Tampa, Florida (WFLA) – Three years, $1 million, 37 states, 150 victims, three suspects: The Pinellas County Consumer Protection Agency announces the exposing of a multi-state, multi-year plot to “scam” residents across the US out of thousands of dollars For both of them.
“Marvin Scott, Shamira Bowman and Tami Van Wei were charged with planning fraud on April 19, and Scott was also charged with money laundering,” Consumer Protection Pinellas 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 the PCPA, the documents detail how 150 victims of a “scheme fraud”.
Investigators interviewed 104 victims to get to the bottom of the multi-state estate “scheme”. According to the affidavit, the suspects will contact homeowners or other property owners. Between October 2017 and November 2020, Scott, Bowman and Van Wei allegedly “sought victims from 37 states who had vacant properties claiming to have buyers willing to buy their land”.
The PCPA said no property was ever sold.
The investigation began in May 2020, when the agency received a complaint from a victim detailing the transactions between them and a company called Elite Property Listings for the sale of vacant land in Hernando County.
According to the affidavit, the victims will be contacted by phone by an agent named Diana, who is said to work with a company called Nationwide Listings. The agent will ask for a wallet fee, and then be notified that sales haven’t closed. After that, the agent will call again an offer purported to be of higher value, but ask for a second payment of the wallet fee.
Later, the victims received a third call, with the agent, Diana, informing them that she had switched to a different real estate company that would take over the Nationwide Listings. That company was Elite Property Listings. During the call, Diana told the first complainant that there was another buyer, and if the victim pays another wallet, all the money that was placed at closing will be refunded.
This process is repeated every two to three months, according to the PCPA’s affidavit. The victim will continue to make wallet payments every time they receive a call telling them that the sale has failed. After being informed that the sale would finally end and the money he sank would be refunded, the initial victim instead received a call from a third company, Worldwide Property Listings. They reportedly asked for more money to include the properties and the sale process.
The victim refused to send more money, after he “realized that this was a fraud,” according to the affidavit. Over the course of approximately two and a half years, the victim made 10 payments totaling more than $27,000. He has yet to recover the wallet fee, and the PCPA said the property has not yet been sold.
During the investigation, the PCPA investigator recalled telephone records from the victim’s phone provider. After “setting an Elite Property List phone number”, a PCPA investigator found another number associated with global property listings. They identified the account holder for the phone numbers as Tammy Van Wei of Clearwater, owner of Nationwide Listings.
PCPA reviewed records of incoming and outgoing telephone calls from numbers associated with nationwide property listings. The numbers were “linked to elite real estate listings…and related to world class real estate listings.” Investigators concluded that the companies were affiliated, and had the same corporate administrator, despite different business addresses.
A review of business addresses found that both Van Wie and Scott were Nationwide Listings listed tenants of a leased office space in Pinellas Park. Tenant listings were changed to global property listings in January 2021, according to the PCPA. Additional office space in Clearwater also listed by Van Wei and Scott, for nationwide property listings. At various points, all three subsidiaries shared virtual office space, according to the affidavit.
After the funds, PCPA investigators identified Bowman as an important person, in addition to Scott, due to the flow of cash between their bank and business accounts. The affidavit said both Bowman and Scott were of interest “because large amounts of money were being transferred between their accounts, and large amounts of money were being transferred to accounts linked to the suspects.”
Bank records were subpoenaed, which the PCPA used to identify “more than 150 individuals who sent money to the businesses” in question. The investigator reported interviewing “a total of 104 victims and reviewed contracts, agreements and letters” and bank records that matched each statement.
The PCPA investigator discovered “that the telemarketing business in question operates out of Pinellas County, Florida and is engaged in telemarketing.”
From the early 2000s to 2020, the affidavit said Scott owned or operated “several telemarketing businesses” in Pinellas County. From 2017 through 2020, “more than 100 victims from 37 different states were contacted by phone from individuals claiming to be associated with Marvin Scott’s business, including Nationwide Listings, Elite Property Listings Corp and Worldwide Property Listings LLC.”
The affidavit said each victim owned property across the United States worth between $1,000 and $5,000. Over the years involved, the victims have been talking with a variety of clients, called either “Shamira”, “Diana” and/or “Daniel”.
According to the PCPA, there was neither Diana nor Danielle. The three clients were Bowman, who used aliases to close deals.
“Based on misrepresentations during phone calls between victims and their next of kin,” the affidavit says, “victims agree to pay ‘wallet fees’ in various amounts, usually between $2,000 and $3,000.” They all promised a refund of the wallet fee when the sale closed, minus the “small management fee.”
By the end of December 2020, the PCPA said:
- CHAMERA DANNYELL BOWMAN received a total of $667,041
- Marvin Scott received a total of $420,330
- Tammy Van Wei received a total of $150,654
None of the properties of the 104 victims interviewed by PCPA investigators were sold, and no refunds were received.
An affidavit from the PCPA states that the “median age” of the victims was 79 years old.
“Consumers should continue to exercise caution whenever solicited over the phone by individuals seeking to pay for any services,” said Pinellas County Chief Consumer Investigator Doug Templeton. “Also make sure that you only work with licensed real estate professionals when trying to sell real estate.”