Charges: Posing as fat cat, woman squatted in mini-mansions
SEATTLE -- At 58, Jessica Carde has tried to wear a lot of hats, career-wise: Life coach. Hypnotherapist. "Neurobiofeedback" technician.
Now, King County prosecutors to add a few more - fraud, thief and, they hope, convicted felon.
Prosecutors claim Carde spent the past five years hopping from mini-mansion to mini-mansion across King and Snohomish counties, lying her way into homes and costing their owners hundreds of thousands of dollars. At the same time, Carde is said to have defrauded several lenders after putting herself forward as a rich victim of identity theft.
In charges filed earlier this month, prosecutors contend Carde even pretended to jump start the brain of a stroke victim who loaned her $140,000. When the man's family grew suspicious that her "brain wires" were a total fraud, Carde is alleged to have spread rumors that the man's wife was attempting to kill him while Carde also sought control over his financial affairs.
Carde, whose aliases include Jessica Hartman, Juanita Hofseth-Lammer and Juanita Frye, is alleged to have bilked at least seven people and three banks since 2006. Still at large, she now faces 12 felony counts, including four first-degree theft charges.
Asking that Carde be held on $150,000 bail, Deputy Prosecutor Hugo Torres said Carde wrongly accused at least five other people of committing crimes. One man accused by Carde of threatening her life was arrested and investigated before his name was cleared.
Citing a lengthy profile published in Seattle Weekly, Torres said Carde was once accused of kidnapping her own children during the late 1980s. The article shows Carde was not convicted of a crime in the purported custodial kidnapping.
Writing the court in charging papers, Department of Financial Institutions investigator Steven Sherman said Carde spent the past five years posing as a wealthy potential buyer to move into luxury homes around King County.
Her activities drew a stream of civil lawsuits and judgments, as well as the attention of at least two state agencies and the King County Prosecutor's Office. Sherman credited a Prosecutor's Office mortgage fraud investigator and a state Department of Health agent with driving the criminal investigation.
Illusion of wealth held key to mansions
Carde and her husband had been living in $650,000 home until they were foreclosed on in 2006. Since then, Carde is alleged to have weaseled her way into a series of luxury homes in Western Washington.
To do so, Carde presented herself as a well-to-do business owner with a significant line of credit who was interested in buying a home, Sherman told the court. But when the time came to make a down payment, Carde claimed to have had her identity stolen before pushing toward a lease-purchase agreement.
Lease-purchase agreements - also known as rent-to-buy plans - allow a would-be buyer to make payments to the homeowner overtime. After the agreed amount of money is paid, the home is signed over to the tenant.
Armed with letters showing her to be pre-qualified for a mortgage, Carde is alleged to have targeted upscale homes in the region. She is also said to have tricked private lenders into loaning her money, which she used, Sherman claimed, "to support her lifestyle and maintain the illusion that she was wealthy."
While she made initial payments in several cases, Carde never intended to honor the agreements she struck with the homeowners, Sherman told the court. Nor did she willingly leave.
Facing eviction, Carde retaliated against those whom she was defrauding by making false police reports, the investigator told the court. She accused one man of threatening to kill her and another of attempting to burn a house down around her.
'Brain wires' and lies
Carde's fraud spree is alleged to have begun in March 2006, when she approached the owner of a $2.5 million home in Preston.
Having met Carde days before, the home owner returned from a weekend trip to Mexico to find Carde had moved into his home during his absence, Sherman said in court documents. Alarmed, the man nonetheless signed a $12,000-a-month lease agreement with Carde; she ultimately paid $2,000 to $4,000 during the eight months she spent at the house before being evicted.
Finding herself in need of cash, Carde sought a personal loan. Doing so, Carde is alleged to have printed up business cards describing her, in part, as an "international speaker, trainer and consultant, personal/professional/executive life coach, neurobiofeedback technician/brain wave specialist, mediation specialist, health educator and instructor."
Carde received the loan from a wealthy man, which she subsequently refused to repay, Sherman told the court. All told, Carde is alleged to have taken $142,100 from the man; she repaid $2,525 of the loan.
In March 2010, Carde's lender suffered a severe stroke. Carde - the self-described "brain wave specialist" - offered to help.
"She said she could cure (him) with 'brain wires' and convinced his wife to let her try," Sherman told the court. "Carde placed electrodes on (his) head to 'blast the clot' away."
Carde told the man's family he was still "a genius" in half his brain. A relative told investigators Carde's machine simply showed a start screen.
Confronted by the man's family, Carde attempted to obtain a power of attorney agreement giving her control over his finances, according to charging papers. Carde is alleged to have told staff at the man's nursing home that his wife wanted to kill him; Carde was ultimately banned from the facility.
As it turned out, that was not the first time Carde posed as a medical professional. She was previously convicted of practicing medicine without a license; at the time, she was posing as a hypnotherapist and counselor.
Investigators claim woman sought loans to support scheme
While defrauding that man, Carde repeated her earlier scheme and moved into a $1.5 million North Bend home, Sherman told the court. Signing a lease-purchase agreement in January 2007, Carde is alleged to have lived in that Uplands housing development home for 18 months; she paid $5,500 to the owner before she was again evicted.
Sherman told the court Carde also made false claims in 2008 to a "turn down" mortgage lender while seeking to buy the North Bend home. The lender specialized in extending loans to homebuyers denied mortgages elsewhere.
Prosecutors claim Carde also bilked another man while living at the North Bend home. According to charging documents, she secured a $25,000 "bridge loan" which she has yet to repay.
Carde's stay cost the homeowners $400,000, Sherman told the court. The owners won a civil judgment against Carde, which remains unpaid.
Having been evicted, Carde moved into another, more expensive home located in the North Bend development. That home, valued at $2.4 million, was also for sale at the time.
According to charging papers, Carde convinced the homeowner and his wife - a former real estate agent - that she had a $3 million line of credit and ultimately got them to agree to a lease-purchase agreement similar to those she'd used elsewhere.
Carde lived in the home for six months before she was again evicted, Sherman told the court. The lost rent alone cost the homeowners $36,000.
Prosecutors seek prison; Carde at large
Prosecutors contend Carde repeated the scheme four more times, bilking homeowners in North Bend, Kirkland and Woodinville. One man turned down four other offers on his home after Carde arrived in a late-model Mercedes SUV; Carde is alleged to have told another homeowner her husband was dying of Guillian-Barre syndrome.
Prosecutors filed charges against Carde on March 11. She has been charged with four counts of first-degree theft, three counts of mortgage fraud, two counts of securities fraud, two counts of second-degree theft and one count of attempted first-degree theft.
While many of the alleged crimes occurred outside the statute of limitations set for such crimes, prosecutors contend each was part of an ongoing scheme that only ended in November. While the issue will likely be litigated, prosecutors are allowed to charge older crimes if they are part of a continuing criminal plan.
Carde remains at large.