Newtown police started investigating on Aug. 24, 2021, when the actual owner, a man in East Dennis, Massachusetts, who owned lakefront property in Sandy Hook, called police to report potential identity theft.
But, the owner had not sold the property.
He told police it had been vacant for years and the home was uninhabitable, but he was holding onto it as an investment.
As they investigated, police learned that the property, which is assessed at more than $250,000, had been sold on July 26, 2021, for $65,000 and sale documents had been filed with the town.
When police talked to the man who bought the property, they began to discover more.
He told them he’d been interested in land on Lake Zoar and saw a property that looked vacant and abandoned, so he asked the neighbors who owned it. They told him the owner had been thinking about selling, but it was not for sale at the time, according to court paperwork.
Then, the prospective buyer contacted a real estate agent who gave him the name of the owner and several phone numbers listed for someone by the same name, according to police.
The buyer called the first number and the person who answered said he did own the property and agreed to sell it for $65,000, police said. The sale and wire transfer were completed on July 26, 2021.
As police looked into the sale, the attorney representing the buyer presented police with a notarized deed provided by the town clerk’s office in Newtown, according to court documents. It had been notarized at a bank and signed by Edwin Robert Lewis, of Willington, according to court documents.
Police wrote that it’s believed that because Lewis and the real owner have very similar names, the notary believed the two men were the same person. And police believe that Lewis used his bank account to fraudulently represent himself as the property owner, according to court paperwork.
Lewis was arrested on July 25, nearly a year after the sale happened.
He has been charged with money laundering in the second degree, identity theft in the first degree, larceny in the first degree, criminal impersonation and forgery in the second degree.
Lewis was released after posting a $150,000 bond. During a hearing Thursday, he pleaded not guilty.
Christopher Cerami, an attorney with Willinger, Willinger & Bucci, who is representing Lewis, provided NBC Connecticut with a statement last week.
“Our client intends to plead not guilty and we intend to present evidence in the appropriate forum to confirm his not guilty plea,” Cerami said.
Lewis has a court date set for Sept. 15.
The person who bought the property from Lewis told NBC Connecticut that he lost around $75,000, but eventually did buy the property from the actual owner.
In a text, the legitimate property owner told NBC Connecticut, "I'm grateful the Newtown PD did the work to finish the investigation. And I'm very glad there was no violence making the collar."
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