RALEIGH — Attorney General Roy Cooper has filed a lawsuit against a Robeson County man accused of pocketing money people gave him to buy manufactured homes that he never provided, according to a statement from Cooper’s office.
According to the statement, George Henry Smith “pressured consumers” to buy manufactured homes he wasn’t authorized to sell and then kept their deposits.
“Using the dream of homeownership to trick consumers out of their hard-earned money is just plain wrong,” Cooper said. “My office is here to protect consumers from these misleading and fraudulent business tactics.”
The Department of Justice’s Consumer Protection Division filed the lawsuit against Smith on Thursday, asking the court to cancel all contracts buyers signed with Smith and to order Smith to pay refunds to consumers and $5,000 in civil penalties.
According to the Attorney General’s office, Smith advertised used and repossessed manufactured homes to consumers at Page Talk, a phone store where he worked, and at other locations in Robeson County. He targeted consumers who spoke limited English, using business cards in Spanish, the statement said.
Smith showed prospective buyers mobile homes he was not authorized to sell at Prevatte Home Sales and Terry Pate Home Sales in Lumberton, where he told consumers he was a salesman and sales lot employees he was an agent for the consumers.
Consumers paid deposits as large as $9,800. When the homes did not arrive, consumers contacted the sales lots and learned that the homes had already been sold or were never for sale. According to the statement, Smith has refused to refund the deposits, “leaving several families unable to afford rent and forced to move in with relatives.”
In the lawsuit, Cooper has asked that Smith be permanently barred from engaging in unfair or deceptive business practices, advertising or attempting to sell manufactured homes without a license, or accepting new orders or payments in North Carolina.
“Before you put down money on a manufactured home, check out the dealer or agent thoroughly,” Cooper said in the statement. “Buying a home is the biggest purchase many families will ever make, and you owe it to yourself to ask around in your community for a reputable place to make such an important purchase.”
Consumers can check out manufactured home companies with the Attorney General’s Office by calling 1-877-5-NO-SCAM or by contacting their local Better Business Bureau. Consumers can find out if someone is licensed to sell manufactured housing with the North Carolina Manufactured Housing Board.
Any consumer who has paid Smith for a manufactured home is encouraged to file a complaint with the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division in English by calling 1-877-5-NO-SCAM or in Spanish at 919-716-0058. Consumer complaints can also be filed at ncdoj.com in English or Spanish.