Attorneys victims of real estate scam, suit alleges

PARKERSBURG - Two attorneys are seeking return of money they say a Wood County man swindled from them in a bogus real estate deal. On Jan. 7, Eric K. Powell and James C. Powell filed suit against Robert Keith Sheppard in Wood Circuit Court. In their complaint and suit, filed with the assistance of Charleston attorney Anthony Majestro, the Powells allege Sheppard convinced them to invest $75,000 into a retail development he knew to be false. Majestro is James's partner in the law firm of Powell and Majestro while Eric, James' brother, is sole proprietor of the Powell Law Offices in Parkersburg. According to court records, Sheppard approached Eric Powell in November 2006 to invest in Neal Run Crossing, a proposed business development near the intersection of W. Va. 95 and 68 in Wood County. In addition to leading Powell to believe the development would be the first exit off the bridge coming from Ohio on U.S. 50/Corridor D, Sheppard dropped the names of businesses that were interested in locating there. Those businesses included, McDonald's, Bass Pro Shops, Wal-Mart, Bob Evans, Rite Aid and Sheetz, records show. Though records do not state when, but the Powells invested $75,000 with Sheppard in the Neal Run Crossing project. However, their investment came after Sheppard met with Eric personally several times in early 2007, and spoke with James on at least two occasions via the telephone. Apparently, the Powells are not Sheppard's only victims as they allege he entered into an agreement with Larry George "to approach and solicit persons who may elect, choose or decide to provide financing to Neal Run Crossing or Larry George." Though records are unclear as to George's exact relationship with Sheppard except Sheppard would keep "an amount equal to ten percent of whatever amount Plaintiffs financially contributed." Nevertheless, the Powells discovered during the Spring of 2008 that all representations Sheppard made to them about the Neal Run Crossing project were false. They allege he fabricated the story about the development so he could "take, steal, defraud, and otherwise convert [their] money to his own." In their suit, the Powell accuse Sheppard of grand larceny, embezzlement, fraud and breach of fiduciary duty. In addition to unspecified compensatory and punitive damages, they are asking for a court ordered sale of any property owned by Sheppard to begin repayment of the money they lost. The case has been assigned to Judge J.D. Beane. Wood Circuit Court, Case No. 09-C-05

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