A Fieldale man has been indicted for allegedly engaging in a real estate fraud scheme valued at more than $1.3 million.
Herman Estes Jr., 40, contacted a real estate agent on Jan. 17, 2023, to inquire about buying a Roanoke County property, then listed at $1.2 million, court documents show.
According to the United States Department of Justice, Estes was on federal pretrial supervision due to an illegal firearms charge at the time.
Court officials said Estes told the agent he was expecting a tax refund of $18 million, which would soon be transferred to his estate as part of a trust.
Days later on Jan. 25, the DOJ said Estes pled guilty to the firearms charge and remained on pretrial release pending sentencing.
In March, Estes reached back out to the real estate agent and allegedly said his tax refund had cleared. He then said he was ready to move forward with the property purchase, officials said.
The real estate agent then prepared a $1.3 million cash offer for the property, records show.
In order to prove he did indeed have the funds available, Estes gave the agent a letter, dated March 29, 2023, which indicated he had been approved for a private real estate loan for $1.315 million, according to the DOJ.
He also allegedly gave the real estate agent a phone number for a person he said was the manager of his purported trust. The real estate agent then contacted the person, who claimed to be Estes’s trust manager, and then approved the cash offer, according to court records. The contract was ratified, and the parties proceeded to close.
On April 10, records show that Estes gave the settlement company a 62-page “extension of credit” document, which he falsely represented to be trust documents as part of his closing procedures.
Estes said that he did not deal with public banks but rather dealt “directly with the Federal Reserve Bank,” officials said.
Then, court records show that Estes paid for the property with a fraudulent cashier’s check for $1,307,199.43, which was shipped via FedEx on April 12, 2023. It was deposited by a settlement company a day later, and the sale closed a day after that.
On April 17, 2023, the purported cashier’s check was returned by the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond and marked fraudulent, according to the DOJ. Estes had already obtained the property at that point.
According to the Department of Justice, Estes is facing the following charges:
- Bank fraud
- Wire fraud
- Mail fraud
- Committing criminal offenses while on federal pretrial release
If Estes is convicted, we’re told he’ll face a maximum penalty of 40 years in prison.