Let me say that I like to think the best of people. Although this attitude has led some to take advantage of me a couple of times, I still maintain to this day that most are good and trustworthy However, cross me and you take on the ire of the pit bull. Not only will I ruin you to the best of my legal ability, I will also warn others to your tricks and traps. Hence this post.
My tale is about selling a house. We had a lovely place in a newish, upscale neighborhood with a security gates and a large pond that the land developer tried to relabel as a lake. We lived and raised kids there for ten years. However, the time came where we needed a different house with a second living space in order to help an elderly relative before the dietary terrors of a local assisted living facility killed her. In short, we needed to move and we had to do it immediately to save the relative’s life. Thus we took on the crippling expense of two mortgages for a while.
Good news was that with the furniture out of the way, we could clean and paint to our hearts delight. The place looked pristine and market ready at the end of July 2016. Folks in Indiana (and other places probably) know that the best real estate season is the late spring and summer. If your place is still on the market in September, it may not sell until the snows go away in April. Having two mortgages and all the accessory costs of both houses was crippling our budget.
In addition, the laws put in place after the housing market collapsed has blocked many people from affording a house. These same people now look for creative solutions such as rent-to-own ideas with large downs and balloon payments. While our home was on the market, we had considered and discarded a few of these offers. So when the con artist appeared with her mildly strange request, we had already received some unusual offers.
The Con Artist
The tale begins in late September with my husband and I worrying about the house not selling and how are we going to afford keeping it until April. Then a nearly perfect offer appears: full price on the house, a 10% down, and a mortgage company that says the buyer has excellent credit… almost. The buyer is desperate for a house and wants to move in ASAP. She is so eager in fact that she tries to set up a home inspection before a purchase agreement has been signed. FIRST WARNING of the real estate con.
The problem: the buyer says her identity was stolen and she is still removing the bad points off of her credit. She is almost done. Could she please rent the house while she finishes removing the offending issues? She promises two months max, then she will complete the sale. She acts incredibly eager to move in, promising anything as long as she can get the keys ASAP.
We talk again to the small-town, unknown mortgage agent. He reassures us again how perfect this woman is as a client. His testimony sways us and we agree to a rent that covers our mortgage costs, a down on the house equal to one month’s rent and $5,000 for the purchase order agreement. All of these were to be cashier’s checks, not private checks. She agrees and we set a date to sign documents and exchange keys.
The day comes. The real estate agents and I show up at the house on time. And wait… and wait. She calls periodically to tell us she is “almost there” for over an hour. My agent starts to sweat because he is late for another appointment. Her agent acts like he had never seen the house before and thrills at checking it out. SECOND WARNING.
She finally arrives and everyone bursts into a frenzy of signing activity. She produces the two personal checks. THIRD WARNING. I paused at this moment. It wasn’t what I wanted. They were freshly printed supposedly by the Wells Fargo Bank in La Porte. Do I be an ass and cancel everything because the checks aren’t quite right? Do I go along to get along? She has people coming that night to move in. My agent is having a fit; he must leave. She seems nice enough and the mortgage guy did vouch for her. Against my better judgement, I sign the forms and accept the checks. MY CRITICAL MISTAKE.
The checks bounce five days later. With twenty/twenty hindsight I can now see that the lateness and the pressure are all calculated to force me to accept a bad situation. Thus, we start a month-long conversation of “where’s the money?”… “I’ll get it?” When?” etcetera. My temper goes from good-natured to angry. By the first week of November after yet another promise of “I’ll have it,” we cancel the purchase agreement and tell her to get out.
She is now officially a squatter. Her driver’s license has my address and all her bills are going there. She has established a legal residence. According to law, she is a squatter. It will take the equivalent of legal dynamite to get her out, costing us a lot of time and money over and above the continued mortgage on the house.
We get a lawyer and go to court in December for the slow process of eviction. Did you know that judges and police don’t evict people over the holiday season? It seems that would be too cruel on them. Never mind the fact it killed my holiday budget for my family. I didn’t care what it would do for her, her son and her ill mother. In the meantime, we find out that she has a long history of cons and real estate fraud. We were not her first victim. Nor would we be the last.
In truth, I truly felt sorry for the son. A young black man has so many societal factors against him in growing up to becoming an educated, well established citizen. Possibly poor education, racism, few job opportunities. Having a con-artist and ex-con mom who uses his name to ruin his credit kills his future even more.
The eviction occurred in mid-January when the police and I came into the house to throw them out. They had fled already, leaving rented furniture, filthy mattresses, and a few boxes of personal items behind. Everything smelled bad and was covered in a greasy substance. The one shining light on all of this was that the police officer said this was the cleanest eviction he had ever served. No terrible damage. No holes in the wall. Later we learned that there was significant plumbing damage, but he was right. It could have been a lot worse.
At this point, evicting them was not enough. We had to hold onto their stuff, putting it into storage to give them time to reclaim it before the court appearance in March for damage assessment. Over time, I returned the furniture to the rental store, took the garbage bag full of mail back to the post office and stop further delivery. We began the job of cleaning my old home. I also frequently texted and emailed her to come get her crap. She never answered. Eventually the cell phone was disconnected and the emails went unanswered.
If you’ve lived in a place for years and raised children there, then you know how hard it is to part with the place even if you are going to a better house. Imagine now seeing it defiled by someone that you hate. In working there yet again, I had overwhelming moments of despair on what this crazy woman did to my home. I’d cry for a bit then get up and clean some more. We had to replace carpet because someone defecated in the master bedroom. We spent weekends scrubbing everything, cleaning carpets, touching up paint, and replacing all the shower heads and the disposal. For some reason, every shower head was ripped away from the pipe.
We kept receipts and asked for damages. We were awarded the damages of course but we will not see a penny. At that point she had moved on to another victim.
We put the house back on the market in April 2017. It sold in July 2017. In the meantime, the security folks at the old place told me that the con woman was back with her real estate agent looking at other houses. She needed to be stopped. I filed police reports and notified everyone I could think of. In the meantime, I found out she had set up similar situations in nearby Schererville, hurting people there. Luckily the three folks from my old neighborhood were smarter than me. She offered them cash, with no inspection. She then showed up to move in, promising that the money was in the bank, waiting with the boyfriend, at the mortgage office, whatever lie she thought of at the moment. Her sole purpose is to live rent free in a large house in a nice neighborhood. Luckily, they demanded real cash before allowing her to move in.
It took three people to perpetrate this real estate con: the con artist, her real estate man who must know she is a fraud, and the man at the tiny mortgage company who reassured us she had good credit. How can someone possibly have good credit without paying any of her utilities, rental prices, credit cards or house payments? How could a con artist with a long history of real estate fraud have a good credit rating?
Sharon “Sha’ron” Fletcher, owner of Tacor Records and Tacor Industries is still out there hurting people. She also may be using Juanita McCabe, her mother’s name to set up accounts.
I’m not writing this to prove whine and cry or prove how much of a pit bull I can be. I’m warning everyone who reads this blog about this particularly tricky con. Wisdom and intelligence are the best things to keep you safe from falling for this or other horrible tricks. Learn from my mistake and always make the payment is real and in your bank account before handing over key