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Couple Charged in Alleged Real Estate Scheme

A man and woman arrested for trying to buy a Wake Forest home pretended to have inherited a fortune from a rich uncle, according to search warrants.

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RALEIGH, N.C.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.

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