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Couple Charged in Alleged Real Estate Scheme

Posted April 28, 2008
Updated March 20, 2009

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Editor's note: Charges against Tiki Ray Merchant were dismissed on Nov. 3, 2008. Assistant Wake County District Attorney Jimmy Wilson said there was some evidence that Stephanie Green, who pleaded guilty in the case and was placed on probation, had duped Merchant.

RALEIGH, N.C. — A couple charged in connection with an alleged real estate fraud scheme claimed to have inherited money from a rich uncle in Italy and were "trying to get a new start on life" when they were arrested.

A search warrant returned Friday also details how Stephanie J. Green, 37, and Tiki Ray Merchant, 38, had crisscrossed the United States to Denver, Las Vegas and Los Angeles, among other cities, looking for properties.

It was in San Diego that they bid on a $15 million home, but the deal fell through, they told investigators. They continued across the country, eventually making their way to the Raleigh area.

In Wake Forest, they found a house at 1301 Thaney Court and attempted to purchase it for $4.65 million.

Wake County sheriff's investigators said in their in the affidavit for the warrant that Green and Merchant used fake identities – Brent and Sidney Montgomery – and counterfeit checks to attempt to purchase the $4.65 million home. The two told investigators they were in the process of getting their names changed.

At the time of her arrest, police found four counterfeit checks in Green's back pocket, each valued at $2,500, two others in her possession, each valued at $5,000, a "software package box for making checks" and a large package of check paper stock, the warrant indicated.

Green said the checks "were for practicing." She also acknowledged printing off and passing two other checks relating to the purchase of the house, detectives said in the warrant.

When police searched their hotel room at the Residence Inn in Chapel Hill, they confiscated more counterfeit checks, fake Social Security documents and a handgun.

Green was in the Wake County jail Monday under a $5 million bond; Merchant was being held there under a $1 million bond. Both are charged with obtaining property by false pretenses.

Authorities are still investigating to determine whether the two tried buying houses in other cities under the same circumstances.

31 Comments

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  • Jeff_W Apr 28, 2008

    Heel from Hell hit the nail on the head as to how this scam works.

  • Mean Old Mom Apr 28, 2008

    Sounds a little like the story/movie "Catch Me if You Can"--only they got caught. It was based on a true story and starred Leonardo DiCaprio. The character in the story finally ends up in prison, but gets out so as to help the Feds catch folks like this.

  • tchr313 Apr 28, 2008

    I wonder if they have such a high bond because they are a HUGE flight risk?

  • Iceman Apr 28, 2008

    why are the bonds so high in this case $5 million and $1 million? A special ed techer in Arkansas was pimping out the special ed kids at motels to older men, giving them alcohol and having sex with them herself and she only gets $100,000 bond? what the heck?

  • simracer68 Apr 28, 2008

    Proof positive that shows like "Flip this house" cause more problems than they help. Yes, you can buy a run down house, fix it and sell it all you want. But most of these types of crooks buy it low (it's run down, remember) do little or nothing to it and then resell it for 100%-200% above market...Sounds like these cats were trying to flip plain old existing houses before their counterfeit checks hit the bank. Not too bright if you ask me, not a $4 million home, certainly not in Raleigh, not at this time. I bet that home sits on the market for 1 year plus at that price in today's economic climate.

    Being in the RE biz, I see articles and stories every day now that have lenders, REALTORS, appraisers, straw buyers (or outright fake buyers with fake IDs), con men and women trying all sorts of buy/sell schemes that are landing them in prison for a long time and costing them millions in fines and restitution on top of that.

  • .Milky Apr 28, 2008

    Aw..what a shame, they would have made great neighbors.

  • Doctor Dataclerk Apr 28, 2008

    We shold punish deceptive lendors as severely as we punish deceptive borrowers!
    readme

    I'm sorry "readme", I think you might need to "read-it", because they are not talking about borrowing or lending, just fraud.

  • allison842 Apr 28, 2008

    Slow news day when this is one of the top stories. Seriously... is this really that important? Seems more like a local news brief to me WRAL.

  • dhamma Apr 28, 2008

    "inherited money from a rich uncle in Italy" Funny, they don't appear Italian? Maybe there is a city called Italy in NC some place.

  • Heel from Hell Apr 28, 2008

    think a couple above have hit the nail on the head on the "why/how". They're probably trying to play a shell game with the escrow $ and probably have several fraudulent bank accounts where they're playing the float. Deal falls through and the "deposit" they made to escrow is refunded by certified check.

    Electronic Clearing has made this much more difficult to pull off, but looks like they decided to give it a try...problem is that you have to be smart to make it work.

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