'Park girl' and victims to settle out of court

Attorney Raul Noriega describes the "Park Girl" case as a very complicated one.

Noriega, works with the Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid, represents 84 clients that claim they were scammed by Joleigh

Ares when they purchased homes from her. Efren Olivares with the South Texas Civil Rights Project represents another 15 victims.

In a court hearing Thursday, the attorneys and Ares said they are settling out of court, since Ares protected herself by including an arbitration clause in her contracts.

"In case there's a dispute on this contract, rather than go to court to try it, we're going to submit the issues to an arbitrator who will act as a judge and decide the case," Noriega said.

It's been very difficult working with Ares on settling cases, Noriega adds, especially since she filed two bankruptcies- one for herself and one for her business.

However, Ares now said she'll dismiss her business bankruptcy in order to collect a $1 million debt she claims is owed to her by a creditor.

"She feels that the money that should have been paid to her, and wasn't paid to her, is what's caused all these problems," Noriega said.

According to Ares, if and when she gets that money, it will go towards settling the disputes.

"We don't know who is right, and at this point we really don't care," Noriega said. "What we want is our clients to have a good title and their homes fixed."

Noriega said most his clients have continued making payments on their homes, through a court fund especially set up for this case.

He expects arbitration to be finished by late summer, then the settlements will be turned over to the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs who will distribute any funds owed to the scammed clients

This means it will be public funds that will help repay the Park Girls' victims.

"One person has lost their home so far, but we managed to keep homes for everybody else."

The parties involved in this case have until February 3 to agree on an arbitrator, if not, a judge will select one. Noriega said the issue is far from over, and it could be another year or more for clients to get their settlement money.