Lawsuit Alleges Fraud in Industrial Site Land Deal

WINNSBORO (Oct. 27, 2016) – Fairfield County Council made it official last July, passing third reading on a deal to partner with the S.C. Department of Commerce to purchase more than 1,000 acres of land near I-77 and Highway 34 to develop as a mega-industrial site.

Last month, one of the owners of a key portion of that land filed a lawsuit in the Sixth Judicial Circuit claiming, among other things, that she was misled in the deal for her parcels to the point of fraud.

Named as defendants in the suit are Long Leaf Land Co., an LLC organized by Parker Poe attorney Ray E. Jones; and Russell D. (David) Brown and Russell M. (Russ) Brown and their respective real estate companies. Also named are Ray E. Jones and the Fairfield County government. Jones also represents the County in the mega-site land deal.

Cedar Tree Plantation, LP, and its general partner, Margaret Patrick, the plaintiff, is the owner of several key tracts along I-77. In the summer of 2014, Long Leaf Land Co., LLC began buying up parcels in the area ahead of the County-Department of Commerce deal.

According to the lawsuit, filed Oct. 18, Russ Brown, a Ridgeway real estate agent, was in charge of acquiring the property for Long Leaf. But when it came time to approach Patrick about her land, Russ Brown asked his father, Winnsboro real estate agent David Brown, to do that particular piece of legwork. David Brown (a County Councilman at the time) and Patrick had known each other for more than 30 years, the suit states, and Russ Brown felt Patrick “would be more receptive to being approached by David Brown because of their long-standing relationship.”

On June 23, 2014, the lawsuit states, David Brown became the dual agent for Long Leaf and Patrick. A little more than a month later, Cedar Tree and Long Leaf entered into an option agreement, which gave Long Leaf one year to purchase approximately 290 acres.

Patrick alleges that David Brown promised her “top dollar” for her property. Two of her four tracts were priced at $9,000 an acre. Two other tracts for $7,000 an acre. Of the two $7,000 an acre tracts, Patrick claims, one should have been priced at $9,000 an acre. The price for that tract, the suit claims, was changed after Patrick signed the option agreement.

The lawsuit notes that Patrick did not initial the individual pages of the option agreement, and the page containing the signatures of the parties is a separate page.

Patrick later learned, the suit states, that another nearby property owner received more than $10,000 an acre for her tracts, meaning Cedar Tree did not, in fact, receive “top dollar.”

The lawsuit claims that David Brown promised Patrick that, on behalf of Long Leaf, “he would get her ‘the rest of the money’ to match the price” of the other property owner. However, the suit states, he did not do so.

There were also issues with the land survey under the option agreement, the lawsuit alleges. The survey, conducted by Glenn Associates at Long Leaf’s expense, included land that was not part of the option agreement, Patrick claims. Furthermore, posts marking the boundaries of the property where timber was to be harvested were removed and replaced with new posts. The new posts, the suit states, significantly reduced the amount of timber Cedar Tree was able to harvest and sell.

The survey added nearly 241 feet to Long Leaf’s acquisition, the suit states, which would force Patrick to move a cabin located on the property while also cutting off Cedar Tree’s access to the railroad crossing. None of those things were part of the original option agreement, the suit claims; and had they been, Patrick would not have entered into the deal.

The lawsuit alleges fraud on the part of David Brown, as well as negligent misrepresentation and breach of contract.

“The Plaintiff is informed and believes it is entitled to judgment against the Defendants in an amount to be proved at trial,” the suit concludes.

Glen Bowens of Winnsboro and Robert Hartman of Ridgeway are representing the plaintiff. The Browns are being represented by Michael Tighe of Callison and Tighe. The County has retained John K. DuBose of Dubose-Robinson of Camden.

Reached by telephone Tuesday, both David and Russ Brown declined to comment on the lawsuit.

 

Comments

  1. Our economic development plan is helping some. It seems a former Councilman and our friends at Parker Poe are well positioned to reap the benefits of our taxpayer funded economic investments. On the other hand, the rest of us get South Carolinas’ sixth highest unemployment rate and lots of empty industrial sites. What a plan!! What a deal!

  2. Pat Williams says

    How is it that former Council members can’t let go & allow Fairfield County move forward? When it became more than obvious some were in it only for themselves & the money, they were exposed & were either voted out or recognized the inevitable outcome at hand for themselves. However, some continued to drive their influence forward either through new council members or having their hands in other County developments. PLEASE, be satisfied with what you’ve taken from this County & be done!

  3. WGT Bright says

    I am not so certain it is just those elected who were exposed and voted out who are reaping benefits at the expense of the unconnected. Every single landowner from whom the county purchases land should be listed.

  4. Marcus Polk says

    The real estate agents get richer. The landowner gets greedier. Alleged fraud by a former County Councilman. You gotta love America and Fairfield County!

  5. Jeffrey D Schaffer says

    We all saw it coming you heard the sound of the train as it left the station. All aboard who are ticketed connected and in the pocket of anyone who has influence. You are not guilty until proven so, However…In the eyes of the people it seems that all the industrial parks bought by the county named for a Brown are either 1/4 full or 3/4 empty and yet somehow, we buy more land and open up another industrial park same name new number, same greeed, same stupidity.
    You know who’s getting rich and greedy. And you and I are paying for it.

  6. Been saying it for years but no one would listen.

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