Tuesday, July 17, 2007
Carmel on the Case: Punishing a Real Estate Scammer
He's got an arrest record that goes back more than 25 years. Yet, one South Florida criminal is not going to jail even after being connected to several real estate schemes. Investigative reporter Carmel Cafiero is on the Case.
WSVN -- When James Chancelor first appeared before a judge, he was facing two life terms in prison plus 140 years, accused of swindling people out of their homes.
Steven Potolsky: "Judge, Mr. Chancelor signed up for community control probation."
And that's what he got, house arrest and no jail time. That stunned some of the investigators who had worked to get him arrested. They thought for sure, with a criminal record that goes back to 1980, this time he'd go to prison. But, wait, Chancelor's attorney asked for more.
Steven Potolsky: "Due to the nature of Mr. Chancelor's business, the hours of 10 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. are the hours that he requires in order to work outside the home."
In the past, South Floridians have paid a heavy price when doing business with James Chancelor.
Carmel Cafiero: "Look, these people say-- don't put that in my face, mister."
James Chancelor: "You get out of my face. You get out of my face."
It was 1998 when we first reported on Chancelor. Customers claimed he took money for homes that he never delivered. Chancelor blamed them.
James Chancelor: "Sometimes people, they don't understand the legalities of doing business."
But Chancelor was arrested, plead guilty to grand theft, paid restitution and served probation. Prior to that he had been convicted of grand theft and weapons charges. Now more people say they are victims.
Robert Crespo: "He's been accused of being the orchestrator in a mortgage fraud scheme."
At the end of last year Chancelor was arrested in yet another scheme that saw people lose their homes. It involved false buyers and false promises to homeowners facing foreclosure.
In those cases, Chancelor plead guilty to four counts of grand theft, three counts of making a false statement in a mortgage transaction, organized fraud and acting as a real estate broker without a license.
He's agreed to pay more than $236,000 in restitution and costs.
In return, he is allowed to work in the real estate business while on house arrest for the next two years.
Steven Potolsky: "He needs to be able to travel in the tri-county area."
Chancelor wanted to be out of the house all day almost every day and even wanted an OK to go to restaurants.
Steve Potolsky: "He's a diabetic. He has high blood pressure. He's on all kinds of medications, and there are going to be times when he is out on the road when he has to stop in and get a meal."
Prosecutors said, "No way."
Laudelina Fernandez-McDonald: "This is punishment, this is not for him to be going out to restaurants and nightclubs. The state has been advised that Mr. Chancelor wants to visit nightclubs in South Beach to hear his son rap."
The judge agreed.
Judge Cristina Pereyra-Shuminer: "Community control is not intended to allow somebody to be out of their home for a 10-hour period six days a week."
So Chancelor was sent home to spend his house arrest time just like everyone else.
Carmel Cafiero: "And, in case Chancelor should decide to get creative with future real estate deals, this plea agreement addresses that. It requires Chancelor to pay for an outside law firm to review the transactions to make sure everything is on the up and up."FOR MORE INFORMATION OR IF YOU HAVE A STORY FOR CARMEL TO INVESTIGATE: