Illinois Man Pleads Guilty to Internet Auction Real Estate Scam
BIRMINGHAM – An Illinois man pleaded guilty Monday in federal court to an Internet auction scam in which he advertised and sold property in northwestern Alabama that he did not own or never provided title for after receiving payment, announced U.S. Attorney Joyce White Vance and FBI Special Agent in Charge Patrick J. Maley.
KEITH D. GUNTER, 49, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Karon O. Bowdre to three counts each of wire fraud and mail fraud. Through his fraud, Gunter stole more than $200,000 from four victims outside Alabama, according to his plea agreement with the government. Gunter is scheduled for sentencing March 27.
Between July 2006 and July 2007, according to Gunter’s plea agreement, he represented himself as a real estate developer and devised a scheme to sell real property over the Internet auction site eBay. He owned an entity named Gunter Development Group and one called Gunter Development Inc., which he used to conduct his real estate transactions. Although he conducted some legitimate transactions, many were fraudulent because he either did not own the land he was attempting to sell or did not provide title after victims paid to purchase the property, the plea agreement states.
In his plea, Gunter acknowledges the following fraudulent transactions:
• On Nov. 27, 2006, through Gunter Development Group, Gunter advertised a 1,583-square-foot house for sale in Rogersville. A Chicago man bid $50,100 and later wired $50,795 to a GDG bank account. The Chicago buyer never received title to the property, which Gunter did not own.
• In April 2007, Gunter, through GDG, advertised property for sale in White Oak Village near Florence. An Idaho man saw the ad on eBay and negotiated with Gunter to buy three lots with pre-constructed homes for $100,000 each. The man wired two payments, totaling $30,000 to Gunter as a down payment. He never received anything for the down payment.
• In February 2006, Gunter contacted an Illinois man and offered to sell him property in a development called Gunter Circle in Lauderdale County. The man mailed Gunter a $30,000 cashier’s check for the property. He never received deeds to the property, which Gunter did not own.
• In December 2006, Gunter, through GDG, advertised two quarter-acre lots for sale in Rogersville. A Wisconsin woman bid for them on-line and was later contacted by Gunter. She agreed to buy four lots for $7,000, wiring one payment through the Internet for $3,500 and mailing a second $3,500 cashier’s check. She never received deeds to the property.
Gunter could face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine on each count.
The FBI investigated the case. Assistant U.S. Attorney David Estes is prosecuting the case.
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