FBI probing Lindsey Hunter's role in real estate deal
Waterford man charges he was duped into buying house
BY DAVID ASHENFELTER • FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER • August 26, 2008
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The FBI is investigating whether Pistons guard Lindsey Hunter and business associates duped a $35,000-a-year boiler operator for Pontiac Public Schools into buying a $1.25-million house in Bloomfield Hills that he couldn't afford, the man's lawyer said Monday.
Attorney Michael J. Smith of Sterling Heights said his client, Bruce McClellan of Waterford Township, recently told the FBI that Hunter and Iron Johnson, Hunter's partner in L&I Enterprises, promised to pay him $300,000 in 2007 to buy the house in the 1700 block of Morningside Way. The deal called for McClellan to hold the house for one or two months until it could be purchased by someone else.
But the purchaser never materialized, McClellan never got his $300,000, his excellent credit rating is ruined and the house went into foreclosure, McClellan told the FBI.
Smith told the Free Press he's contemplating suing Hunter and others to recover damages for McClellan, who is on the hook for the $1.25 million mortgage.
It's unclear what Hunter had to gain from the deal.
Hunter could not be reached for comment Monday, but his lawyer, Deano Ware of Redford, said: "Lindsey Hunter hasn't done anything wrong.
"He was misled by other people who were conducting transactions in the corporation. ... We're still trying to figure out who did what."
McClellan told the FBI that he bought a car from Johnson, who discovered that McClellan had excellent credit and introduced him to Hunter.
McClellan said Johnson and Hunter then proposed the real estate deal. Although he told them he couldn't afford such an expensive house, McClellan told the FBI they told him not to worry.
Hunter then added McClellan's name to his checking account, making it appear to potential lenders that McClellan had a substantial income to go with his excellent credit score, a source familiar with the investigation told the Free Press.
McClellan said he closed on the house in April 2007, but never lived in it and no buyer ever materialized. He told the FBI that he saw Hunter's vehicles sitting in the driveway on multiple occasions.
McClellan told the FBI he was unable to make the $11,500 monthly payments on the house, ownership of which is reverting back to the mortgage company, Countrywide Home Loans, Inc. Smith said McClellan would be responsible for any difference between what is owed on the mortgage and its eventual sales price.
FBI spokeswoman Sandra Berchtold said the agency doesn't comment on pending investigations. But a source familiar with the probe confirmed that Hunter is being investigated.
Detroit attorney Steven Fishman, whom Johnson contacted for legal representation, said it's premature to comment on the case.
Meanwhile, the Wayne County Sheriff's Office confirmed Monday that a deputy assigned to the Wayne County mortgage fraud task force is investigating a separate real estate transaction in which Hunter appears to be the victim. But sheriff's spokesman John Roach wouldn't discuss the specifics of the investigation.
Hunter, 37, was a Pistons' first-round draft pick in 1993. In March 2007, he was suspended for 10 games by the NBA for testing positive for the banned substance phentermine, a prescription amphetamine.
Hunter called it a stupid mistake, blaming the positive test on a diet pill he received from his wife, Ivy.
His contract is up, and it's unclear if the Pistons plan to sign him for a 16th season. He is coming off a two-year, $4.5-million deal.
The Pistons organization had no comment about the real estate controversy.