—Excerpt From Treasure Coast News—
FORT PIERCE — Larry Eugene Smith claimed he could help solve the problems of a couple who wanted to sell their Port St. Lucie home.
Instead, he allegedly swindled Nancy and George Krueger out of their house on the 2210 block of Southwest Edison Circle, claiming he bought the property for $10.
St. Lucie County sheriff’s deputies arrested Smith, 53, Tuesday at the home he moved into with his girlfriend after he persuaded the Kruegers to sign a purchase agreement for their home and power of attorney and warranty deed over to him in order for him to sell the house. Smith was charged with first-degree grand theft and taken to the St. Lucie County Jail, where he remained Friday evening.
St. Lucie County Sheriff Ken Mascara said Friday he believes Smith may have attempted the same scam with other homeowners in St. Lucie County. Even Mascara, who has a home for sale in the county, was targeted. He said he actually received a letter from Smith in July, which he hadn’t yet followed up.
The sheriff’s office is still investigating one other case involving Smith and another couple, said Detective Angela Flowers.
Smith, a licensed mortgage and real estate broker, reportedly sent the Kruegers a letter stating he worked for All Florida Mortgage Centers Inc. He said he wanted to help them sell their home, which they wanted to sell as they were looking to relocate and because of the rise in taxes and insurance. After receiving the letter, the couple met with Smith and decided to allow him help sell their home.
Smith conned the Kruegers with a “white knight” scam that targets homeowners needing to sell their homes looking for someone to “rescue” them, said Flowers.
According to Mascara, Smith probably targeted homeowners in the county with “For Sale” signs in their yards by driving around neighborhoods and then looking up the owners through the property appraiser’s Web site.
According to a sheriff’s report, Smith convinced the couple to move out of the home, telling them “it was better to show the house when it was staged” and he would take photos of it and market it, Nancy Krueger said. Not long after they moved out, one of the Kruegers’ neighbors called to tell her someone was living in their home.
The Kruegers found Smith living in the home and when the couple confronted him, he would not answer their questions or vacate the home.
When sheriff’s deputies spoke to Smith, who hasn’t worked at All Florida Mortgage since April, he showed them copies of the paperwork and said that he bought the home for $10 and would not pay the $263,208 mortgage, insurance or taxes. Money between the Kruegers and Smith never changed hands, Nancy Krueger said.