A federal judge in Norfolk, Va., this week ruled that three real estate sales agents working for a Virginia-based land developer participated in an elaborate land scam that fleeced about $30 million from more than 1,300 people across the country.

Operating under the name Buyers Source, the company and its agents victimized more than 500 senior citizens, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. In four cases, the developers targeted people more than 100 years old.

Jeffrey Votaw of Bridgeport, W.V.; George Haydu of Clarkesville, Ga.; and Dawn Mock of Norfolk, Va., are barred from engaging in fraudulent trade practices and were ordered to pay more than $500,000. The court also ordered Buyers Source and five other sales agents to pay more than $31 million into the compensation fund.

Following the ruling, HUD announced settlements with six other individuals who owned and operated Buyers Source. Under the terms of these agreements, the owners will pay up to $1 million into the fund and, in the case of one individual, will be banned from selling real estate for life.

Last year, HUD and the Justice Department filed a 32-page lawsuit against Buyers Source, accusing the company and its agents of violating the Interstate Land Sales Full Disclosure Act. HUD shut down its operations and froze the personal and business assets of several defendants.

HUD claimed that Buyers Source, and other similarly named businesses, sold more than 1,000 parcels of land in Florida, South Carolina, Ohio, Arkansas, Texas and Missouri at prices that far exceeded their value, sometimes by as much as 3,000 percent. In some cases, Buyers Source sold property that the company did not own. HUD also alleged Buyers Source used a direct mail and telemarketing campaign, offering to purchase timeshares from their owners for cash with the false promise of tremendous profit and even gifts if the victims agree to purchase lots of land.

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Send tips or a Letter to the Editor to samantha@inman.com or call (510) 658-9252, ext. 140.

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