WSVN — The real estate market may still be hot but the bubble has burst for one South Florida woman. The unlicensed realtor; sentenced to state prison. Investigative Reporter Carmel Cafiero is on the case.
Veronica Smith refused to come to court the day she was expected to cut a deal in her fraud case. We were told she did not want the media there. Two days later, with the 42-year-old in attendance, the judge made it clear there would be no more delays.
Judge Alberto Milian: “I don’t want to play any more games. She’s either going to take the plea or she’s not.”
It was early 2013 when I first confronted Smith outside her Southwest Miami-Dade office to ask about a real estate deal gone south.
Carmel Cafiero: Carmel Cafiero from Channel 7.”
At the time Damont Ellis and Dekeila Sumpter said they gave Smith $7,000 as down payment on a house. The couple never got the home or their money back.
Dekeila Sumpter: “Hurt. Heartbroke. Out of money.”
Smith was not a licensed realtor but denied she did anything wrong and told us the couple’s contract had expired.
Veronica Smith: “I had a right to sell my property if I feel like it.”
Carmel Cafiero: “You know you’ve been to jail once already and to prison. Are you concerned you might end up going back?”
Veronica Smith: “No ma’am.”
But that’s exactly what did happen. Smith was arrested and charged with 11 felonies in connection with this case and others. She’s been in jail for more than a year and a half but had not been able to finalize a plea agreement.
Judge Alberto Milian: “Why don’t you talk to your attorney…”
Veronica Smith: “She told me…”
Judge Alberto Milian: “Madam. Don’t interrupt me. Don’t interrupt me. Have a seat and talk to your attorney.”
She did and pleaded guilty to organized fraud and money laundering. Smith was sentenced to four years in state prison but could get out early if she pays back almost $70,000 to her victims. She is now also considered a career criminal.
Judge Alberto Milian: “I caution you that if you violate your probation, I’ve told you several times, you’re facing 45 years in Florida state prison. For all intents and purposes, at your age, that’s a life sentence.”
While on probation, Smith can not act as a real estate agent, mortgage broker, or tax consultant. The prosecutor says this case was about more than selling homes.
Steve Immasche: “She was acting as an agent, even after a cease-and-decist order. She would take people around and show them houses. She also did income taxes for people. Part of the case was some defrauding of some income tax recipients also.”
Her victims say they forgive Smith but still have doubts about her ability to pay.
Simon Fain: “I forgive her but I want my money. I want my money, that’s all I want. My money.”
Debra Bryant is owed $60,000 and says Smith should stay in prison, even after paying off the debt.
Debra Bryant: “I don’t think it’s punishment enough because once she pays us off, I feel she should sit there for a little while.”
Speaking of money, Smith’s attorney says once out, her client is in for a career change.
Sara Shulevitz: “She also indicated to me that she’s looking into makeup, fashion, other stuff. Not in real estate. She’s a very talented, smart woman. She’ll find another way.”
But any fashion statement will have to wait. For now, Smith’s wardrobe is limited.
Carmel Cafiero, 7News.
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