said the bishop was so confident that things were on the up and up that he even encouraged his own children to buy and they too ended up like Ford.

Caldwell's church, the Eternal Life Church at East 31st Street and Troost Avenue, was locked when KCTV5 visited.

A Jackson County judge has already granted a temporary injunction preventing the company, Caldwell or Miller from marketing or selling homes, evicting tenants, or removing their things from the homes. The lawsuit seeks to make that injunction permanent and asks for restitution for the victims.

Consumers who contracted with Tri-State Holdings-32, LLC, Brandon Miller or Tony Caldwell can file a complaint by calling the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Hotline at 800-392-8222 or online at

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