Asheboro man charged after leasing single mom home he didn’t own

ASHEBORO, N.C. -- Terri Willard’s dream were about to come true. She’s a single mom working full time while taking classes to get her master’s degree. On top of that she’s raising four young kids.

She just moved into her new home on Willow Road in Asheboro, signing a lease with Triad Property Solution LLC’s Don Lee Essick on April 1.

Turns out, Essick did not own the property.

“Within a week we had a Realtor show up at our house basically saying that Lee doesn't own this house, it's owned by Fannie Mae, the bank, and our lease was invalid,” Willard said.

Paperwork shows the home was foreclosed on Feb. 7. Willard wasn’t the only one surprised. Downstairs, another couple just signed a lease with Essick and were also being told by the bank they had to leave.

“I mean we haven't even been able to unpack,” said Katherine Burgess. “I mean we still have everything in boxes, there's no point in unpacking if we have to pick up and move again.”

“The last thing I need is to have to move again and uproot my children,” Willard said.

The two say they gave Essick nearly $1,000 each between rent and deposit, and that’s not including the money they lost in moving expenses.

“We thought that we were actually gonna purchase this house, and we thought on the 15th of this month that we were gonna give this man an additional $5,000,” Willard said.

FOX8 spoke with Fannie Mae over the phone. A representative said Essick is not the manager of the property. Paperwork shows the Willow Street Land Trust, managed by Essick, took ownership of the house in 2013, but the bank says mortgage payments stopped around April 2016.

“We trusted what he was telling us, until we found out things weren't true,” Willard said.

Thursday Essick was arrested on two charges of obtaining property under false pretenses and two counts of common law forgery for signing the April 1 lease as the property’s manager.

Essick posted $2,500 bond Thursday afternoon. FOX8 confronted Essick at the Randolph County Jail asking, “Why would you sell them a home, knowing it was foreclosed on?”

“I didn’t know it was foreclosed on,” Essick said.

That’s not true. Notices from the Fannie Mae’s receiver shows Essick was notified of the foreclosure multiple times starting in January. Asheboro police, who led the investigation bringing the charges, confirmed on the record Essick “clearly knew” what he was doing in selling these tenants a foreclosed home.

Essick manages other properties in Greensboro and Randolph County. FOX8 asked if this case was the only time he has done this.

“I keep an A-rating with the BBB,”Essick said.

That is true, although Triad Property Solutions LLC has received two complaints for not making mortgage payments on time and missing mortgage payments entirely. The Better Business Bureau says those cases have been closed, but will reevaluate Essick’s rating in light of these new allegations.

The two families were set to be kicked out next week, but a representative says in light of the FOX8 investigation, Fannie Mae will extend that deadline 30 days and give each family $1,000 to help relocate. The two families are seeking low-income housing.

Essick will see a judge for the first time on Monday. The two felony counts of obtaining property under false pretenses could lead to up to four years in jail.