On Wednesday, Shelly got a phone call from Mark, who said he could get her a house. Not an apartment, not a duplex. A house, for a price they could afford. On Friday, the two young couples drove to meet him.

At a strip-mall office on Kimberly Boulevard in North Lauderdale, they met Mark Guerette and his business partner, a bald-headed, olive-skinned man named Mark Laird. "Come on, I'll show you some houses," said Mark Guerette. He got into his white Hummer and they all followed him in Shelly's truck, driving around North Lauderdale. They stopped at a few houses. They stepped inside, walked around on the carpeting, and heard their voices echo in the hallways and bedrooms.

Juslaine and Fabian got first choice, because they were the ones who had found Mark. Then Shelly and Ed picked their house, a two-bedroom on a quiet street just across from City Hall. It had a big fenced yard in the back where their dog could play. They followed Mark back to his office, trying to contain their joy.

Mark explained that the houses were foreclosures, owned by the banks. He said he had teamed up with the city to let families live in the houses. They would have to agree to take care of them, mow the lawns, and pay the utility bills and taxes. "And if anyone ever comes and says that they're the owner," he said, "call me directly."

He handed them some leases to sign. The rent was under $300 a month. There was an addendum at the back of the lease, and Mark explained that it said someone from the banks might come to kick them out. "Call me," he repeated, "and we'll just move you right into another house."

It was almost too easy. But here was a kind, earnest-sounding man, giving them an affordable lease on a home. When they were done signing, Mark gave each couple the code to the lock box on their door, and shook their hands again and sent them out into the sunlight. They weren't homeless anymore.

A week later, Shelly made Thanksgiving dinner for her whole family in the first house she and Ed had ever shared. She cooked a turkey in the oven, bending over her baby to reach the counter. The young couple spread out blankets on the floor and ate the turkey picnic-style with their kids and their parents. Shelly had never been happier.

There's a tendency not to want to ask questions when you get a great deal. Having a house, and the promise of a new one if somebody took this one away, was enough for Shelly and Ed.

Mark had just rented out the first two houses he didn't own, and he was planning to rent more. They weren't all going to be so cheap.


Terry Smith and Melesia Dubose signed their lease two days before Christmas in 2009. Over the course of a few weeks, Mark had streamlined his process, filing batches of adverse possession claims with the county and renting out properties through a few complicit real estate agents.

Terry and Melesia met their agent at the house, she opened a lock box on the door, handed over the keys, and turned to leave. She didn't even wait until they had opened the door.

Terry estimated that they put $10,000 in renovations into the house since they rented it on an "as-is" basis. They didn't pay any mind to the letters that started coming from Deutsche Bank, topped with a bright-red sticker from the sheriff's department saying "Notice of Eviction." The letters weren't addressed to them, but to the previous owner. In fact, their names weren't on anything except the lease and the electric bill.

The possibility that the whole deal could fall apart was too much for Terry to contemplate. He waited for somebody to call him about the bank notices, to say, "Terry Smith, this is what's going on. Here's what's going to happen."

He did get a call from Mark in February. "I'm having some legal trouble," said Mark, who explained that he would send a notarized letter authorizing Terry to stop paying rent. Terry could live there for free, for the foreseeable future. Mark continued: "Someone from the State Attorney's Office will be coming to see you. When he comes, you can talk to him, or you can tell him to take a hike."

After sunset on March 5, 2010, a man pulled up to Terry and Melesia's house. He introduced himself as an investigator for the state attorney. They welcomed him into the living room, which was warm and dark, dominated by a television cabinet. Cloudy glass cabinets held a few religious trinkets. He set down a tape recorder.

Joe Roubicek was a compact, gray-haired man who wouldn't look out of place on any of the Law & Order franchises. He retired from the Fort Lauderdale Police Department Economic Crimes Unit and went on to work in the State Attorney's Office. In his free time, he self-published true-crime accounts of the cases he worked. Now, tasked with building a case against Mark, he was looking for victims.

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17 comments
SHINDIG
SHINDIG

MARK SAID THAT HE HAD TO MAKE A LIVING AND IF IT HURT ANYONE " I REALLY DO NOT CARE" U CALL THAT ' A LIVING"????? HE SITS IN A FORECLOSED HOME,HAS A CONDO AND YES SIRRY BOB" HE  DRIVES AROUND IN A HUMMER LOOKING FOR MORE VICTIMS!!!! ONLY IN FLORIDA!!!!! HE SHOULD BE HANG BY HIS BALLS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

SHINDIG
SHINDIG

JUST WHO DOES MARK THINK HE IS,GOD??????????????????????? HE SHOULD BE IN A DARK,COLD CELL,TODAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

SHINDIG
SHINDIG

HE STANDS PROUDLY,HANDS ON HIPS ,DARK SUNGLASSES,READY TO PRAY ON INNOCENT PEOPLE,JUST LIKE HIS SISTER OR  SHOULD I SAY :SWINDLER" HE SHOULD BE IN JAIL,WHO DID HE PAY OFF??????????????????????????????????

SHINDIG
SHINDIG

MARK IS A THIEF,LIAR,SWINDLER AND GOES TO CHURCH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!11

Steve Dibert
Steve Dibert like.author.displayName 1 Like

If anyone gets a sales pitch where the salesman talks about finding God after doing drugs or alcohol for decades, run, run fast and far. Most of the clients I get who are victims of foreclosure ripoff schemes tell me they get the same pitch.

haihei
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Sam
Sam

Sadly, there is enough blame to go around, the banks, the developers, the complicit planning boards, the home owners, the mortgage companies, the squatters. All play their part.

gills007
gills007

fantastic

SHINDIG
SHINDIG

U MUST BE HIS PAL,DICKHEAD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

SHINDIG
SHINDIG

007 U AIN'T!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

EndAdversePossession
EndAdversePossession like.author.displayName 1 Like

Adverse possession needs to be abolished. It is an outdated, arcane, unnecessary and unjust law that needs to end. People like Mark Guerette pervert it as an effort to take something for nothing. This is why it is called "legalized land theft." Legislators should be ashamed for not doing anything about this horrible law.

Chsnttb
Chsnttb like.author.displayName 1 Like

Guerette made $30,000 a month working for some shady mortgage company before the bust... he should be investigated for mortgage fraud, which is more offensive than his more recent activities.

SHINDIG
SHINDIG

MARK IS STILL AT IT AND SO AIN'T THE SWINDLER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! WHO IS BIG ENUOGH TO STOP HIM,CERTAINLY, NOT THE COPS,AFTER ALL,THEY PROTECT SCUMBAGS LIKE THIS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Tostupid
Tostupid like.author.displayName 1 Like

Before you throw stones maybe you should find out the truth. This story is incorrectly written and leaves out many pertinent facts. Mr. Guerette help the Smiths out with a place to live after Mr. Smith keep getting turned down due to his poor credit and his criminal record of drug dealing. If what Mr. Guerette was doing was so criminally wrong, why did Mr. Smith stay living on the property, why didn't he pack up and leave. Mr. Smith and his family were warned that a day would come when they would have to move. So they decided to stay anyways for over 12 months which they aid no rent to any body. He claims he spent 10 grand on living there which is odd due to the fact that he sided with the state to accuse Mr. Guerette of wrong doing then he stays in the house and spends 10 grand to fix it? Mr. Smith show the receipts...What did you do with all the money you saved by living rent free off the back of Mr. Guerette?

SHINDIG
SHINDIG

FUCKING LIAR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

guest
guest

How typical.... the family lives rent free for 6 months and is offered thousands to move out and they are still complaining that they have nowhere to go....

SHINDIG
SHINDIG

THIS MUST BE MARK TALKING ABOUT HIMSELF,IF NOT,IT MUST BE HIS SWINDLER SISTER OR HIS WIFE,MARLENE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

 
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