Real estate scam artist exposed by WWL-TV '(Un)real Estate' series pleads guilty
When Decker Randolph admitted to stealing money from people in Orleans and Jefferson Parishes as part of a real estate scam last week, it meant justice for some, but gives a glimmer of hope for repayment to a select few.
Many of Decker Randolph’s victims will never see their day in court with some of the potential cases deemed ‘civil disputes’ by law enforcement and others never fully investigated. A few victims never filed police reports after they say they realized the scope of Randolph’s scheme and the number of people impatiently waiting for repayment. One of the 'lucky,' unlucky ones who fell for Randolph’s scheme was New Orleans Police Officer Tomeka Anderson.
"That's the number one goal as an adult is being able to provide a stable foundation for your children,” Anderson said in an interview last year when WWL-TV first aired a series of investigative reports aimed at exposing Randolph.
Anderson said she didn’t even know what credit was at the time when hers was getting holes in it. She thought Randolph's no credit check home buyer program was the answer she had been waiting for.
“He was gonna start me in the credit restoration program. He said I had three years to work with them to work on my credit so that I can refinance the house and from out the program into my name,” Anderson said.
But Randolph did anything but. In October, he admitted he stole $11,000 from her. She thought the home she picked out through legitimate realtors was on its way to sold.
“I started picking out cabinets, going to Home Depot, flooring and everything,” Anderson said, fighting back tears.
She’s not the only one.
“He just ran off with the money,” said Simona Brown as she recalled the dream house she was expecting Randolph to buy on Rue Collette in Algiers.
Brown has documentation she paid Randolph $6,100. She filed a report with NOPD in 2016, months after she says she could no longer get him to return her calls. Police say that was three years after they gave Randolph the money and that it could have complicated the investigation.
But police marked the report as signal 21, or miscellaneous incident, which typically doesn’t require any follow up investigation.
"Per protocol, sometimes fraud investigations are classified as miscellaneous incidents until further documentation is submitted to indicate a fraud has more than likely occurred," said NOPD 4th District Commander Caesar Ruffin.
Browns' case remains open.
"Fourth District investigators will review this investigation to include contacting the victims for additional information," Ruffin said.
Licensed real estate agent Frederick Ellis has documentation showing he paid Randolph $3,400.
“We went to go to closing and he was nowhere to be found,” Ellis said.
Like the other victims, official-looking paperwork, home showings with real estate agents and sometimes, referrals to the program from loan officers, made the victims feel confident they were investing in a legitimate program. While he was presenting that paperwork to people, ‘signing them up’, he was on probation for stealing from others.
Most of Randolph’s victims fell prey to a similar scheme, but some gave him additional money for coaching on how to become a real estate investor.
WWL-TV went undercover to find out more about Randolph’s program. He pitched a similar arrangement to a Channel 4 producer. During their initial meeting, Randolph promised to refund any money paid to him “the next day” if the sale of the home fell through. But that rarely happened with Randolph.
In fact, a Jefferson Parish Judge ordered him to pay $16,600 in restitution to Edro Richard in 2015. By late 2016, Randolph claimed to have paid Richard $300 back. When WWL-TV’s producer asked for a reference from Randolph, he called a woman named Sonya Gardner on the phone.
“Hey Sonya, I’m with a client right now and I just want to verify that you are in the no credit check program,” Randolph told her with Gardner on speaker phone.
Garnder hung up and later reached out to WWL-TV to say Randolph had taken $2,000 from her and she, too, had nothing to show for it. Randolph said in an interview after his meeting with WWL-TV’s producer that he has bought properties for people using his business name, Faithful Real Estate Properties. But a search of property records did not show any properties in Orleans or Jefferson Parishes bought or sold by the company.
Randolph claimed the homes never went to sale, but that he sold the contracts he put on them to other would-be buyers at a profit, a questionable practice some people call “wholesaling”.
WWL-TV’s investigation found 22 victims in 5 states, all people who said they paid Randolph anywhere from hundreds to tens of thousands of dollars, totaling $106,161, with nothing to show for it. Many of those people connected with Randolph through Facebook. Randolph’s Faithful Real Estate page has since been taken down.
“One guy I read was from Florida. And another one from Texas. And you constantly see him on his page saying somebody else successfully purchased a house through my program,” Anderson said.
Trish Houston took to Facebook at one point, she says, to try and spur Randolph into action.
“I went on Facebook on his Faithful Real Estate page and I basically blast him and said, he's a scam. It's not true. Don't give him any money. He started texting to say, ‘Hey, T. I gotta rob Peter to pay Trish’,” Houston said.
She was told her case was a civil matter by the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office, Houston said, so she hired a private investigator to track Randolph down and was reimbursed a few hundred dollars. Not nearly all of the $10,150 she paid to try and buy a home.
After WWL-TV’s investigative series aired, Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Deputies arrested Randolph at his mother’s home, based on a tip. He's been behind bars ever since. Randolph recently pleaded guilty to three more counts of theft in Jefferson Parish, a fourth in Orleans Parish. That's Tomeka Anderson's case.
In all, Randolph has pleaded guilty to stealing more than $35,000 from people who were looking for help. High-profile defense attorney Robert Jenkins is representing Randolph.
“I can't discuss how he's paying us. But the fact is he has a very good family, extended family and they played a part in the negotiations towards the restitution,” Jenkins said.
The court ordered Randolph to pay Anderson back her $11,000 after he serves at most, a 5-year prison sentence. He still owes more than 20-thousand to two other victims in Jefferson that date back to 2015 and Wednesday, the Jefferson District Attorney filed paperwork asking for restitution from Randolph in the three more.
“That's a huge amount of money. Even in Tamika Anderson's case, that's $11,000. That's a lot of money but we've agreed and the client's agreed and we're gonna pay all of it back timely,” Jenkins said.
Anderson isn't confident she'll ever see a dime. Last year, she teared up talking about the impact it’s had on her daughters.
“They still ask me, when are we moving in? And we don't have a house to really move into,” she said.
Other victims WWL-TV found also have little hope they will ever get their money back, but they do want to get the word out about Randolph, so they can have faith that Faithful Real Estate and Randolph don't take a dime from anyone else.