In this week's feature, we tell the story of Mark Guerette, who saw a glut of empty houses and people with no place to go and decided to take the matter into his own hands. After moving more than a dozen families into foreclosed houses and collecting rent for a few months, he found himself staring into the unsmiling face of the law.
But some of the people who rented houses from Guerette had troubled pasts that prevented them from finding a house through normal means. Take the case of Cheryl Mann, a single parent who battled drugs and alcohol, said she pawned her dead sister's jewelry to pay rent to
Mark, then disappeared after giving a taped statement to investigator Joe Roubicek.
From the feature:
Mark said that much of the rent money went toward maintenance and business costs. Still, in the eyes of the state, he seemed to be profiting on others' misfortune. A Coral Springs police detective noticed Mark checking out some houses, and in late 2009, he notified the State Attorney's Office. Alesh Guttmann and T. Don Tenbrook, two professorial economic-crimes prosecutors, took on the case. They sent Joe Roubicek to gather information. Over a period of two months, the detective visited six homes and got six taped statements. All of them would be used as evidence against Mark in court.
Roubicek met Mann, who was living in an adversely possessed house in North Lauderdale, in February 2010. From the taped statement, it appears that he learned of her situation off the record, then asked her to clarify. An excerpt:
Joe Roubicek: Okay. All Right. Did, on, okay now and finally you paid Mark in cash. You had a tragedy happen about seven months ago, correct?
Cheryl Mann: Nine months ago, yes... I lost my daughter, my sister, and my mother.
CM: And then in order to get into this house, ah, well ChildNet was going to help us pay half of the...
JR: I'm just going to stop you there to move this along. Your mother and your sister and your daughter were killed in a car accident.
CM: [In] South Carolina.
JR: Okay. So ChildNet was going to pay half the deposit... But they did not, correct?
CM: They did not.
JR: Can you tell me why?
CM: Because Mark refused to take their money.
JR: Did he say why?
CM: Because he ah, wanted cash only and he didn't want to deal with another ah, business...
JR: How did you come up with the cash to pay the $3,000 to move in here?
CM: I had to sell my sister's jewelry.
JR: Okay. Okay. I'm going to go ahead and conclude this statement. Concluding at 10:19 a.m.
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Mann previously faced multiple felony charges in Broward Circuit Court, dating from 2007. The charges were related to cocaine possession, child neglect, and child abuse. During attempts by the State Attorney's office to follow up in their interviews about Guerette, they were unable to reach Mann, who seemed to have disappeared. She's now facing charges of violating her probation and is scheduled to appear in court for a status conference on March 8.
Multiple attempts to reach Mann at the number Roubicek used in February were unsuccessful. A recent DUI arrest report from the Margate Police Department lists a phone number for Mann that did not work.
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