Woman accused in rental real estate scheme
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- A Charlotte woman who had her real estate license revoked continues to present herself as a realtor and take their money without giving it back, alleged victims claim.
And, they say it has cost them thousands of dollars.
"She handled real estate for me," said retiree Helen McCullough.
McCullough says she was trying to be helpful when she said "yes" to Velma Burgess. McCullough says Burgess claimed to be a realtor and told her she had two clients buying foreclosed homes, but they needed money for a down payment. If McCullough helped, she'd get her money back plus interest.
"About 20, 25 percent," McCullough said.
"You wrote her two checks for how much?" NewsChannel 36 asked.
"And how much money have you gotten back?"
"None," McCullough said.
McCullough read us her police statement: "She further stated as a realtor, it is not usual for her and other realtors to help clients with down payments."
The thing is, we checked and Velma Burgess isn't a realtor.
The North Carolina Real Estate Commission actually revoked her license four years ago for mishandling other people's money and failing to keep transaction records.
The commission says Burgess shouldn't have ANY real estate clients or actions or present herself as a realtor.
By phone, Burgess says she never presented herself as a realtor and says the money was a personal loan and not for clients. Burgess' signature is on promissory notes telling McCullough she'll get her money back.
That was a year ago. Since then?
"Nothing," McCullough said.
There's more. We found out Burgess is accused of taking other people's money in a separate realty deal.
Police reports say Velma Burgess tried to rent the same house three times, but she had no right to rent it. Those same police reports say she took $500 deposits for the house three times.
She's now charged with obtaining property by false pretenses and due in court next month.
Again, Burgess says she never claimed to be a realtor.
We checked police records and found Burgess was arrested for the same thing in 2005. Those charges were dismissed.
Ironically, Burgess is quite familiar with the law.
On Facebook, she says she works for Pre-Paid Legal Services. That company hooks people up with legal advice for a monthly fee. There are pictures of her at Pre-paid Legal Service functions in Oklahoma and Las Vegas.
She says she "visualizes success" and calls herself an "entrepreneur."
We asked police why Burgess hasn't been arrested in McCullough's case.
"Nothing on the check itself, the promissory note, to explain what the purpose of the check was for and that's kind of where we had a problem with that type of case," said Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department Fraud Detective Andy Curlee.
And because of that Curlee says they can't do much.
"It is a frustrating part for us," Curlee said.
Curlee says the promissory notes look more like a personal loan than a business transaction.
"That could be the difference between civil and criminal?" we asked.
"Absolutely," Curlee said.
McCullough says that lesson cost her $4,200.
"Just don't rest on what you know about a person or think you know about a person, but do your research," McCullough said.
The North Carolina Real Estate Commission confirms it has two open investigations into Burgess' alleged actions.
Police say the best thing you can do to protect yourself is check out who you are doing business with and get everything in specific writing.