St. Pete Times investigation featured on CNBC's series 'American Greed'
Way back in 2003, St. Petersburg Times reporter Jeff Testerman wrote a story headlined "Dubious Housing Deals Line Avenue," noting Tampa officials were questioning sales of homes along a stretch of Amelia Avenue that saw a structure valued at $85,000 sold for more than $500,000.
Even back in the pre-housing bust days, that was a lot of markup. About midway through the story, Testerman mentioned the director of acquisitions for a company behind several questionable transactions, Matthew B. Cox. About a year later, Testerman wrote another story about Cox, detailing how he wrote a 300-plus-page manuscript that may have been the blueprint from a spree of mortgage fraud which netted nearly $3-million.
It wasn't until November 2006 that Cox was arrested, after authorities had been pursuing him for two years, with some estimates of the money he'd swindled by faking identities and setting up phony loans rising high as $12-million. Now CNBC is featuring a look at Cox, which includes references to Testerman's work, as part of the season premiere of its American Greed series, returning at 9 p.m. Wednesday.
Testerman, the guy who also bird-dogged former Hillsborough County elections supervisor Buddy Johnson's many problems, even connected a babysitter who thought she had found Cox with an attorney for one of his former accomplices, so the sitter could request a reward for turning in the guy.
CNBC's story airs at 9 p.m. Wednesday, offering another look at how newspapers can help the community, offering the kind of long-term investigations that can expose widespread fraud.
Click below to see CNBC's release on it all:
$12 MILLION SWINDLED…COURTESY OF THE BONNIE & CLYDE OF MORTGAGE FRAUD
CNBC PRESENTS SEASON PREMIERE OF “AMERICAN GREED” WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 7
ENGLEWOOD CLIFFS, N.J., January 5, 2009 — He was a master of ID theft who made his way through Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Texas and Tennessee with a female companion in tow, swindling hard-working people out of millions of dollars along the way. In the season premiere of CNBC’s “AMERICAN GREED,” airing WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 7th at 9PM ET, the tangled story of Matt Cox and his $12 million mortgage fraud scheme is exposed, including interviews with victims, accomplices and the villain himself.
CNBC’s “American Greed” reveals how this unlikely lothario used fraudulent real-estate dealings that provided him with fast cars, a grand house, and plenty of cash, which in turn helped him to attract a steady stream of young, beautiful female companions. Once he roped in a new girlfriend, usually a down-on-her-luck single mother, they would engage in a scheme that used stolen identities to take out mortgage loans on properties that he didn’t own, enabling him to pocket the cash.
Shortly after Cox’s first accomplice takes her newly acquired false identity to a mortgage refinance meeting and walks out with a check for $117,000, he asks her to leave her home and young son in Tampa to go on the run. When she refuses he finds another “Bonnie” to his Clyde who is willing to comply. The pair take their scheme on the road to Georgia, South Carolina and Texas as they make – and spend – millions.
Meanwhile, a reporter from the St. Petersburg Times is hot on ”the trail, dozens of people whose identities have been stolen and credit ruined become vocal, and law enforcement officials step up their investigation. As Cox feels his scheme collapsing around him he flees his current residence in Houston and heads to Nashville. There, a strange set of circumstances puts an end to his crime spree.
“American Greed” is produced by Kurtis Productions. Sharon Barrett is the producer for Kurtis Productions. Charles Schaeffer is the Executive Producer for CNBC of “American Greed.” Jonathan Wald is the Senior Vice President, Business News at CNBC.
For more information including web extras and extended video clips, log onto americangreed.cnbc.com.