PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — Pinellas County Sheriff's deputies arrested a man and two women on felony charges for alleged fraudulent vacant land sale deals targeting older landowners. The court documents listed more than 100 victims who lost more than $1.4 million.
A 34-page court document filed by the Pinellas State Attorney's Office laid out the case against three local suspects. Investigators said the trio systematically targeted 150 seniors and offered to sell their small vacant lots for big money. Prosecutors said the victims were asked to pay thousands in upfront fees, but the lots never sold.
Pinellas County Consumer Protection's nearly two-year investigation led to the arrests of:
- Marvin Eldren Scott, 55, of Tampa
- Tammy Van Wie, 38, of Largo
- Chamera Bowman, 44, of St. Petersburg
The three are accused of felony fraud. Investigators found they netted $1.4 million from 104 people. The average age of the victims is 79 and some have since died.
Court documents say Scott, Van Wie, and Bowman carried out the crimes between 2017 and 2020 using two office spaces and multiple mailboxes in Clearwater and St. Pete. They operated under the business names "Nationwide Listings," "Elite Property Listings," and "Worldwide Property Listings."
Kathy Mims, listed as a victim in the case, said it started with a phone call in 2019 from Elite Property Listings in Clearwater. Mims, a widow, said the company offered to sell a small vacant lot in Missouri that she and her husband Don bought as an investment before he died.
“They had these investors that were looking to buy a lot of property in that Taney County area for future development,” Mims said she was told.
But Mims said the company wanted money upfront.
“This fee is for their portfolio fee and this fee was for legal representation and then there was a fee for this and a fee for that,” Mims said.
According to Mims' complaint, she paid more than $15,000. She and others said the company told them they would get their money back at the time of the sale.
Brian Oglesby with the Better Business Bureau said the complaints they received matched prosecutors’ descriptions of how vacant land sales pitches have played out across the country.
“The company would come to them and claim that they had a buyer for their land, or they had a buyer on the spot and all they had to do was pay upfront fees,” Oglesby said.
Mims told ABC Action News the loss of so much money made her sick.
“I am a widow and I work for myself,” she said. “And it was money I could have spent somewhere else than someone else's pocket.”
Prosecutors said Scott pocketed over $420,000, Bowman $667,000, and Van Wie more than $150,000.
In a 2016 lawsuit, Scott settled with the Florida Attorney General’s Office. As conditions of the settlement, he agreed to pay $76,000 in restitution to consumers " ...who were deceived by defendants in connection with the advertisement of the resale or rental of land.”
The AG permanently banned Scott from engaging in any Florida business related to land and timeshare sales.
Bowman and Van Wie are charged with scheming to defraud and are being held in the Pinellas County jail under a $250,000 bond. The bond for Scott, who is charged with money laundering and scheming to defraud, is $500,000.