Tuesday, September 26, 2023
Courthouse News Service
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Real Estate Scam Collapses

ST. LOUIS (CN) - A developer pleaded guilty to multiple federal frauds in his multi-million dollar real estate business. Robert Douglas Hartmann, 46, of O'Fallon, Mo., faces up to 2 years in prison if the court accepts the plea deal at his June 23 sentencing.

Hartmann bought neglected properties and sold them as redevelopment projects, court papers state. Prosecutors say he was involved with hundreds of properties in the St. Louis area when his business collapsed in 2005. He was charged with criminal offenses after investors and banks were left with dilapidated properties that often went into foreclosure.

Hartmann admitted to several scams, including defrauding a woman of about $44,000 in equity in her home, prosecutors said. In that deal, Hartmann arranged the sale of the home to himself, but set up the deal so that he received a check for $44,000 and the woman got only $1,882.93 and paid him $1,100 a month in a rent-to-own agreement. Hartmann saddled the house with $168,000 in loans against it, far beyond market value, and stopped making payments on it in 2005, causing it to be foreclosed on and the woman thrown out.

Hartmann also admitted providing false vouchers and invoices to banks to draw funds from construction loans for specific renovations, many of which were never completed.

Hartmann admitted that by 2004 his business rarely generated profits through property sales and needed money from banks and new investors to pay off old debts. In one case, Hartmann admitted receiving loans of $88,000 and $50,000 from two banks to renovate a property, but did no renovations.

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