A Texas City woman claims in a civil lawsuit to have lost $200,000 to a man she met via e-mail who persuaded her to back him in a house-flipping venture.
The suit, filed by attorney Russell Plackemeier of Texas City, states that 55-year-old Jan Merklin met his client -- "Shelly" -- via e-mail on February 13 of this year and immediately proposed that the two of them pursue a house-flipping venture together.
A month later, Shelly drove to Schulenburg to meet Merklin. There, according to the suit, Merklin presented himself as a very experienced contractor and an expert in real estate. He assured Shelly that her golden years would be that much more golden if she would only spot him a little cash -- $200,000 to be exact. Just to get him off his feet and get the ball rolling on their joint venture, he continued. Once the cash started pouring in, she would get all that back and then some.
The rest of March and April passed. According to the suit, Merklin continued pestering a reluctant Shelly, until, on May 4, she signed a business agreement with Merklin. Merklin assured her it was an industry-standard document, the suit says.
That very day, Shelly wired $200,000 from her personal bank account into a joint account she shared with Merklin.
Six days later every penny was gone, and Merklin stopped answering the phone. Two weeks after that, Shelly terminated the business agreement and requested the immediate return of her investment. That development has not yet transpired; hence this lawsuit.
The suit alleges common law fraud and seeks the return of Shelly's $200,000 with interest and $5,000 in attorney's fees.
The suit states that Merklin could be served at his usual place of abode -- a home in Spring, from which, per LinkedIn, he operated his contracting business. However, on June 17, a month after the transaction with Shelly, someone named Jan Merklin posted this on an Oklahoma real estate site:
I'm moving to OK City and looking to partner up with other investors to flip houses. I have been a contractor for 30 years and I have money to invest. I'm also interested in working with wholesalers and hard money. Feel free to contact me.
That's a far cry from his business pitch when he was living in Florida back in 2005. Hat in hand, he sat down at his keyboard and typed this plaintive message on a Yahoo! board:
My desire is to buy, renovate and re-sell properties. However, at this point in my life, due to hardships in the past two years of a nasty divorce, my credit is not back to the point of being able to secure a conventional type of loan, nor is it at the point of being able to secure a hard money loan with a hard money broker that does credit checks. I am working on that, which will take time, but in the meantime, I would appreciate if you would share the names and phone numbers of hard money lenders who would give me a break. Additionally, I'm not opposed to a "partnership". I am also open to anyone who is willing to share his/her knowledge and whatever else you'd care to share to help a fellow being to get ahead.
One of Merklin's ex-lovers went on Megagripe.com several years ago and had this to say:
This Singlesnet regular is using Craigslist to SOLICIT for sex, then DUMPS you hours after you agree to meet him. when he CLAIMS he will TRY for a REAL RELATIONSHIP. This perv ATTEMPTS to lure women with decrees of a strong, dominating sex drive and a search for a Friends With Benefits arrangement, claiming OTHER WOMEN have MISTAKENLY accused him of abuse. He will tell you "you KNOW what we BOTH want" and tends to desire hookups or dates fairly spontaneously.
The post went on to portray him as possibly dangerous. Posters have been chiming in from 2009 until a few weeks ago, agreeing with the original author.
Another of his exes went on the same site and posted this:
This guy is DANGEROUS! An Abuser, a user and seems to always get by with it. He moves around the country, romancing "older" women. He is unattractive and crude, but will make you "feel sorry" for his "plight and life". 4 times married (that I know about), he has a string of women he has used all over. A woman in Florida lost her home because he told her they could make a lot of money "flipping houses" and she took out a mortgage to get money to do that. He took the money, left town (supposedly to find the houses) and used it to romance his "next" true love.
And that's just the tip of the iceberg of that woman's complaint.
Merklin has moved around a lot, from Philadelphia to North Carolina, Tennessee, Florida, Texas and now, apparently, Oklahoma. He is reportedly hearing-impaired and uses the Internet handles Ablehandyman and Goodguytn57.
Merklin has yet to file a response to the suit. We've got a call in to Shelly's attorney.