Tuesday, February 12, 2013
Carmel on the Case: Realtor Blues
Although South Florida's real estate market is improving, there are still problems. Among them, unlicensed realtors and tonight police talk with us about one of those investigations. Carmel Cafiero is is On the Case.
WSVN -- By now, Damont Ellis and Dekeila Sumpter thought they would be living the American dream in a house of their very own. This house to be exact.
Dekeila Sumpter: "Well we gave her $7,000. It was supposedly for a down payment for this particular house."
Carmel Cafiero: "And did you get the house?"
Dekeila Sumpter: "No ma'am."
"Her" is Veronica Smith, a woman who has a history of charges ranging from grand theft to fraud. Dekeila and Damont say they had no idea of her background.
Carmel Cafiero: "She clearly told you that she was a realtor?"
Dekeila Sumpter/Damont Ellis: "Yes."
Carmel Cafiero: "For sure?"
Damont Ellis: "Her and her husband."
But Veronica Smith is not a licensed realtor. And one day they drove by the house and a man working on it told them he was the new owner.
Damont Ellis: "Got upset and I was like how is that? And he said, 'Well I bought it two months ago.'"
They say Smith promised them another house in a couple of weeks.
Carmel Cafiero: "Did you buy the house in two weeks?"
Damont Ellis/Dekeila Sumpter. "No ma'am."
Carmel Cafiero: "What happened?
Damont Ellis: "The same run-a-round."
Dekeila Sumpter: "Basically the same thing."
And they say the money has not been returned.
Carmel Cafiero: "Good morning. Veronica Smith? Carmel Cafiero from Channel 7."
I caught up with Smith outside her MVP Financial Services office. She is listed as consultant on the invoice for the $7,000 deposit on the first property.
Veronica Smith: "They did a contract and they didn't want to go through with it. They time had lapsed and when they had expired, the time expired. Once a time expired on a contract that's it."
Smith admitted she's not a realtor.
Carmel Cafiero: "So how can you have a contract with them to sell a property?"
Veronica Smith: "I didn't have a contract with them sweetie, the seller contracted with them."
But Miami-Dade Police Department tells 7News Smith is being investigated for grand theft and unlicensed real estate activity.
Detective Christina Reyes: "We believe that Veronica Smith is potentially collecting deposits and holding monies in falsified escrow accounts, if you will, for properties that she doesn't have the authority to sell. She's unlicensed."
Detective Christina Reyes: "She has an extensive past for fraud - fraudulent related crimes."
But Smith insists she has done nothing wrong.
Veronica Smith: "I had a right to sell my property if I feel like it."
Carmel Cafiero: "You know you've been to jail once already and to prison - are you concerned you might end up going back."
Veronica Smith: "No ma'am."
And with that she headed into her office. Within moments, shutters on the front windows were slammed shut.
Smith's attorney later told us: "While I understand there may be an investigation. No charges have been filed and we are confident that her name will be cleared of any wrongdoing."
Carmel Cafiero: "Police say they are seeing more and more cases these days of people falsely claiming to be licensed real estate agents. And they believe in this case, the young couple are not the only victims."
Detective Christina Reyes: "I believe there are other victims out there and if there are we'd like to hear from them."
Meanwhile Dekeila and Damont are dealing with the fact a home of their own is now out of reach.
Dekeila Sumpter: "Hurt, heartbroke, out of money."
And there's the disappointment of their children who had already picked out their very own bedrooms.
Dekeila Sumpter: "They were more excited than we were."
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