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All about Yovette

Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Steve Bailey
Globe Columnist / November 18, 2005

For anyone who has ever struggled to get a loan from a bank, there is the story of Yovette Mumford.

Mumford is the public face of an investment group that recently paid $11.7 million for one of the most glamorous properties on the Boston waterfront, the Boston Yacht Haven on Commercial Wharf. In September, Mumford hosted a champagne celebration to mark the purchase of the marina, which comes with a spectacular harbor view.

MGM Commercial Wharf LLC -- named for her children, Megan, Garron, and Morgan -- financed the deal with a $10.1 million loan from Northern Bank & Trust in Woburn. ''That is a big loan for us," says executive James Mawn, who declined to comment further. Mumford says she is a minority owner in the deal, but won't talk about her partners. ''Who they are I should keep to myself," she says.

My question: How does someone with a record like Mumford's turn up in a deal like this? Consider:

  • In 2000, members of her family won a $6.4 million judgment against her, most of which they say they have been unable to collect. The suit involved a relatively small investment in a start-up called Satellite CD, which eventually grew into today's Sirius Satellite Radio, which is now worth almost $10 billion. After the ruling, the family attempted to take her Winchester home, which created a scramble by Mumford to find a second mortgage to pay her family and save her home, court papers show.

    ''Even if Yovette paid my family the entire $6.4 million judgment against her, the abuse of trust she committed would not begin to undo the betrayal against all our families," says Elizabeth Gould, who was among those who invested. Mumford says she considers it a private, family matter that has been resolved. A lawyer for the family, Patricia Davidson, disagrees: ''There is an almost $7 million judgment my clients would like to collect."

  • In 2003, Mumford, the ex-sister-in-law of Congressman Ed Markey, pleaded guilty to Big Dig-related fraud, including failing to pay state income taxes withheld from employees' paychecks and submitting false expenses for reimbursements, according to the attorney general's office. She was sentenced to three years probation, fined, and ordered to pay restitution. ''It is what it is," says Mumford, 49.

  • Also in 2003, a state court issued a $91,500 judgment against her in a suit brought by Fleet National Bank, which said she was overdrawn on her checking account. Four years earlier Citizens Bank sued her and her company, American Electronics Corp., alleging the company had defaulted on a loan. The suit was settled two years later. Mumford says the Fleet situation was a result of someone giving her a bad check; she didn't recall the Citizens suit.

  • In 2001, her companies Safety Medical International, which sells syringes with a safety tip she patented, and Safetytips.com filed for bankruptcy-court protection. Safetytips.com was dissolved; Safety Medical has emerged from bankruptcy, and employs six people.

  • Ten years ago, when she was running the now-defunct American Electronics, Mumford made a bid to buy a failing Grumman Corp. plant in Salisbury, Md. The story of a young, African-American entrepreneur rescuing a failing manufacturing plant attracted wide political support in Maryland and considerable attention for Mumford, including a flattering profile in The Wall Street Journal. But a few months after the deal was disclosed it collapsed when she couldn't get financing.

  • In 2000, Mumford again rode to the rescue, this time of APBNews.com, a true-crime website that had burned through $27 million before filing for bankruptcy. Mumford first offered $950,000 for APBNews, but then made a new offer for $575,000. The multiple bids sparked a lawsuit, which was settled. Mumford bought the company, but not before her first check bounced, the lawsuit says.

    Mumford thinks this is all unfair: ''After 18 years there are six things here. One is extremely personal and the others were business things I had little control over."

    APBNews collapsed, too. But at the time Mumford was full of enthusiasm. ''APB believes," she said then, ''that 'You Have the Right To Know.' "

    It is a heck of a motto. And now you know.

    Steve Bailey is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at bailey@globe.com

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