Tales from the Darkside – Episode 3
… and now comes Episode 3 of the eerie tale of a young man who suspected another commercial real estate agent of criminal activity, and how it played out.
I happened to be that young man, 28 years in age; married for just two years with a young wife, who was expecting our first child in January of 1978.
It was the late fall of 1977 that I had taken a listing to market a farm that had just received preliminary plat approval for 49 single family lots.
As covered in Episode 1 of this series, it did not take long for a very fair offer to be submitted from another broker, but as it turned out it seemed that in the early stages of the negotiations that other broker fumbled with "misremembering" his own name.
By Episode 2 of this dark tale, it was clear to me and the investigators at the Maryland Real Estate Commission, that shifty character was a convicted felon by the name of Mr. Kelley, who seemed to be up to his old real estate tricks. In our first meeting and subsequent conversations he used the name "Mr. Burke," a licensed real estate broker in Prince George’s County.
That chapter ended with yours truly playing a pivotal role in a sting operation that resulted in a handcuffed Kelley being hauled off to comfortable jail cell.
In the midst of the excitement of playing a real life game of cops and robbers, there was still a real estate transaction that my client Mr. Sugar (the property owner) and the buyer, a builder/developer, (whom I will call "Mark") wanted to complete.
So, with his commercial real estate agent now behind bars, I was hopeful that my real estate life would get back to normal. I reached out to Mark in order to gain his acceptance of the counter that Mr. Sugar made several days earlier.
With guidance from my broker Charles "Rick" Wolfe, we decided to assume that Mark was an innocent by-stander in Mr. Kelley's befuddled game of charades.
We met in the sales office of his model home at another of his projects in southern Frederick County. Dressed very casually in ball cap, t-shirt and jeans, the 40ish Mark greeted me with a large enthusiastic and teethy smile brimming through a face of black hairy stubbles. It seemed that Rick and my assumption was spot on, as Mark anxiously read through the contract and signed off on all changes to seal the deal.
As we got comfortable, I made a brief mention of Mr. Kelley's arrest, and he just blew it off with a simple remark of "Well, you never know about people, do you?"
The terms of the contract called for an April 1, 1978, closing, after a brief study period. Yes, boys and girls, believe it or not, land development contracts on properties with a mere preliminary plat approval could be fully processed back then in less than six months!
It seemed that all was falling in place: the bad guy was behind bars, and the contract was executed. The seller was thrilled to have an eager buyer, and I couldn't be happier!
The Christmas and New Year holidays came and went, and it wasn’t but 10 days later that my wife Nancy and I were blessed with the birth of our first child. It was a cold a snowy winter that year, and we didn't even notice with total focus on our new addition.
It was in early February that I learned that Mr. Kelley had been released fairly quickly after his arrest, and a trial date had been set at the Montgomery County Courthouse in Rockville, Maryland, for sometime in May of that year. The officials at the Real Estate Commission informed me that I would be the star witness in the case against Mr. Kelley for carrying out real estate brokerage activity with a revoked license.
I asked my broker, Rick Wolfe, if I should be concerned for the safety of my family and me. I was assured that Kelley was not a violent person … there was nothing to worry about. That aside, Rick told me that I should focus on getting the farm deal to closing.
He also informed me that the brokerage fee would be held in escrow until after the trial. I was okay with all that, and pressed on. The unexpected benefit was that if Kelley was found guilty, it was likely that the entire fee would come my way.
There are many times that things seem certain in life, only to be thrown a curve ball … and what was yet to come was more like a knuckle ball … stay tuned.
Mr. Mackintosh is president of MacRo, Ltd., a Land and Commercial Real Estate firm based in Frederick, Maryland. He also writes for his blog MacRo Report.