Granite City attorney suspects fraud, orders title search

Steve Korris Jun. 30, 2005, 11:10am

Judge Matoesian

Madison County Title Company--hired by Granite City in its bid to throw out a court judgment in a suit over a house--confirmed what the Madison County Record reported in April. The person who obtained the judgment did not buy the house.

Attorney Jane Unsell of Alton, representing Granite City, wrote to Circuit Judge Andy Matoesian on June 21 that she suspected fraud in a transfer of 9 Briarcliff Drive from Chad Carpenter to plaintiff Armettia Peach.

"In this case, there are unusual facts which call into question the transaction between Chad Carpenter and Armettia Peach...the record suggests that there may have been fraud in the transfer of this property," Unsell wrote.

Unsell also said an article in the Record prompted her to hire a title company. To present the information in court, she said, she needed someone with expertise.

The title company confirmed that in 2003, Carpenter transferred the house to Peach by quit claim deed with no money changing hands.

Unsell wants to question Peach and Carpenter about the transfer. She served deposition notices on them, but Peach moved to quash the depositions.

Peach’s attorney, Thomas Maag of the Lakin Law Firm in Wood River, argues that the city cannot depose anyone after a court has entered judgment.

Unsell argues that Matoesian should allow depositions due to unusual facts in the case.

Matoesian set a June 30 hearing on the motion to quash depositions, but he called it off due to the death of Maag’s grandfather, Ed Maag.

Peach sued in March 2004, claiming that the city should not have issued an occupancy permit. She charged that water leaked through the roof and damaged the house.

She named Kevin Link and David Lambert as other defendants, claiming that they sold the house after performing cosmetic repairs that hid defects.

Peach dismissed Lambert conditionally.

Link responded to the suit by demanding a jury trial. Granite City did not respond at all.

Peach moved for default judgment against Granite City. Matoesian granted it. He ruled that the purchase price was $70,000, and repairs cost $8,242.50.

He awarded attorney’s fees of $26,016.67, bringing the total to $104,259.17.

Peach then moved to dismiss Link. Matoesian ruled that he would dismiss Link after issuing his final order in the case.

Maag sent the city a letter in November, asking for payment. Granite City moved to vacate the judgment.

“The city never received notice from plaintiff that she intended to seek relief specifically from the city,” Unsell wrote to Matoesian.

The city moved in February to stay execution of judgment. Peach agreed in March that she would not proceed with execution of judgment until Matoesian held a hearing on it.

In March, Link told the Record that in 2002, he bought the house, improved it and put it up for sale. He said Peach gave him $20,000 in $20 bills as a down payment.

Link said Peach asked the price. When he responded that it was $68,900, she agreed.

Because of the unusual circumstances, Link said he spread the bills on a table and photographed them. He produced a photo of $20 bills by the hundreds.

He said that at closing, Peach arrived with a man she identified as Chad Carpenter, saying he would buy the house. County records show that Carpenter paid $68,900.

Granite City paid Madison County Title Company $139.70 for the title search.

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