The Lord of Squat: Mark Guerette Got Busted for Putting Families in Foreclosed Homes | Feature | South Florida | Broward Palm Beach New Times | The Leading Independent News Source in Broward-Palm Beach, Florida


The Lord of Squat: Mark Guerette Got Busted for Putting Families in Foreclosed Homes

Terry Smith gunned his late-model Chevy down the Ronald Reagan Turnpike toward a house that wasn't his, racing to move his family and all his possessions.

Minutes earlier, he had been driving a tractor-trailer in Fort Pierce when he noticed four missed calls on his cell phone from his son Tavares. Terry pulled over and called back.

"What's going on, son?" he asked on the phone.

"Dad, they're kicking us out of the house," said 19-year-old Tavares.

"What do you mean?"

"I mean they're throwing us out, right now." Tavares handed the phone to a sheriff's deputy, who confirmed the news from the doorstep of their home in North Lauderdale.

Terry maneuvered a U-turn and headed back to the office. It was late morning on January 12, and a chilly wind blew down the coast. "I have to go," he told his boss.

Meanwhile, Terry's wife, Melesia Dubose, had been doing volunteer nursing work at Primenet Medical Center, where she used to work. At about 11:45, a deputy told her over the phone that her family's eviction was to begin at noon. She drove home wearing her patterned scrubs and met her father, who had been on his way to a radiation appointment to treat his throat cancer. In a faltering voice, he begged the sheriff's deputy to let the family have a few more hours to move out. The deputy agreed, and said she'd be back at 7 p.m.

Melesia explained to anyone who would listen that she and Terry didn't think the eviction letters were meant for them, because they bore the names of the previous owner. But the time for clarifications had passed. By 1:30, their 21-year-old son Jerome had rented an extra-large U-Haul truck and pulled it up on the lawn. Melesia had imagined this day, this nightmare scene. She watched her full-grown son haul a mattress just slightly larger than himself up a ramp, into the truck. The family had been through this before, been told to leave their previous home by another deputy with another piece of paper in his hands. This time was supposed to be different.

While the boys moved the furniture out the front door, all she could do was wait and think of her children: her two younger girls, ages 12 and 10, still in their school uniforms; the boys who were dismantling the house in a hurry; her 24-year-old daughter Martina who kept her company doing volunteer work at the hospital. Jerome's 3-year-old daughter, Samairah, serenely pushed a toy stroller across the doorstep. How could she explain this to the children?

"There are good people and bad people," she told them that afternoon. "Unfortunately, when we paid money to move into this house, we gave it to a bad person."

By 2 p.m., the living room was nearly bare. A couple of pieces of fabric hung over the wall where the TV cabinet used to be. Scraps of packing material and splinters of furniture covered the floor. Inside the garage, Melesia's son Tavares pulled an electric drill down from a high shelf still cluttered with belongings.

He blamed all of this on a man named Mark Guerette.

Throughout his troubled life, Mark sold drugs and rip-off Corningware and mortgages and credit scores, and finally the fantastical notion that empty houses shouldn't be empty as long as there are people who need them. With a firm handshake, a pious demeanor, and an official-looking lease, Mark had offered Terry Smith a chance to make a home for his family. But in the course of a few months, Mark's plan had gone terribly wrong.

"He's a crook," said Tavares. "And I hope I can tell him that to his face."

Like most salesmen, Mark Guerette has a story. The story he told about his long and varied career was a story about finding God, in which Mark censored the curse words he said as a teenager and broke into blue-collar grammar only when recalling the most difficult parts of his past. Now 47, with a pale, youthful face and short brown hair, he spoke with a constant hint of a smile, like a schoolboy who's done something bad and wants to be caught.

"I tried taking my life for the first time at the age of 16," he said, "because I just couldn't take my parents anymore." In fact, they weren't really his parents at all, just some people who made him miserable. He said these people abused him, screamed at him, and put duct tape all around his shoes when any other kid in Nashua, New Hampshire, would have gotten a new pair.

After renouncing his adoptive parents' care as well as their religion, Mark got a job as a prep cook at the Chart House in Nashua and discovered the healing trifecta of LSD, pot, and alcohol. His drug habits would follow him well into his 30s — until he decided to give them up for God.

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Stefan Kamph
Contact: Stefan Kamph

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