Monday, June 27, 2016

Indiana Prosecutor's Passionate Plea Falls On Deaf Ears, Judge Gives Real Estate Broker w/ Reputation For Preying On Unsuspecting Homebuyers w/ Dubious Deals 8+ Years Probation, But No Prison Time

In Anderson, Indiana, The Herald Bulletin reports:
  • Madison Circuit Court Judge Thomas Newman Jr. [] sentenced Roger Shoot to 8 1/2 years of probation for real estate practices that prosecutors said were intentionally designed to take advantage of unsuspecting buyers.

    As part of a plea agreement approved by Newman, Shoot pleaded guilty to to three Class D felony Counts of theft, and one Class C felony count of forgery.

    He will be required to pay court costs and restitution of nearly $36,000. Newman also ordered the Madison County Probation Department to investigate whether an elderly couple who invested in real estate with Shoot is owed any money.
    ***
    Much of the hearing focused on whether Shoot should serve time in prison.

    Deputy Prosecutor Andrew Hopper argued for a four-year prison term followed by a period of probation.

    "We're familiar with bank robbers and drug dealers and we have a notion of what an appropriate type of accountability looks like for them," Hopper said in his arguments. "But this is very different The task of determining what is just and fair is much more complex."

    Shoot carried out criminal activity under a cloak of respectability, Hopper said.

    "He uses the tools of a licensed real estate broker. He uses contracts, and notaries, and the complexities of a professional practice to prey upon members of our community who are working to make their lives better by owning a home, trying to make Anderson and Madison County a better place," Hopper said.

    Shoot stole homes out from under people, and then didn't pay property taxes that were owed to the county, according to Hopper.

    "His crime can be summed up as the systemic destruction of a community, home by home, and family by family," Hopper concluded. "It is that cloak of respectability, your honor, that makes him more dangerous than the street criminal. His behavior is wrapped up in what is otherwise legitimate business dealings, making it nearly impossible to detect.

    "For years, he has swindled the treasurer, the auditor, the recorder, the taxpayers and an untold number of homeowners. We know this is just the tip of the iceberg. But don't let him con the courts, too," Hopper argued.

    "He must be held accountable for the vastness of his crime, and an appropriate sentence, your honor, calls for four years in the Department of Correction followed by a period of probation."(1)
For the story, see Real estate broker Shoot gets 8 1/2 years probation (No jail for embattled real estate broker).

For a couple of follow-up stories, see:
  • Shoot faces more legal issues (Rent-to-own buyers sue the embattled real estate broker):

    A couple who entered into a rent-to-own agreement with Roger Shoot two years ago have filed a lawsuit against the real estate broker, alleging breach of contract, fraud and conversion.
    .
  • Deputy prosecutor seeks state review of Shoot's cases:

    A Madison County deputy prosecutor is asking the Indiana Attorney General's Office to review at least 15 cases involving local real estate broker Roger Shoot following comments made by Shoot during his recent sentencing hearing. Originally charged with 32 felonies in connection to his business practices, Shoot pleaded guilty to three counts of Class D felony theft, and one count Class C felony forgery as part of a plea agreement.
-----------------------------
(1) As a reminder to those lowlifes and others who mistakenly assume that these apparent ripoff deals are nothing more than civil cases, it is clear that all the sophisticated paperwork in the world (ie. business/purchase contracts, leases, closing statements, etc.) isn't enough to permit scammers to insulate themselves from criminal prosecution when they target their victims with legitimate-looking business propositions when screwing their victims over. Criminal prosecutors have the authority to "pierce through" such attempts to disguise a blatant criminal real estate ripoff as a common, legitimate business deal.

Clear precedent exists for such a "pierce through" approach to overcome any objections that will certainly arise when the scammers make the argument that the arrangement was just a civil transaction that, if challenged, should be done with a civil lawsuit, not a criminal prosecution. See, for example:

People v. Frankfort, (1952) 114 Cal.App.2d 680, 700; 251 P.2d 401:
  • The simple answer to this argument is that "The People prosecuting for a crime committed in relation to a contract are not parties to the contract and are not bound by it. They are at liberty in such a prosecution to show the true nature of the transaction." (People v. Chait, 69 Cal.App.2d 503, 519 [159 P.2d 445]; People v. McEntyre, 32 Cal.App.2d Supp. 752, 760 [84 P.2d 560]; People v. Jones, 61 Cal.App.2d 608, 620 [143 P.2d 726]; People v. Pierce, supra, p. 605.)
People v. Jones, (1943) 61 Cal.App.2d 608, 620 [143 P.2d 726]:
  • Defendant argues that the deal with each "seller" was a civil transaction; [...] Cloaked in the draperies of his corporation and pretending to act in its behalf, he boldly approached his unsuspecting victims.

    [***]

    Although each deal in its incipiency bore the color and trappings of a normal, civil contract, yet when subjected to a postmortem it exhaled the stench and disclosed the carcass of a fraud. (People v. Epstein, 118 Cal.App. 7, 10 [4 P.2d 555].) There appears no sign of good faith at any turn. Each taking and appropriation was a grand theft.

    The use of the corporate name and the promises made in accomplishing his purpose were a camouflage of such common variety that no excess of genius was required to discern the fraud. Parol evidence of all that occurred was admissible to show the intention of defendant. (People v. Robinson, 107 Cal.App. 211, 221 [290 P. 470].)

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