[UPDATED] Lauderdale Real Estate Broker Made Deals That Were Truly Too Good to Be True | The Daily Pulp | South Florida | Broward Palm Beach New Times | The Leading Independent News Source in Broward-Palm Beach, Florida

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[UPDATED] Lauderdale Real Estate Broker Made Deals That Were Truly Too Good to Be True

Filings by state regulators reveal more evidence of fraud by Fort Lauderdale real estate agent Denny Hughes, who was jailed last month after he failed to deliver a down payment that had been entrusted to him by a homebuyer.

That victim, Ronald Boyle, was from Buffalo, New York. This one is Kenneth Wilbanks from Plano, Texas. It appears the state was methodically investigating Hughes for cheating Wilbanks in 2008 at the same time Hughes was allegedly cheating Boyle in 2009.

Juice made this post about Boyle's case yesterday. After the jump, we'll examine the allegations made by Wilbanks.

Based on the administrative complaint provided to Juice by Florida's Department of Business and Professional Regulation, Hughes brokered Wilbanks' purchase of a home at 1237 NW Third Ave. in August 2007. Of course, that was before the bottom fell completely out of the South Florida real estate market, so Wilbanks must have been thrilled to hear that the seller had accepted his offer of $80,000. (The home, which is pictured above, had sold just two years before for $225,000 -- which was roughly its appraised value that year.)

One problem: The seller did not agree to that price. All the same, Hughes accepted a $5,000 deposit from Wilbanks, according to the DBPR complaint.

And it appears Hughes remained in his client's good graces a year later. In July 2008, Wilbanks thought he'd made a deal with the seller of a home at 608 NE 20th St. in Fort Lauderdale. Wilbanks delivered a $5,000 down payment to Hughes, then another for $15,000. But this time, Hughes' own client had become too ambitious, seeking to finance the $346,000 purchase. The deal was contingent on that financing, which was denied. But according to the complaint, Hughes refused to give Wilbanks the $20,000 back.

Wilbanks had already dealt with Hughes on yet another home purchase, at 1313 NW Seventh Terrace in Fort Lauderdale, for which Wilbanks made another $5,000 deposit. He thought he had bought that home, appraised at $177,000, for just $80,000. Again, the home didn't actually sell. And again, Hughes allegedly failed to return Wilbanks' money.

In all, that's $30,000 worth of deposits that, it appears, Wilbanks will not be seeing again.

Hughes' alleged fraud has been evident, then, since at least fall 2008. The alleged fraud he committed against Boyle, however, took place entirely in 2009. It's not clear if that's because Wilbanks was late in making his fraud report or if it's because the state moved slowly to sound the alarm to South Florida homebuyers. Hughes was arrested December 8 based on allegations of fraud made by Boyle. The state did not file its fraud complaint against Hughes (based on Wilbanks' report) until December 22, when he was already in jail.

UPDATE: A DBPR spokesperson, Alexis Antonacci Lambert, says the agency didn't receive a complaint related to the Wilbanks matter until March 2009.

That would still put it before the alleged fraud Hughes committed against Boyle. DBPR's investigation took five months, then was sent to the agency's legal section, which then prepared Hughes' case for presentation to the probable-cause panel of the Florida Real Estate Commission. The agency then was required to give Hughes a chance to respond to its investigative findings. It prepared the administrative complaint against him, then filed it on December 22, and it was made available to the public in early 2010.

In short, there was lots of bureaucratic red tape, and as regulators hacked through it, Hughes allegedly lured more homebuyers.

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Thomas Francis

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