Cleveland woman says she lost thousands trying to capitalize on hot housing market

Published: Aug. 9, 2022 at 5:36 AM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - The housing market is hot and appears to present the opportunity to make money.

A Cleveland woman is warning about her recent experience though when she tried to invest in a home renovation project.

After 19 Investigates worked for weeks on her story, detectives took a second look at the case.

It turns out, she may not be the only victim.

Joyce Smalley approached our crew at the park while we were out working on another story earlier this summer.

She says a money-making promise lead to the ultimate disappointment.

“This is a blessing that God brought you through my path,” she said.

We’ve been investigating her case ever since, uncovering more and more shocking details in it.

Smalley says a man came up to her and her sister at the library last winter with what sounded like a great investment opportunity.

“He was telling us that he redo houses, and he sells them after he redo them,” she said.

She says the man even claimed to have done projects with her pastor.

“So, that made me feel a little bit confident that it was OK cause we knew the same pastor and he was a Christian man and he’s not trying to do no scam,” Smalley said.

She says he brought her to a home off East 151st Street and told her he wanted to make it his next flip.

We found the windows boarded up and the top of it charred, clearly on fire at some point. We wanted to see if anyone was around or living at the location, but the entryway was so overgrown and there’s not even a door to knock on.

“He said it doesn’t cost much money to do it, to flip it,” she said.

Smalley says she gave him more than $2,000 in cash.

“So, he writes the receipt with the address and the house and everything,” she said as she showed us the piece of paper.

That was nearly eight months ago.

When he tried to come back to her for more money, she got suspicious.

“I was like don’t have any more than that,” Smalley said.

She says she has yet to see any return and showed us text messages where she’s repeatedly asked for her money back.

According to property tax records, the house he supposedly went in on with her was transferred to someone in April. But, not to the man Smalley says brought her to it in January.

And, there are no permits on record, which someone would need to do any significant renovations.

“I don’t know where he is,” Smalley said.

Smalley says she when she first went to police, officers told her to handle this issue in civil court.

But, after 19 Investigates made some calls, not only did CPD’s financial crimes unit take a report from her, we were able to connect it to several others.

We’ll tell you about those other cases, and the suspect at the center of them Tuesday at 6.

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