LEE COUNTY, Fla.- Lee County Sheriff's arrested two people accused of taking off with estate sale proceeds that didn't belong to them.
On April 23, 2014, detectives were called in reference to a fraud. The victim, whose mother passed away in 2012, had an estate worth approximately $450,000 in jewelry, and an additional $200,000 in furniture and other belongings. Charlotte Braden, owner of Sterling Estate Sales, was contracted to liquidate the remaining assets. She handled the estate sale on Marco Island and was to receive 30 percent of the proceeds, and in 30 days give the remaining proceeds to the victim. She reportedly never gave them an accounting of the sale, took all the remaining items, and kept all the money.
James McPartland, who owns House and Garden Outlet, partnered up with Charlotte Braden in October of 2013. He allegedly took all the furniture and items she had, which were stolen from all the victims, and arranged for a moving truck to move it all into two storage facilities. Both storage units were in his name. McPartland then ran all the sales from his consignment shop through his processing system and paid Braden for a portion of the sales after deducting the cost of the movers and the storage facility.
A civil lawsuit ensued, resulting in a $1.3 million judgment against Braden. Several search warrants were served on two storage facilities and her penthouse suite in Gulf Harbour. Jewelry, silver and other items belonging to the victim were recovered.
Over the course of the investigation, multiple other victims came forward and advised they had experienced the same situation. Most of them had property worth about $40,000, and all of them were able to identify some of their missing items, in one or both of the warehouses, that were discovered. Braden filed personal bankruptcy in an effort to avoid the judgment and then contacted McPartland to partner up and hide the assets.
Braden and McPartland have both been charged with Scheme to Defraud Aggregate Value over $50,000 and Grand Theft over $100,000.