Sometimes, truth is stranger than fiction. And when it comes to being scammed out of your house, this story is so strange and crazy you’d have trouble believing it was true!
Except, it was true. It happened to me.
I want to tell you how I was almost scammed out of my home because I want you to be aware of scam artists who can make anything sound like it’s true when really, it’s a house full of lies.
In 1989, my husband Ed and I lived in Golden Colorado in what was my dream house. I loved living in Golden. Our home was 3200 sq. ft. on 1.3 acres with a view of the lights of Denver. I was surrounded by forest and often saw deer and elk. There were hiking paths in the foothills right out my door. It was heaven.
Ed was leaving his job as Director of the Denver RTD (Regional Transportation District) and he had been hired in Miami, FL to be Director of Metro Dade Transit. We had to sell our home and at that time, it was an awful market. It was a buyers’ market. So, we put the house on the market and after weeks there were virtually no showings and no offers.
Our REALTOR was an “expert” in our area. After a few weeks of Ed working in Miami and my kids and me in Golden, we were approached by our REALTOR to consider a lease-purchase. A lease purchase is where the person leases the home intending to purchase it and the payments go toward the purchase.
We were told by the REALTOR that the person making the offer was a “pillar of the community,” John Smith (not his real name.) Mr. Smith was in the insurance business and was, according to our REALTOR, quite successful. We were told John made a lot of money in the insurance business, was active in the community and we couldn’t go wrong by getting into contract with him. I don’t remember what financial information we were given to validate John’s finances, but I know there was no credit check.
We met Mr. Smith; he was very charming and wanted to purchase our home.
Of course now, with my experience, I’d have all kinds of bells, horns, and everything else going off. There were serious red flags. Everywhere! But, I didn’t see it.
Mr. Smith was a scam artist. His insurance business was nothing more than a shell game. He would sell a high-priced policy to someone (who might have a serious diagnosis) and then as that person was getting ready to die, he’d negotiate to give the person insured half the policy value right away.
Of course, John took the other half.
Once we entered into a contract with him, getting monthly rent payments was virtually impossible. We had to wait for someone to die for John to get paid so he could pay us. He would pay us for several months at a time and then nothing for several months. However, little did we know, the FBI and IRS were on to Mr. Smith.
We battled with him for 18 months trying to get our payments. The stress was brutal. We had to continue to make our mortgage payments on the Golden house, pay rent on our Miami apartment and we could not purchase a home of our own. We were in danger of losing all the equity in our Golden house. I finally told Ed to deal with him. (Ed was a master at making John feel like he had control. Manipulating the manipulator!)
In the meantime, we hired a savvy attorney. Our attorney, Jim Forsland, let Mr. Smith know that he needed to either purchase the house or get out. Mr. Smith, being the scam artist that he was, proceeded to put the home on the market.
It wasn’t even his house to sell!
So now we have two REALTORs who don’t know what the hell they are doing. How on earth a REALTOR can list a home with someone who doesn’t own it is beyond me!
By now, the market had shifted. Mr. Smith gets a buyer and lets the buyer move into the house before it closes in escrow!
So now, someone whom we don’t have a contract with is living in our house!
I would have loved to be at the closing table. The buyers were there with their attorney, and our attorney was there. The buyers asked Jim who he was and who he was representing. He explained that he was representing the owners, Janice and Ed Colby.
The buyers flipped out (according to Jim). They said that they might not go through with the sale. Jim calmly informed them that we were informed about the sale, we agreed to let them purchase the home, but in the off chance that they didn’t want to go through with the sale within 24 hours, the Sheriff would be at the house with an eviction notice and they would be evicted immediately.
The buyers talked it over with their attorney and agreed to purchase the house. We held up our bargain with Mr. Smith and returned the money he paid that we agreed to give him as part of the sale. However, we did make him pay attorney fees.
The story ends well, folks. So hang in there.
The IRS and FBI caught up with Mr. Smith He could have been sentenced to more than 300 years for all of his fraudulent activities and tax evasion. He tried to talk the judge into letting him stay free so he could earn money to repay his debt! But, the judge wasn’t fooled! Last I heard, he was serving 111 years in federal prison.
At one point during this time, Mr. Smith tried to hire our attorney! Talk about a conflict of interest. Fortunately, our attorney and the judge could see through his facade.
So life is stranger than fiction. (Unless it’s Science Fiction, obviously!) But here’s the moral of the story: Research, research, research. Don’t assume anything and ask questions! The more you know, the better you can make an educated and smart choice.And hire a reputable realtor! The more credentialed and experienced they are, with legitimate references, the better. If you’re looking for a realtor to handle all your real estate needs, feel free to reach out to me. Visit my website today for more information.