Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Accused Deed Scammer Bagged, Charged With Obtaining Property By Fraud, Organized Scheme To Defraud In 3-Year Racket Peddling Foreclosure Rescue Deals

In West Palm Beach, Florida, The Palm Beach Post reports:

  • Guilfort Dieuvil hopscotched across Florida, and even into Georgia, picking up deeds to homes like jacks in a game that homeowners say left them the losers.

  • The president of the West Palm Beach-based Nationwide Investment Firm Corp., law enforcement officials say, led a grand three-year scheme to defraud struggling homeowners by promising to pay off their mortgages in exchange for signing over their deeds.

  • The ruse varied by borrower, police said. Sometimes it was a pledge to buy the home and sell it back to the owner at its current value.

  • Other homeowners say they were told a short sale would be conducted or a loan modification negotiated, but were instead evicted. Nationwide allegedly rented out the houses, keeping the monthly payments for itself.

  • In an investigation that included the Boca Raton and Boynton Beach police departments and the Florida Office of Financial Regulation, detectives found that Nationwide had acquired 104 properties in Florida and Georgia worth $9.5 million.

  • For 15 Nationwide Investment Firm clients interviewed by investigators, the end was always the same – they still owed their mortgage debt, but no longer owned their homes, according to a police report made public Friday.

  • "Nationwide stole my home," Frazilia Prospere, who spoke with investigators, said in a 2010 complaint to the Florida Attorney General's office. "I was promised a foreclosure rescue by a short sale, but they made me sign a lot of papers I can't read or understand."(1)

  • Dievuil, 38, was arrested Thursday and charged with 16 counts of obtaining property by fraud, each of which carries a maximum of up to five years in prison, according to the state attorney's office. He also faces one count of organized scheme to defraud in the first degree, which carries a penalty of up to 30 years in prison.

  • Standing in front of Palm Beach County Circuit Court Judge Ted Booras on Friday morning, Dieuvil's public defender said he could afford no more than $10,000 bond. Dieuvil, who lives in a Boynton Beach home he bought for $1.1 million in 2007, said he is represented by Fort Lauderdale-based attorney Alvin Entin. Entin's office had no comment when contacted Friday for this story.

  • Dieuvil's bond remained set at $60,000 Friday. He is scheduled for another court appearance today . Dieuvil had not made bail Friday afternoon, if he does, he must surrender his passport, Booras ordered.

(1) In considering whether or not to bring charges, some criminal prosecutors are beginning to embrace the idea 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 prosecution when targeting their victims simply by entering into legitimate-looking business contracts when screwing them over in an attempt to disguise a blatant criminal real estate ripoff as a common, legitimate business deal.

Certainly, this is not the first time that a court and a jury will be asked to pierce through the acrobatics involved in creating the 'business-deal disguise' 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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