Early this year, the Broward State Attorney's office sent Detective Joe Roubicek out to find families who had rented homes from Mark Guerette. The homes had been left empty and neglected by foreclosures, and Guerette didn't own them.
Instead, he filed claims of "adverse possession," a form of squatter's rights. But in the eyes of the prosecutors, he was charging money for something he didn't own. The state's allegations of fraud hinged on the presence of "victims," innocent tenants who would say they had been taken for a ride.
Some of Guerette's tenants ended up happy (especially after he stopped charging rent). But a few turned against him when Roubicek showed up to interview them.
Roubicek took sworn statements from tenants, lawyers, and Guerette himself. In the case of the tenants, he gave them ample opportunity to say that they had been misled.
Here's part of the conversation with tenant Dieni Orvil, who signed an addendum to his lease acknowledging the use of adverse possession:
Q. Okay. Do you understand what adverse possession is now?
A. I don't.
Q. You don't.
A. I don't.
Q. Okay. Did they, was adverse possession explained to you by Mark Guerette when you signed the rental agreement?
Q. Okay. If you had known that Mark Guerette and Saving Florida Homes, Inc. were trying to make claim to this property and did not provide notification to the bank and/or prior owner... If you had known the real circumstances here, would you have rented this property from Saving Florida Homes and Mark Guerette?
A. No and, and never.
Q. Never. Would you have paid them this $5,000 (rent and deposit)?
A leading question, maybe... but Roubicek was hired by the prosecutors to build a case against Guerette.
It seems that Guerette was guilty in Roubicek's personal opinion, as well: At the end of his taped interview with Guerette, Roubicek said, "I can't speak for the prosecutor... [but] I'm telling you from me, this is criminal. We got grand theft and other stuff going on."
A lawyer Guerette approached for advice, Mark Fisher, told the prosecutors he gave him a similar warning:
Q. So what did you advise him?Guerette later pleaded no contest to a charge of organized fraud. He's on probation for two years.
A. I told him that you're gonna -- I told him that, um, what I would tell anybody that's gonna, you know -- I said, you have a strong likelihood that you're gonna get in trouble, you know, that you could get arrested.
A. That eventually it could come to you. The people that you rent to are gonna be screwed. Families go in there, I said you can't do that to people. He said, I'm gonna let them know, I'm gonna do this, you know, I'm gonna disclose it. He had an answer for everything.