Woodwind Lakes, Revisited

With thunderstorms predicted for this afternoon, you may want to avail yourselves of the free indoor theatrical entertainment unfolding in Harris County 113th District Court. Sure, there’s no popcorn and the seats don’t recline, but the opening statements and testimony in this long-awaited trial promise to be as gripping as any Grisham thriller.

We bet Maria Castro won't look so friendly today in the courtroom.

Well, maybe not quite. But if you’re a sucker for complex yarns involving allegations of environmental catastrophe and real estate fraud, head on down to 201 Caroline.

In one corner stands Maria Castro, a 57-year-old Mexican immigrant and entrepreneur. Castro owns a Houston-based Mexican cheese manufacturing company. But Castro’s beef has nothing to do with cheese.

Rather, Castro claims she was fraudulently induced into buying a $250,000 home in the upscale Woodwind Lakes subdivision on the city’s northwest side. She bought the home to live closer to her grandkids. She had no idea that it was located on a former oil refinery being evaluated as a possible Superfund toxic-waste site.

Castro has sued Julie Sample, a 27-year-veteran real estate agent for Coldwell Banker and longtime Woodwind Lakes resident, for not giving proper disclosures on the home. Sample was the subject of a years-long investigation by the Texas Real Estate Commission, which can discipline unscrupulous realtors.

A victory for Castro could open the floodgates to more lawsuits since Sample has sold more than 100 houses in the subdivision, many with no disclosures whatsoever.

The Press article on Woodwind Lakes briefly mentioned Sample and the allegations against her. Hers was a bit-part in a large drama of neighbors attacking one another over issues of safety and property values. Today, and probably for the rest of this week, Sample’s story takes center stage in a courtroom near you. –Todd Spivak

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