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Six-Figure Swindle - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Six-Figure Swindle

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BURLINGTON, Vt. -

It started with an online ad showcasing a new kitchen, big rooms and a great lot. Who wouldn't love this house?

"She instantly fell in love with it," said Morgan Ghosheh. 

Ghosheh and Francesca Beer wanted to grow old there. They offered $336,000. The sellers, Ben and Jess Stuart, couldn't have been happier. 

Reporter Jennifer Costa: You actually left closing with a check.

Ben Stuart: Yup.

The Stuarts made $100,000 on the deal after paying everyone else. That meant they could finally build their dream home.

"We thought we were good to go," said Ben.

"We moved in in September," said Ghosheh. 

The nightmare started a week after closing. The Stuarts got a call from the bank. No money from the house sale would be hitting their account. The bank stopped payment on that check.

A house is the biggest purchase anyone ever makes. 

Costa: You sold yours and got... 

Ben: Nothing for it. We had in essence been robbed.

We wanted to know how that was possible? What we discovered is the Stuarts fell victim to a sophisticated closing scam siphoning cash from buyers and sellers across the country.

"The tough part is we didn't make the mistake," said Stuart.

The buyers were represented at closing by Johnson & Finnigan. The South Burlington law firm got thought it got instructions from the Stuarts' closing attorney to stop payment on the check and wire the $100,000 to an account in Texas. Only it wasn't the Stuarts' lawyer. It was a thief. The law firm got duped. But how could a crook get so much personal information to make it such a convincing con?

"What we believe is somebody got hacked," said Ghosheh. 

Was it the lawyers, the realtors? No one knows. Whoever it was, their hacked email account gave the scammer enough information to impersonate the lawyer and steal the Stuarts' profit.

"In our opinion that transaction is not complete. We haven't been paid. We can't have our house back," said Ben.

The FBI tracked the money to Eastern Europe and that's where their investigation ended. All that money was gone in a six-figure swindle. With no answers about the cyberpirate who stole their money, the family is back to renting. That dream house was put on hold.

"We had like the money in our hands and then it got taken back away from us," said Ben. 

"Somebody is going to have to hold the bag, whether it's the lawyers or us. I don't know," said Ghosheh.

The buyers are living in limbo, too. They bought the house with all the cash they had. Now, they're wondering if they'll have to give it back since their money never made it to the right place.

"Honestly, I feel worse for them than anything because they are the ones who are without a house or without money," said Ghosheh.

The Stuarts are now suing Johnson & Finnigan, as well as the buyers, alleging a simple phone call to them could have "prevented this disaster." They call the failure outrageous.

Costa: Were you even aware that something like this could happen? 

Jess Stuart: No. Until it happened to us we were completely unaware that anything like this could ever happen. 

We reached out to the law firm that allegedly made the mistake and their lawyers. Both law firms declined to comment. We did notice their emails included bold red fraud warnings on the bottom about wire transfers.

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