Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Detroit Jury Slams Scammer For Hijacking Vacant Foreclosed Homes While On Parole For Armed Robbery/Carjacking, Then Peddling Them On Craigslist; Used Bogus Land Contracts To Fleece Unsophisticated Homebuyers Out Of Deposits, Monthly Payments; Victims Also Lost Funds Used To Renovate Houses, Ultimately Getting The Boot

In Detroit, Michigan, the Detroit Free Press reports:
  • A pair of Detroit residents involved in a scam to "sell" properties they did not actually own to unsuspecting buyers using phony paperwork will have to face a judge for sentencing in the coming weeks.

    A Wayne County Circuit Court jury on Wednesday [March 23] found Bernard Hardrick, 28, guilty of 22 charges, including conducting criminal enterprises and filing a fraudulent conveyance affecting real property.

    Latonia Fletcher, 29, pleaded guilty Feb. 26 to charges involving forgery and false pretenses, according to the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office. Fletcher, who is expected to receive probation in exchange for her plea,(1) is to be sentenced on April 1, and Hardrick is to be sentenced on April 15.

    A news release from the office of Wayne County Register of Deeds Bernard Youngblood said the jury "wasted no time" in finding Hardrick guilty for crimes "related to property theft, deed fraud and selling stolen property" on Craigslist.

    "Compounding the severity of Hardrick’s crimes is the fact he was a repeat offender on parole during these transactions," the release said, noting that Hardrick had represented himself after the first day of trial and that he "proudly exclaimed he would have continued selling the properties he didn't own because he deemed them vacant and abandoned at the time." A message seeking comment was left for the defense attorney listed on his court file, Steve Lockhart of Detroit.

    A previous news release from the Wayne County Sheriff's Office said Hardrick, while he was in jail, had even tried to continue collecting payments from some victims of land-contract arrangements he was involved in. He is also a parolee with previous convictions on charges including armed robbery and carjacking.

    The release had noted that the pair used phony paperwork to sell properties in Detroit for thousands of dollars in down payments and they also collected monthly payments of hundreds of dollars. One of those properties had been owned by a woman who died in 2012 before it reverted back to Bank of America, which had a mortgage interest in the property.

    The victims lost their money, were out whatever they spent on renovations and had to find new places to live.

    The Register of Deeds advises those interested in buying property to check the "chain of title detailing ownership records" at the Register of Deeds Office.
Source: Pair to be sentenced in fake-property sales scam.
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(1) No doubt the the criminal case against Hardrick became easier to prosecute when his accomplice agreed to plead guilty in exchange for a lenient sentence and, in all liklihood, she probably testified against him.  See generally, United States v. Moody, 206 F.3d 609, 617 (6th Cir. 2000) (Wiseman, J., concurring) on the dynamics of plea bargaining when multiple defendants are charged for their roles in an alleged crime:
  • "When a conspiracy is exposed by an arrest or execution of search warrants, soon-to-be defendants know that the first one to "belly up" and tell what he knows receives the best deal. The pressure is to bargain and bargain early, even if an indictment has not been filed. contract for deed

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