TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Three years, $1 million, 37 states, 150 victims, three suspects: Pinellas County Consumer Protection Agency announced the unraveling of a multi-state, multi-year plot to “scam” residents across the U.S. out of thousands of dollars each.
“Marvin Scott, Chamera Bowman and Tammy Van Wie were charged on April 19 with scheme to defraud, and Scott was also charged with money laundering,” Pinellas Consumer Protection said in a statement. “They operated a series of businesses called Nationwide Listings, Elite Property Listings Corp and Worldwide Property Listings LLC.”
In an affidavit provided by PCPA, documents detail how 150 victims fell prey to a “scheme to defraud.”
Investigators interviewed 104 victims to get to the bottom of the multi-state real estate “scheme.” According to the affidavit, the suspects would contact homeowners or others who owned property. Between October of 2017 and November 2020, Scott, Bowman and Van Wie allegedly “solicited victims from 37 states who owned vacant properties claiming to have buyers ready to purchase their land.”
PCPA said no properties were ever sold.
The investigation began in May 2020, when the agency received a complaint by one of the victims, detailing transactions between themselves and a company called Elite Property Listings for a vacant land sale in Hernando County.
According to the affidavit, victims would be contacted on the phone by an agent named Diana, reportedly working with a company called Nationwide Listings. The agent would solicit a portfolio fee, then be advised that sales did not close. Afterward, the agent would call again with an allegedly higher value offer, but request a second payment for portfolio fees.
Later, victims would receive a third call, with the agent, Diana, informing them that she had switched to a different property company who would take over Nationwide Listings’ listings. That company was Elite Property Listings. During the call, Diana told the initial complainant that there was yet another buyer, and if the victim would pay another portfolio, all of the money put in would be refunded at closing.
This process repeated every two to three months, according to the PCPA affidavit. The victim would continue to make the portfolio payments each time they received a call informing them that a sale fell through. After being informed that the sale would finally close and the money he’d sunk in would be refunded, the initial victim instead received a call from a third company, Worldwide Property Listings. They reportedly asked for more money for the property listing and sale process.
The victim refused to send more money, after he “realized this was a scam,” according to the affidavit. Over the course of roughly two-and-a-half years, the victim made 10 payments totaling more than $27,000. He still has not received a refund for the portfolio fees, and PCPA said the property still has yet to be sold.
During the investigation, PCPA’s investigator subpoenaed telephone records from the victim’s phone provider. After they “identified Elite Property Listing’s telephone number,” the investigator for PCPA found another associated with Worldwide Property Listings. They identified the account owner of the telephone numbers as Tammy Van Wie of Clearwater, the owner of Nationwide Listings.
PCPA reviewed logs of phone calls coming into and out of the numbers associated with Nationwide Property Listings. The numbers were “associated with Elite Property Listings…and associated with Worldwide Property Listings.” Investigators concluded the businesses were affiliated, and had the same corporate officer, though different business addresses.
The review of business addresses found both Van Wie and Scott were listed tenants for Nationwide Listings at an office space leased in Pinellas Park. The tenant listings were changed to Worldwide Property Listings in January 2021, according to PCPA. An additional office space in Clearwater listed Van Wie and Scott as well, for Nationwide Property Listings. At various points, all three affiliated businesses shared virtual office spaces, according to the affidavit.
Following the money, PCPA investigators identified Bowman as a person of interest, in addition to Scott, due to the flow of cash between their bank accounts and business accounts. The affidavit said both Bowman and Scott were persons of interest “due to large amounts of money moving” between their accounts, and “large sums of money being transported into the accounts associated with the suspects.”
Bank records were subpoenaed, which PCPA used to identify “over 150 individuals who sent in money to the businesses” involved. The investigator reported interviews of “a total of 104 victims and reviewed contracts, agreements, letters” and bank records that match each statement.
PCPA’s investigator “discovered that the telemarketing businesses at issue operate out of Pinellas County, Florida and are involved in telemarketing.”
From the early 2000s to 2020, the affidavit said Scott had owned or operated “various telemarketing businesses” in Pinellas County. From 2017 through 2020, “over 100 Victims from 37 different states were contacted via telephone from individuals claiming to be associated with Marvin Scott’s businesses, including Nationwide Listings, Elite Property Listings Corp, and Worldwide Property Listings LLC.”
The affidavit said each victim owned property across the U.S. worth between $1,000 and $5,000. Over the years in question, victims would speak with a variety of agents, named either “Chamera,” “Diana,” and/or “Dannyell.”
According to PCPA, there was no Diana or Dannyell. All three agents were Bowman, who used the aliases to close deals.
“Based on misrepresentations during the phone calls between victims and closer,” the affidavit says, “Victims would agree to pay a ‘portfolio fee’ in various amounts typically ranging between approximately $2,000 and $3,000.” They were all promised refunds on the portfolio fees upon close of sale, minus “small administrative fees.”
By the end of December 2020, PCPA said:
- CHAMERA DANNYELL BOWMAN received a total of $667,041
- Marvin Scott received a total of $420,330
- Tammy Van Wie received a total of $150,654
None of the properties of the 104 victims interviewed by PCPA investigators “ever sold, nor were any refunds received.”
The affidavit from PCPA notes that “the average age” for the victims was 79-years-old.
“Consumers should continue to be cautious whenever they are solicited by telephone from individuals seeking payment for any services,” Doug Templeton, chief investigator for Pinellas County Consumer Protection, said. “Also, make sure you only work with licensed real estate professionals when attempting to sell real estate.”