Defendant collected payments from consumers, then did not provide the homes or refund buyers
North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper has filed a lawsuit through his Consumer Protection Division seeking refunds for consumers ripped off after paying for a manufactured home.
According to a press release issued by the North Carolina Department of Justice (NCDOJ), George Henry Smith is accused of tricking consumers into paying thousands for manufactured houses that he was not actually authorized to sell, then not providing the houses and refusing to refund the consumers.
Cooper's complaint requests that the court cancel all contracts that buyers signed with Smith and that it order Smith to refund the buyers, as well as pay $5,000 in civil penalties. It also requests that Smith be permanently barred from using business practices that are unfair or deceptive; advertising or trying to sell a manufactured house without a license; and accepting new orders or payments for such houses in the state of North Carolina.
An investigation performed by the North Carolina Attorney General's Office revealed that the defendant advertised used and repossessed manufactured houses while at his workplace, cell phone store Page Talk, as well as at other locations within the Robeson County area. He particularly targeted consumers whose English skills were limited and used Spanish-language business cards.
The lawsuit alleges that, when a consumer expressed interest in purchasing a manufactured house, the defendant showed them houses that he was not permitted to sell. He told buyers at Prevatte Home Sales and Terry Pate Home Sales in Lumberton that he was a salesman, while he told employees at the sales lots that he was an agent representing the buyer.
Smith allegedly put pressure on the buyers to sign fake purchase agreements and to pay deposits in amounts as large as $9,800. The consumers contacted the sales lots when the homes they believed they had purchased did not arrive, only to find that the houses had already been sold to another buyer or had never even been for sale. Then Smith refused to refund the buyers' money, which left numerous families unable to pay rent and forced them to move in with family members.
"Before you put down money on a manufactured home, check out the dealer or agent thoroughly," Cooper encouraged consumers in the press release. "Buying a home is the biggest purchase many families will ever make, and you owe it to yourself to ask around in your community for a reputable place to make such an important purchase."
Consumers who paid Smith for a manufactured house should file a complaint with the North Carolina Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division online or, alternatively, they can contact the North Carolina Attorney General's consumer hotline at (877) 566-7226.