Head out Central Avenue and turn left on Club Drive and with another turn and the nondescript house in on your right. In Charlotte's east side Asian and Latinos live side by side. Charlotte doesn't have a Chinatown but cultural integration stops there. The traditional ways of Asians in America are hard to shake. Mrs. Kim (Not her real name obviously) is no exception.
The cars come and go during the day. A young man enters the home and within three minutes he's gone, then another and another. To an outsider it would appear to be a drug house and thriving drug house at that. The modest home belongs to Mrs. Kim. But Mrs. Kim is not a drug dealer she's a banker.
"Customers" entire via the side door and step inside to Mrs. Kim's kitchen. Shoes are neatly lined up at the door as a young couple and the young man's father enter. She speaks to the older man in Mandarin, then in English to the young couple.
Mrs. Kim conducts business from her dinning room. There's a large safe in one corner a relic of the 1950's.
Inside the safe is why the young couple are here its not drugs what they are buying is a home, and Mrs. Kim is their loan officer, underwriter and loan closing attorney.
American Asians are very untrusting, they don't like outsiders and have a difficult time with banks.
Documents are signed and a check is printed and signed by Mrs. Kim.
The young couple are all similes and the father is proud of his growing family.
These kitchen bankers are a concern of bank regulators,
The skirt they law by claiming these are simply loans to family, and indeed Ho, like Wong, Li, Wang are fairly common names, and in fact it is family and reputation that make Mrs. Kim successful. Reputation is everything and families won't let a loan go bad.
Mrs. Kim is a frequent customer at the Mecklenburg Register of Deeds Office, she records about six mortgages each time she makes the trip uptown.
She makes small deposits at several banks during the day and returns to the small home before the bank reopens at 2 each day.
Bankers hours, yet Mrs. Kim is a ghost, there is no record of her with the IRS or North Carolina Secretary of State. She has no Mecklenburg County business license. As most payments are made in cash, and thus the large safe she has moved several times during the last few years. Although she keeps very little cash she keeps a very low profile. She employees no one and is not listed as the agent of managing member of the LLC which the business is conducted through. Still she is known to several bankers for the demand deposit accounts she maintains.
Loan rates are not kind, but the need for late fees is rare. While most the home loans are small she has a network of bankers she can turn to for a fee from both the customer and the bank.
What Mrs. runs is a "loan club" something that has been active in the Chinese community for more than a century. Fifty years ago money was loaned on nothing more than a handshake. Today things are a little more hi-tech but not by much.
But it's not just Asians in Charlotte, there is a thriving under current of cash that moves across the city and internationally while skirting banking laws and consumer protection rights.
The costs to the state and the nation are massive. The amount of money that leaves Charlotte weekly that is untaxed and unregulated is stunning. The effect on our local GDP is huge.
And there's more.....
This is not just an Asian thing, Greeks for years have relied on this form of commerce. Visit Wow Supermarket on South Blvd or any other Latin establishment. They all offer "check cashing" and Western Union Money Wire Services. The amount of untaxed money flowing out of the USA is stunning. This is money that doesn't fuel our economy. Jobs normally create growth but the hiring of illegal and even documented foreign workers does just the opposite. It is a drain on our local economy.