A Wilmington Township, Pa., man accused of illegally purchasing properties he formerly owned through a tax sale has pleaded guilty to a felony charge of deceptive business practices.
Lawrence County Common Pleas judge J. Craig Cox sentenced Gary Lee Moore, 69, of 374 Wilson Mill Road, to five years in the county’s intermediate punishment program. Of that time, he will serve 90 days on house arrest, with electronic monitoring under supervision by the county adult probation department, and the rest of the five years on probation. He will be allowed to leave his house only for work and for attending treatment.
Moore also is ordered to repay the county $86,265.29 for properties he bought illegally and resold.
Cox in handing down his sentence said that restitution is to be repaid on a monthly schedule that will be established between Moore and the probation office.
Moore was arrested in November 2016, and entered a plea agreement on June 15.
Five other related charges against Moore were dismissed as part of the plea agreement.
District Attorney Joshua Lamancusa explained earlier that Moore also had agreed to forfeit the ownership of a house at 1305 Delaware Ave. that the county confiscated. It was sold for $25,000 on Nov. 16 at a public auction through a sealed bidding process, and the money from the sale went into the county’s general fund.
Lamancusa had explained that the total restitution amount that Moore owed was $161,265. Eight of the nine properties he bought as part of the original property scheme were resold previously and $50,000 was repaid to the county, he said.
Initially, Moore had owed the county $317,000 in back taxes on the properties when they went into tax sale. He paid about $150,000 to repurchase them, Lamancusa said.
The county seized eight properties and sold them at auction for about $50,000, and $25,000 came from the Delaware Avenue sale, leaving Moore an owed balance of the $86,265, Lamancusa said.
Lamancusa did not attend Wednesday’s sentencing, and Assistant District Attorney Jonathan Miller served as the prosecutor. Moore was represented by attorney Dennis Elisco as private counsel.
District attorney detectives had been investigating Moore’s purchases since the secretary bought them at a property tax upset sale in May 2015.
Moore reportedly had repurchased the properties from the tax sale through his secretary in 2015, Lamancusa said, adding that Moore had been collecting rent on the properties since the repurchase.
According to a criminal complaint filed against Moore, the county tax claim bureau requires each participant in a judicial tax sale to complete a bid certification as conditions of judicial sale forms. Moore’s secretary completed the forms and was issued a bid number.
The state real estate tax sale law prohibits properties from being sold for delinquent taxes to the person who previously owned, then lost them when the parcels went into the sale, Lamancusa explained. The law also prohibits anyone acting on the former owner’s behalf to repurchase them.
The complaint alleges Moore accompanied his secretary to the May 14, 2015, tax sale when his properties were sold, and that members of the Lawrence County Assessment Office saw him advising her as to which properties to bid on, and how much to bid.
Cox asked during the sentencing hearing whether the district attorney’s office was in contact with the commissioners about the restitution. Miller said that Lamancusa had informed county solicitor Thomas W. Leslie of all of the proceedings.
Elisco told the court that Moore will be 70 years old on Jan. 9 and that he has been a longtime businessman and is well known in the community.
“He obviously regrets his lapse of judgment,” he said, adding, “This is a case about money.”
Elisco told the judge that the recommended house arrest “is designed to keep Mr. Moore working to pay whatever payments he’s capable of making.”
He added that Moore’s health issues prevent him from doing jail time.
“I appreciate the leniency and I apologize for any wrongdoings,” Moore told the court Wednesday. “I appreciate anything the court could do for me at this point in time.”
Because his conviction is a felony, Moore also was ordered to provide the courts with a DNA sample.
Tribune Content Agency