The 7 Investigators have been exposing a disturbing pattern of some public officials and real estate brokers taking over estates after someone dies, leaving the rightful heirs with very little.
- Macomb County Probate Public Administrator resigns after investigation
- Are probate claims being used to take Michigan homes from rightful heirs?
- Michigan AG suspends probate foreclosure practice in wake of investigation
- How to avoid losing everything to probate after your loved one dies
- Families say local realtor, attorney cashing in on estates of their recently passed loved ones
- Tips you need to know to take a loved one's estate through probate
Here’s what’s been happening: Real Estate Broker Ralph Roberts has teamed up with some Attorney General-appointed lawyers called Public Administrators. The Public Administrators and Roberts’ company, Probate Asset Recovery, bill the estates for thousands of dollars, plus Roberts gets real estate commissions when they sell the homes that are at stake in the estates after someone dies. The Public Administrators then take legal fees from the estate.
“I find properties. I believe there’s a benefit, so I then tell a public administrator, here’s the benefit there,” Roberts told 7 Investigator Heather Catallo in November 2016.
Cecil St. Pierre was one of those Attorney General-appointed Public Administrators. He’s also the Warren City Council President.
“They messed with the wrong family this time,” said Petar Georgievski. When Georgievski’s mother passed away last August, she used a Quit Claim Deed to give her Warren house to her son. Georgievski says he later found out that money was owed for a small loan on the home, and his lawyer tried to address it with the bank. But without warning, Georgievski says the house was sold at Sheriff’s Sale.
“No notice to myself, no notice to this home, no notice to my current residence, no noticed to my brother, no notice to my attorney that this foreclosure was happening on April 7,” said Georgievski.
Luckily, Georgievski says he had a friend in attendance at that Sheriff’s auction who witnessed Ralph Roberts attempting to purchase that house, but he lost the bidding war.
“So my understanding is that he was furious that he didn't win the bid,” said Georgievski.
That bidding war resulted in a surplus of $70,000 from the sheriff’s sale. That surplus should go to Petar Georgievski, as the original owner of the home. But Georgievski says St. Pierre and Roberts tried to take that cash.
“That same exact day, Cecil opens a probate case. [He] doesn't even wait 24 hours-- that day, within that hour that that auction closed,” said Georgievski.
In St. Pierre’s petition to take over the probate estate for Georgievski’s mother , he only asset he lists: that $70,000 surplus. And Ralph Robert’s company called Probate Asset Recovery, LLC paid the fees to open the estate.
“That's ridiculous. none of that is their money,” Georgievski told Catallo. “It's sickening to think that there's people out there like that and he's got to be stopped. He's got to be stopped!”
After our investigations aired, the Michigan Attorney General suspended Cecil St. Pierre as a Public Administrator, and Attorney General Bill Schuette later suspended the entire practice of opening estates where houses are in foreclosure.
Ultimately, Georgievski got the surplus, paid off the debts, and sold the home; although he still had to go to court to get Cecil St. Pierre removed from his mother’s probate case. But St. Pierre did not show up.
“He has failed to appear at this court this morning. I am going to set this matter for a show cause so that Mr. St. Pierre can explain why he failed to appear in court this morning,” said Macomb County Probate Judge Sandra Harrison-Suratt.
That means on Monday June 12, Mr. St. Pierre will have to show the judge why he should not be held in contempt of court. The same day that the judge issued that Show Cause order, St. Pierre resigned as a Public Administrator because of a “barrage of false allegations.” He told the Attorney General that he was grateful he could help so many people over the years, but there are just too many distractions for him to continue to serve as Public Administrator.
If this has happened to you, click HERE to file a complaint with the Michigan Attorney General, who appoints Public Administrators.
Click HERE to file a complaint with the State of Michigan against a real estate agent/broker.
If you have a story for Heather Catallo, please email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 248-827-4473.