Keeping It Real (Estate) As Feds Bust Online Scamster

December 15, 2011

Let me tell you right here, upfront, that things didn't end well for Keith Gunter, 49, of Illinois. According to federal prosecutors and Gunter's plea agreement, between July 2006 and July 2007, Gunter represented himself as a real estate developer and schemed to sell real property over the Internet auction site eBay.

To cut to the chase, on December 12, 2011, Gunter pleaded to three counts each of wire fraud and mail fraud in federal court in the Northern District of Alabama.

Okay, let's stop right here. Gotta tell ya, I may be willing to take certain risks in my life, fact is, I have; however, lemme tell ya, I sure as hell ain't buying no real estate from an eBay online auction site. There's just some limits as to even my stupidity and buying real estate online just doesn't seem to be too sensible. Moreover, I don't care if it's Hovnanian or KB Homes or Beazer or Toll Brothers or any other well-known real estate developer - and Mr. Gunter here doesn't even come close to having the heft of those companies. I'm not buying a home or land, sight unseen, over the Internet - and I sure as hell ain't buying real estate without first verifying titles and deeds.

Defendant Gunter conducted his real estate transactions through Gunter Development Group ("GDG") and Gunter Development Inc. ("GDI"). Although he conducted some legitimate transactions, prosecutors alleged that many others were fraudulent because Gunter either did not own the land he was attempting to sell or did not provide title after victims paid to purchase the property.

In case that was a tad too slick for you, let me break it down a bit slower.

Gunter sold land that he did not own. Okay, right there, that's a problem - right?

Then, as if selling what you don't own isn't bad enough, Gunter doesn't provide property title to purchasers. Of course, if you think of it, how the hell was Gunter supposed to provide title when he sold land that he didn't own? Maybe the feds would have been happier if he fabricated the title documents too?

In his plea, Gunter acknowledged having engaged in fraudulent transactions involving purported properties in northwestern Alabama (Rogersville, Florence, and Lauderdale):

  • On Nov. 27, 2006, through GDG, advertised the sale of a 1,583 square-foot house, on which a Chicago man bid $50,100 and later wired $50,795 to a GDG bank account. The Chicago buyer never received title to the property, which Gunter did not own.
  • In April 2007, through GDG, advertised the sale of property on which an Idaho man saw the ad on eBay and negotiated with to buy three lots with pre-constructed homes for $100,000 each. The man wired two payments, totaling $30,000 to Gunter as a down payment but never received anything in return.
  • In February 2006, Gunter contacted an Illinois man and offered to sell him property in a development, for which the buyer mailed a $30,000 cashier's check. The buyer never received deeds to the property, which Gunter did not own.
  • In December 2006, through GDG, advertised two quarter-acre lots for sale , for which a Wisconsin woman bid for them online and was later contacted by Gunter. She agreed to buy four lots for $7,000, wiring one payment through the Internet for $3,500 and mailing a second $3,500 cashier's check, but never received deeds to the property.

Federal prosecutors alleged that Gunter stole over $200,000 from four victims . He is scheduled for sentencing in March 2012. Gunter faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine on each count.