Police allege two Delray Beach-based real estate brokers swindled unknowing Haitian immigrants, many of whom were financially naive or with language barriers, and some even illiterate.
The two men are alleged to have created fake property transactions and mortgages in the homeowners' names, then let the properties fall into foreclosure, costing legitimate lending institutions millions of dollars, police said.
Alex Byron Little, 36, of suburban West Palm Beach, and Jean Pedro Jean Baptiste, 50, of Port St. Lucie, were booked into the Palm Beach County Jail Tuesday.
Each is charged with four counts of fraud of at least $50,000, and one count of white collar crime against the elderly of at least $50,000.
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Both left jail later Tuesday, Little after posting $75,000 bond and Jean Baptiste $100,000, jail records show. Neither could immediately be located for comment.
Jean Baptiste was on six months' probation following a September St. Lucie County conviction of running an illegal lottery out of his convenience store on Orange Avenue in Fort Pierce; because he left the county, authorities there are preparing violation-of-probation charges, according to St. Lucie County court records and Delray Beach detective Casey Thume.
According to the Delray Beach Police report, the two, along with Boca Raton title attorney Stephen Beyer, ripped off at least six separate individuals or couples in 16 fraudulent mortgage transactions on nine properties in the Delray Beach, Boynton Beach and Royal Palm Beach areas.
The fake mortgages total $3.58 million.
"All the properties purchased (or) refinanced by the duped clients fell into foreclosure," Thume wrote in the report.
At the time, the report says, Little and Jean Baptiste collected tens of thousands of dollars in commissions as well as rents after Jean Baptiste rented out to people in the foreclosed homes.
"Baptiste, Little and Beyer conspired together and acted in concert to commit numerous acts of fraud," the report said.
In case after case, the report alleged, Little and Jean Baptiste forged signatures of homeowners, some of whom couldn't read or write, or rushed owners into signing documents without reading them, and then notarized them.
In one case, Baptiste signed a man's name eight months after he died, the report said.
Jean Baptiste and Little also allegedly falsified people's job statuses and salaries, sometimes getting people who earned $25,000 a year, or were actually unemployed, to qualify for mortgages of more than $300,000.
People who believed they were getting new mortgages actually were unknowingly selling their homes to others, some of them relatives and friends of Jean Baptiste and Little. In one case, a woman had to bring a check to a closing to cover shortfalls, the report said.
According to the report, Jean Baptiste and Little were licensed brokers. Little owned Prometheus Financial Services, 102 NW Fifth Ave., in Delray Beach, now out of business. Little also owns a convenience store in Belle Glade and Jean Baptiste owns one in St. Lucie County.
When arrested Tuesday, Jean Baptiste was "working at one of the (foreclosed) homes," Thume said today in an interview. "He had one of the rooms at the house set up like an office, preparing taxes. With no occupational license or any of the required licenses."
The Palm Beach County State Attorney has opted not to charge Beyer, founder and president of First National Title Co. in Boca Raton and a licensed attorney in Florida since 1971.
According to the report, Beyer told police he closed about 100 real estate deals for Jean Baptiste between 2003 and 2007 but that most were conducted in Creole and he had believed all of them were legitimate.
"There's insufficient evidence to proceed against him at this time," Assistant State Attorney Angela Miller, head of the office's white collar crime division, said this afternoon.
Robert Stone, an attorney for Beyer, said he could not comment because he hadn't yet seen the police report.
Beyer, based in Boca Raton, still is licensed and in good standing, and the bar is not investigating him, Florida Bar spokeswoman Karen Kirksey said.