One of the keynote speakers at this month’s “Unite the Right 2” rally in Washington, D.C. was a Confederate apologist named Charles Edward Lincoln III. While he was presented as a “civil-rights activist from New Orleans,” it wasn’t mentioned that he is, in fact, a disbarred ex-lawyer who has a history of criminal convictions, including a felony conviction for using a false Social Security number, and a long list of complaints against him by clients for alleged scams.
At the far-right event, Lincoln ranted that America’s modern ills, including mass incarceration, can be traced back to the Confederacy’s defeat in the Civil War.
“We live in one of the most repressive—I mean, there’s still North Korea, there’s still Saudi Arabia—but we live in one of the most repressive and controlled anti-freedom countries in the entire world today. It’s worth comparing, it’s worth thinking about the comparison, which country was freer: the United States in 1860, or the United States today? Today, we imprison a larger population than existed in the United States when the Constitution was adopted.”
“The transformation took place with the immediate post-war amendments to the Constitution,” Lincoln said, pointing to the amendments that outlawed slavery, granted equal protection under law for all persons, and prohibited racial discrimination in voting.
Jason Kessler, the event’s organizer, hailed him as “one of the few people like myself who is fighting back [in support of Confederate monuments] … filing lawsuits against the city of New Orleans.”
However, most of the lawsuits Lincoln has filed have let him acquire a large collection of properties facing foreclosure, often by convincing the owners to transfer him the deeds for as little as $10. Lincoln promotes his services as “foreclosure defense,” and has testified in court that he acts as a “trustee” for properties. “[H]is business,” according to a complaint he filed in 2009, “involves the acquisition and management of property directly from distressed owners of real property for the purpose of preserving real estate value and equity in a collapsing market.”
Some of the people who have worked with him and known him accuse Lincoln of using his position as trustee to take advantage of vulnerable people facing foreclosure. In court in 2010, Lincoln testified that he owned over 30 properties. He has earned income from some of those properties by charging the original owners rent and is trying to turn one into an upscale vacation rental. In a 2016 bankruptcy filing, Lincoln claimed his assets to be worth between $1 million and $10 million.
Lincoln was born in East Texas in 1960 and said he grew up as a George Wallace Democrat. As early as high school, Lincoln said he was an apologist for the Confederacy.
“People often ask me whether I’m a Neo-Confederate or anything like that and the answer is ‘hell no’—Nothing Neo about me, Just Confederate,” he wrote on his blog.
In 2009, he was hired as an assistant by Orly Taitz, who filed multiple lawsuits challenging Barack Obama’s eligibility to be president, claiming he wasn’t born in the U.S.. Lincoln called himself a “‘birther’” in an interview with The Daily Beast.
In recent years, he’s become increasingly active in defending Confederate legacies. In 2013, he wrote a letter to local New Orleans ministers objecting to a series of events to commemorate Martin Luther King Jr., citing revisionist pro-Confederacy history. In 2017, he began appearing on the racist Daily Kenn video broadcast and speaking at events hosted by the Monumental Task Committee in opposition to New Orleans’ tearing down of Confederate monuments.
For much of his life he was not politically active about his views. During the 1980s, he was engaged with archeological research in Mexico and Egypt (where he was brutally assaulted) and at Harvard, where he obtained a Ph.D. In 1992, he received a J.D. from the University of Chicago and was admitted to the bar in Texas, California, Florida, and Louisiana.
But his law career soon ran into trouble. In 1997, he was disbarred in the Western District of Texas for violating four provisions of the state’s rules of disciplinary procedure, including “engag[ing] in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation” and “commit[ing] any criminal act that reflect[s] adversely” on honesty.
The case that led to his disbarment began in 1995, when he took on the cause of his then-housekeeper, Macelina Alvarado. Alvarado and her husband were having a dispute with their landlord when Lincoln convinced Alvarado to allow him to represent them in exchange for Alvarado providing housekeeping services free of charge, according to court documents.
In September 1996, Lincoln convinced the Alvarados to withhold mortgage payments to the mortgage’s holder and give them to him. Lincoln gave the Alvarados a fake receipt claiming the money had been deposited to the clerk of the court, according to a complaint filed by the Alvarados and cited as the basis for his disbarment. (On his website, Lincoln attacks the local government generally, alleging a conspiracy, but doesn’t address the charge directly.)
In reality, Lincoln was depositing the money into his own bank account—a checking account he had opened at Wells Fargo under a false Social Security number. The misrepresentation was discovered by the FBI in the course of investigating the Alvarados’ allegations against Lincoln.
Facing five felony charges, he made a deal to plead guilty to one count of false representation of a Social Security number in exchange for having four other charges dropped. Lincoln accepted a sentence of three years’ probation and revocation of his license to practice law in Texas. Pleading guilty to a felony resulted in other states initiating disbarment proceedings.
Lincoln continued to file and join in lawsuits even after losing his license, however, in California, Texas, Florida, New Jersey, Idaho, and Massachusetts. By 2008, a federal judge said Lincoln was filing “numerous frivolous lawsuits.” The judge banned Lincoln from filing any lawsuits in federal court in Texas and fined him $150,000 jointly with David Simon, a serial litigant for whom Lincoln acted as de facto attorney.
Lincoln was convicted of contempt of court in 2008 after failing to show up for civil proceedings against him in a Texas district court. (An alleged breach of contract and slander.) After missing scheduled hearings, a bench warrant was issued for Lincoln’s arrest. He was later apprehended in Mexico after his assistant, Peyton Freiman, was stopped while crossing the Canadian border into the United States. Border Patrol agents noticed a book about the Unabomber in Freiman’s car, and, under questioning, Freiman admitted that he had dropped Lincoln off at the Vancouver International Airport and that he was on his way to Mexico City, where he was taken into custody by the U.S. Marshals.
Lincoln was sentenced to time served. After his release from jail, Lincoln began marketing his services as a “foreclosure defense” specialist.
On Lincoln’s website in December 2009, he advertised, “You Can Stop Evictions!” One blog item posted in 2010 claimed, “WE WILL HELP YOU SAVE YOUR HOME, KEEP YOUR FAMILY SAFE, AND BUILD A BETTER AMERICA.” “We are not your cheapest option, just your best!” he wrote in a 2013 promotion.
Between 2007 and 2009, Lincoln spoke at a number of foreclosure defense seminars across the country. It was at one such event in Clearwater, Florida, hosted by local activist Bob Hurt, in May 2009, Lincoln later testified, he met Robert J. Ponte, Robert Rivernider, and his wife, Marsha.
The Riverniders’ home was facing foreclosure, and Lincoln joined a suit against the U.S. Bank National Association as the Riverniders’ “trustee.” The suit claimed that the mortgage was unenforceable and void, and it said that the title had been transferred to Lincoln, though the Riverniders retained the obligation to pay any existing mortgage. Lincoln paid $10 for the title. The lawsuit was dismissed in April 2010 because Lincoln failed to follow the court’s order to show cause for why the case shouldn’t be dismissed. U.S. Bank foreclosed on the home and sold it for $324,000 in January 2013.
Lincoln has acted as “trustee” for multiple people facing foreclosure and his responsibilities as “trustee” appear vague, according to his own testimony. Under cross-examination in the Rivernider case, he said his purpose was not to provide legal advice, nor to appear in court as pro se counsel, and that he was paid nothing for his services as “trustee.”
This is not the only case in which Lincoln has agreed to defend someone’s home from foreclosure by a bank and then took ownership of the property himself. In the same testimony, he stated that he owned “roughly” 36 properties, “one hundred percent” of which “came by either warranty or quit claim deed.”
Although Lincoln allowed the Riverniders to remain in the home while he owned the title and did not charge rent, according to an email from Robert Rivernider, Lincoln has attempted to earn rent from other properties he has acquired.
In a complaint filed in district court in 2009, Lincoln claimed to have received three titles to properties in California, Idaho and Florida from Hal Kuder Jr. Lincoln attempted to rent the California property for $2,500 a month, according to a separate complaint filed and joined by Orly Taitz in 2009. But when the renter found out that a mortgage company claimed title to the property and was planning on selling it, the renter asked Lincoln to terminate the contract. Lincoln refused and claimed breach of contract. The case was dismissed for Lincoln’s failure to file papers showing cause.
Another of the properties that he acquired from someone facing foreclosure was that of Michael Mastoris of New Jersey. In December 2009, he paid Mastoris $25 for the title to one of Mastoris’ two homes, court records show. Lincoln says he meant to take possession of both homes, but blamed Mastoris for failing to record the deed.
“He never actually recorded the deed to it, so I guess I never actually owned [it]. Thought I did, because he executed the deed, but he never actually recorded it, so I didn’t ever actually own that one,” Lincoln told The Daily Beast by phone.
But he did collect rent on Mastoris’ home for a time, despite Lincoln claiming Mastoris technically still owned the title. “That was the deal,” Lincoln said. “The deal was he deeded it over to me, and he rented it from me.”
Mastoris, citing ongoing litigation, denied request to comment, but Hurt did.
“After a person gets to know him, and he has managed to bleed them of everything they have, he turns sour on them,” Hurt said of Lincoln.
“Bob Hurt is one of the most treacherous back-stabbing charlatans on the planet,” Lincoln responded via email.
Today, Lincoln maintains ownership of one of Mastoris’ two former homes, which he said in his 2016 bankruptcy filing he planned on turning into a $1,000-a-day vacation property, and the other property is owned by Wells Fargo.
After speaking in D.C., Lincoln returned to New Orleans, where he is fighting an eviction order for failing to pay months of rent on a property owned by two Louisiana State University Health professors.