A Florida man has been fraudulently charging supplies to Lowe’s Home Improvement and using them to build a home all while in prison, an ongoing investigation by the FBI alleges.

According to a story broken by The Daily Beast, Jared Murray, 37, has been accused of running a sophisticated homebuilding operation while serving a sentence of up to 25 years for participation in armed robbery. Imprisoned since 2011, Murray allegedly used smuggled cellphones to buy a quarter-acre lot in Lake Placid, Florida, for $4,500 in July 2019.

Jared Murray. Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office

While Murray is listed as the sole owner of the deed, a female associate reportedly made the payment through her own bank account while Murray’s aunt was listed as an authorized representative.

Over the six months that followed the sale, Murray would find the names of contractors who had open lines of credit at Lowe’s, use their identities to order supplies to their accounts and then have them shipped to the lot. The affidavit released by the FBI claims Murray “devised and executed — and continues to execute — a scheme to defraud Lowe’s Home Improvement out of well over a million dollars worth of inventory.” The investigation is still pending and Murray has not been charged.

To build the home, Murray would allegedly order truckloads of supplies to the job site and started hiring contractors to work on the house. Murray interacted with contractors exclusively over the phone while other people oversaw drop-off. Murray also allegedly sold any supplies that were not used on online marketplace OfferUp and put the money toward hiring more contractors and continuing construction.

“During this entire time, Murray has been incarcerated and has not had any legitimate income,” states the FBI’s affidavit.

The three-bedroom, two-bathroom house, which as of July is still described as in the process of being built, is listed for sale at $185,000, which, if it had succeeded, would have been all profit. Keith Jackson, an agent with Keller Williams St Pete Realty, is listed as the broker managing the property. He did not immediately reply to Inman’s request for comment but told The Daily Beast that he knew that there were questions surrounding the home, but “some things were happening.”

But while Murray was able to oversee a significant part of the homebuilding process from prison, the elaborate plan started to unravel when both contractors and Lowe’s employees started noticing something amiss.

realtor.com

In the fall, a Lowe’s store in Lake Wales called the police and reported that someone named “Wayne Jones” had fraudulently charged $9,000 worth of shingles to another contractors’ account. After the police started investigating, they found that a woman identified as “H.R.” had accepted delivery after buying them on OfferUp through a reseller called “Mike Meyers” (he called himself Robert on the phone).

A woman named Lisa, later identified as Candance Skinner, was arrested after trying to collect cash from the shingles on behalf of Robert. She later said that she was collecting money for a man named “Jay,” whom she had met on Facebook.

After seizing Skinner’s phone, the police found that a number for “Jay” corresponded to several for Murray. They also found that Skinner’s phone had a photo of Murray as its background and stored files showing that she had tried to visit Murray at South Bay Correctional.

After Skinnner was arrested and the case started to unravel, Murray started running low on funds and stopped paying contractors working on the house. In December, another inmate identified as “A.J.” handed over a phone to the prison workers. Further investigation found that “A.J.” was holding Murray’s phone in his cell in exchange for $200 a month. After the phone was searched, authorities discovered multiple emails between Murray and various homebuilding, plumbing, HVAC and other contractors.

Not long after, the FBI got involved and started digging deeper into the case — multiple people are believed to have picked up money and delivered orders for Murray while the woman identified as Murray’s aunt has been implicated in a paper trail that shows her depositing money to Murray’s prison commissary.

While no one is yet to face charges, the situation is in the midst of a major FBI investigation. Read more about the details of the case here.

Email Veronika Bondarenko

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