Alleged fraudster Robert Robertson was well-seasoned before arriving in Merritt to scam a local politician in 2006.
While acting under the guise of an honest modular home salesman out of Kamloops, he allegedly convinced City of Merritt Coun. Harry Kroeker to give him $60,000 for a piece of the action on what turned out to be a property that was never available.
“He’s got no scruples at all, that man,” Kroeker said Thursday, after the story broke. “He would take any opportunity that comes his way, and he knew I wanted a house real bad.”
Robertson pitched the plan for the new housing development in 2006, when Kroeker approached Metro for a new home to which he and his wife could retire, he said.
That’s when Robertson allegedly told Kroeker he purchased the Coyote Bluffs property and the Kamloops firm was the developer.
“I told him I was interested in putting a home on it,” Kroeker said. “[Robertson] then went over the details with me and I picked out a lot from the subdivision plan and he started to do some work on the property.”
Several contractors were also tricked after Robertson didn’t pay for geothermal drilling and for design work, he added.
Kroeker said he was taken to the lot, where Robertson showed him work in progress.
Eventually, all the lots were earmarked to buyers who weren’t willing to pay a deposit until seeing construction.
“They were smarter than me. They weren’t giving out money until they saw some houses start going up,” Kroeker said.
When Robertson came up with excuses for delayed development, people became wary. But by that time, it was too late.
“I paid him for the lot, and then he took off with our money,” Kroeker recalled. “I kept asking him, ‘Where is the house?’ He kept having excuses and then all of a sudden, he was just gone.”
This isn’t the first time the alleged con man has taken off with a slew of cash, and now there is a Canada-wide warrant for his arrest.
Blogs dedicated to exposing Robertson have attracted people telling their stories about how they have been duped, with one Torontonian reportedly losing up to $850,000.
A woman in Penticton allegedly gave Robertson $250,000 for her lot and house that never came to fruition – and a Vancouver man said he gave $500,000.
Robertson also allegedly ran a business into the ground while working as a sales agent for them in Okanagan Falls, B.C.
As an owner of the former business venture HomesDelivery, Marten Kroes knows all too well the alleged con man’s tactics.
“Currently, he is still operating in Belize doing the same thing,” he said in an email. “We have three or four more people coming forward, currently, but it is a slow process.”
Global TV, which ran a story on Robertson in October, eventually contacted him in Belize, Kroeker said.
“He just told them ‘You can go ahead and do what you want, but you can’t touch me,” he said.
Merritt Mayor Susan Roline said Robertson approached council to rezone the area to allow for the development.
“This alleged fraudster has travelled through the United States, up through Canada and happened to hit Merritt,” she said. “He was in the process of trying to set up a modular home subdivision.”
Roline wasn’t mayor at the time.
The victims say that all they can do now is hope the alleged million-dollar con man is caught, and expose his tactics, warning people of a potentially life-changing encounter.