A well-known Miami Gardens pastor and businessman is facing multiple charges after authorities said he stole an elderly man's home through a complicated scheme to defraud.
Eric Readon, pastor of the New Beginnings Missionary Baptist Church, was arrested Tuesday on charges including exploitation of an elderly person, organized scheme to defraud, conspiracy to commit organized scheme to defraud, grand theft and theft from a person 65 or older, the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office said.
Readon, 46, was booked into the Miami-Dade jail where he was being held on $42,500 bond, records showed. Attorney information wasn't available.
Get South Florida local news, weather forecasts and entertainment stories to your inbox. Sign up for NBC South Florida newsletters.
Prosecutors said the scheme dates back to 2015, when the victim, 76-year-old Edward Fuller, was attempting to complete construction of his retirement dream home in Miami.
Fuller had the exterior of the home completed but couldn't get financing to finish the interior.
He was at the home in July 2015 when he was approached by Readon, who he didn't know, who told Fuller that he had a friend in the Miami-Dade Permit Office who told him Fuller needed help getting financing to finish the house, prosecutors said.
Readon told Fuller that for $15,000, he would help Fuller get a loan to cover the construction costs, but said Readon could only get the loan if Readon owned 50% of the property, prosecutors said.
Readon had Fuller sign over 50% of the property to Readon's Project Youth Outreach Unlimited, a Florida non-profit corporation he owns, prosecutors said.
Prosecutors said Readon told Fuller that the partial ownership transfer was just to secure the loan and that once the house was completed, Readon would sign full ownership back over to Fuller.
"Fuller signed over a half ownership of the property to get the financing to complete his home, believing in the representations of someone Fuller saw as a man of God," the state attorney's office said in a news release. "This began a complex scheme by Readon involving numerous back-and-forth property deed transfers, construction loans, modifications, mortgages, and credit card
advances, all intended to confuse and deceive Fuller."
Prosecutors said it took Readon just 18 months to take full ownership of the property and sell it without Fuller's knowledge and without any profits going to Fuller.
Between the theft of the home and thousands of dollars in credit card debt Readon left Fuller, the total theft was about $267,000, the state attorney's office said.
“It is truly disgraceful when someone tries to scam our most vulnerable citizens, especially when that someone promotes himself as a person in a position of public trust," Florida Department of Law Enforcement Special Agent-in-Charge Troy Walker said in a statement. "I commend the dedication and hard work of our agents
and analysts who worked nearly 1200 hours on this case to bring Readon to justice. Elderly exploitation has no place in our communities."
On top of the Fuller fraud, Readon also used the property to defraud newlyweds Safiyah and Calvin Singleton, fraudulently promising them a rent-to-buy agreement on the home, prosecutors said.
The couple gave Readon $3,100, which he took, leaving them without a home to sleep in just before their first Christmas together as a married couple, prosecutors said.
“There is something particularly galling when an alleged fraudster snatches away the very hopes and dreams of one of our senior residents," State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said in a statement. "Elderly exploitation so often is a complex shell-game depending on great trust being quietly transformed into financial deception via a movement of signed contracts, deeds and paperwork. I thank the Florida Department of Law Enforcement for their work in
helping us bring this case before our criminal courts."