As many of our readers know, the government alleges that former Plantation cop and federally indicted defendant Joe Guaracino was the mastermind aka "ringleader" behind the case various real estate transactions that comprise the Plantation Cops mortgage fraud case. The crux of the governments case is that through various slights of hand and the alleged use of "straw buyers" Mr. Guaracino was able to abscond with nearly $1.2 million dollars worth of proceeds and or escrow withholds from these transactions that according to the government wasn't supposed to go to him. That's interesting, yet Mr. Guaracino's defense has been that the money that he made from his forays into real estate had been reinvested into the various properties in order to make them suitable for resale, no different than what every other savvy real estate investor would do, no different than the different reality shows that infested our TV's over the last decade. Everyone remember show's like "Flip that house" or "Property Ladder" where the hosts would purchase dilapidated houses, do a quickie makeover then sell the house at a profit?
If it's good enough for TV, what's the problem in real life? Buy a wreck of a house, rebuild it then sell it for a profit, just like on TV. During the course of the investigation into the homes that comprise the governments case against Mr. Guaracino and the other co-defendants, FDLE special agent Dennis Roadruck supposedly went around and checked some of the houses that were part of the federal indictment. According to his testimony, Agent Roadruck claimed that after allegedly driving past some of the homes, he didn't see anything that would indicate that there was any improvements done to the homes in question. That's a rather bizarre proposition isn't it? How many people do you know that can assess whether or not a home has been remodeled by simply driving by? How can said "drive by" assess repairs that may have been done to the plumbing, HVAC, interior walls, flooring, etc? How can a simple "drive by" assess whether or not kitchens and bathrooms had been remodeled? Surely the only way a simple drive by could determine whether or not a home was repaired or remodeled to any extent would be if special agent Roadruck had X-Ray vision!
When agent Roadruck was asked whether he had X-Ray vision during his testimony before the court, he stated that indeed he didn't have X-Ray vision and wasn't able to determine what if any work was done inside the homes by simply driving down the street and comparing what he saw to photos he had of the homes from before Guaracino purchased them. A rather obvious conclusion right? Unfortunately these weren't the same conclusions that Agent Roadruck and his coworkers incorporated into their reports and the subsequent indictment in which they stated that the homes were purchased, and that the escrow withholds that were credits from the sellers to the buyers which were to be used for repairs were actually misused and otherwise spent by Guaracino and the other defendants on anything and everything but improving and renovating the homes which the withholds were intended for.
There's a tiny little problem for the government though, what we've seen at trial so far is well over $1.2 million dollars in receipts for repairs and improvements to the various properties and worse, thousands of photos of the homes both before and after the renovations by Mr. Guaracino and the other co defendants. Where does that leave the governments case? If the homes were actually repaired and renovated, taken from ugly ducklings to updated dream homes with new bathrooms and new kitchens with high dollar granite counter tops, then where's the misuse of the "escrow withholds" from the sellers that were supposed to be used to make repairs on the homes? Remember, this case isn't like the Barrera mortgage fraud case where convicted fraudster John Romney purchased a home one day then a week later sold the same home without laying a hand on it for a quick $400,000 profit. The homes that make up the Plantation Cops case were fixer uppers that were fixed up and then resold, big difference. If you're running a scam, why get involved with rehabilitating the homes and reselling them when you can simply flip them at an inflated price to a straw buyer?
There's a bigger problem for the government though, something slightly worse than claiming the repairs and renovations weren't done with the proceeds of the escrow withholds from the sellers of the various homes. See, the government claims that Guaracino and his crew allegedly took $1.2 million dollars worth of proceeds from the various closings and misspent the funds or worse just pocketed the money. The defense has done a pretty good job of proving otherwise through the photos and invoices they've provided. The real problem, at least in my opinion, is that the defense has over $1.8 million dollars of invoices for the repairs and renovations on the various homes. So if we're to believe that the defendants snatched $1.2 million from these closings, then why did the villain, the mastermind aka the "Ringleader", Joe Guaracino, put in an additional $600,000 or so of his own money into rehabilitating these homes?
That math doesn't add up. We're going to have to wait and see what the jury thinks...