Thursday, August 10, 2017

Homebuyer Coughs Up $10K Downpayment To Purchase Fixer-Upper, Shells Out Thousand$ In Cash, Sweat Equity Over Eight Months To Improve Premises, Then Finds Out Seller Doesn't Have Title To Home; Felony Theft By Deception Charge Pending

In Athens, Alabama, The News Courier reports:
  • Limestone County resident Tommy McLemore and his daughter, Marla, wanted to buy a decent home in a nice neighborhood that they could remodel.

    Marla found a candidate.

    A woman who said she was a certified Realtor sold them the house, which she said she owned, and even financed the sale.

    The McLemores paid the woman a total of $12,600 in the form of a down payment and additional payments. They hired workers to remodel the home. They also put in eight months of sweat equity themselves, only to learn the woman who sold them the house didn't really own it — at the time.

    The woman — Laurie Jones McGuire, 42, of 21075 Broadwater Drive — has been charged with felony theft by deception in connection with the sale, records show.

    “She was as slick as a button,” said 73-year-old Tommy to The News Courier Friday.

    According to Count 1 of the indictment, McGuire knowingly obtained, or exerted by deception, unauthorized control over more than $2,500 belonging to Tommy and Marla McLemore with intent to deprive them of the money.

    McGuire could not be reached for comment Friday at her real estate number. Her voicemail was not accepting messages.

    The journey's beginning

    Linda McLemore, Tommy's wife, said the adventure began when Marla came by their house one day to tell her father about a house at 433 Rogers St., near Athens State University, and they decided to buy it together and redo it.

    McGuire came by their home on New Cut Road off Alabama 99 and told them she owned the home, Linda said.

    They had agreed on a price of $31,000, Tommy said. He applied for a bank loan to pay for it but the process was taking a while, he said.

    McGuire said she needed to close the house as soon as possible, so she offered to sell and finance the purchase. Tommy said he paid McGuire $10,000 down in cash to lock in a 4 percent interest rate on the mortgage. Plus, he made $2,600 in other payments.

    Bad news knocks

    One night when Tommy and Marla were at the house, there was a knock on the door.

    “This lady and gentleman asked if we owned the house,” Tommy said, explaining they had bought it from Laurie McGuire.

    “They said Laurie didn't own the house, that it belonged to Ted Barnett of Barnett Real Estate in Ardmore,” Tommy said. “I liked to fell out. We had just had the carpet put down that day.”

    Tommy and Marla confirmed with Barnett that he still owned the home. He said he was selling it to McGuire but he still held the deed and she had never paid him. In addition, her contract for the home did not allow her to sell it.

    “She sold it to us under false pretenses,” Linda said.

    By then, though, the McLemores had gutted the home, renovated it and landscaped the yard, Linda said. Tommy had even installed a driveway himself, he said.

    They were nearly finished with the house, Linda said.

    Tommy and Marla reported the matter to Athens Police Department.

    Investigator Kelly Fussell looked into the matter, questioning the McLemores, Barnett and McGuire, and she believed McGuire had committed theft by deception. Police decided not to obtain a warrant initially charging her with a crime as police often do. Fussell sent his findings to the Limestone County District Attorney's Office so an attorney could present the matter to a grand jury and let them decide if a crime was committed. This sometimes occurs in cases of a “he said, she said” nature or cases, such as this one, that border on being civil court matters.

    The District Attorney's Office presented the case to a grand jury, which voted June 2 to indict — or formally charge — McGuire with first-degree theft by deception. She was arrested on the indictment warrant July 28. She was freed from the Limestone County Jail immediately after her arrest after posting bail of $5,000.