Woman seeking redress in land deal gone sour
June 12, 2018
Woman seeking redress in land deal gone sour

A Vincentian woman who resides in the United States is seeking redress in a land deal gone sour between her and a local businessman.

Jo-Anne Smith, originally from Belair but who now lives in New York, entered into an agreement with Jason Rodriguez of Yambou to purchase 9305 square feet of land in the Mesopotamia Valley.
In an interview with SEARCHLIGHT, Smith’s son Hutson Matthews, who also lives in the United States said although he and his mother paid Rodriguez over 76 per cent of the purchase price of the land, they have received neither the land nor their money back.

Matthews explained that after meeting Rodriguez through a family friend, he and his mother enquired about a piece of land he was selling and after looking at it, decided they would purchase it.
According to Matthews, he, his mother and Rodriguez met with a lawyer who drafted an agreement for the buyer to make a deposit, followed by monthly payments of EC$1,500 to the vendor’s bank account, beginning September 31, 2015, and if a payment was missed, the deal would be off, and all the money already paid, forfeited.

“Should the purchaser breach the terms of the payment as set out above, the Vendor shall be entitled to retain not only the deposit, but all sums paid up to the time the breach by the Purchaser, such sum being forfeited by the Purchaser to the Vendor as compensation for loss of opportunity to sell the land to another willing Purchaser,” the contract states.

Matthews said the money was paid monthly in the form of deposits of US$600, and in some instances more than the agreed amount, into a Bank of America account owned by Rodriguez.

The contract of sale agreement, which was signed on July 17, 2015 at the law firm of Marks & Marks between Kirk Jason Rodriguez of Yambou and Joanne Smith of Belair, required Smith to pay EC$65,135 in total. She has so far paid EC$49,938 with a balance of EC$15,197.

Matthews however revealed that around January or February 2017, after over a year of making payments, he went to make his monthly transfer and was told that something was wrong with Rodriguez’s account.

Hutson Matthews

He said the account rejected the payment and when he tried to reach Rodriguez, he could not.

“They told me I needed to contact the account owner and inform him of the problem. We were trying to follow up with Jason, kept calling him and he finally responded and gave a different bank account number to deposit the money,” said Matthews.

He said he was able to deposit to the new account for one month only, for when he tried the second month, the deposit could not be made.

“We stored the money…we tried to get him, but it was a long time of no response and constant reach out and at that point, we started to call persons who knew him,” stated Matthews who said he reached Rodriguez after two months and the businessman said he had started a few new businesses and was busy.

“We were waiting for him to contact us, but something did not feel right, so I kept trying to reach out and that is when we decided to come to St Vincent,” said Matthews.

Jason Rodriguez

Matthews said his mother came to St Vincent in June 2017 with the sole purpose of getting the matter dealt with and acquiring the deed to start building, but she could not pin down Rodriguez as he kept making and missing meeting dates and times.

Matthews however claimed that although his mother was unable to meet with Rodriguez, the businessman gave her the go ahead to plant trees and build a foundation for the start of construction on the land.

Matthews said Rodriguez knew that they wanted to pay the balance of the money owed on the land and he was glad about that.

“He admitted to knowing there was a problem with the account and now it is funny to me he is saying he does now know.”

“We … have left, … less than … US$5,000 and now he is saying we breached the contract and we will not get the land,” said Matthews who declared his surprise, because at first Rodriguez seemed friendly.

Matthews said he has not spoken to Rodriguez in close to a year as he cannot reach him, and his mother last spoke to the businessman in June 2017 when she visited St Vincent.

“The contract also has a stipulation of him providing an account for the money to be deposited. We took all necessary steps to get in contact with him, reached out to persons who knew him,” stressed Matthews who added that there were times when Rodriguez asked for more money than the monthly payment and he was given this, so now, “the entire scenario is ridiculous.”

“People were telling us he saying breach of contract, but he gave us permission to do certain things. We don’t know if he has sold over the land…, we signed a contract that if no payment was made it would be deemed a forfeit, but under certain circumstance, it wasn’t just a simple forfeit like that,” said Matthews, who added that he would not pay as much money as he had, simply to walk away from it.

When contacted, Rodriguez said the contract was breached when the payments were not made on time. He also stated that his account was never closed. He refused to comment further and had a lawyer contact SEARCHLIGHT.

One person with knowledge of the situation said they were asked by Matthews and his mother to get in touch with Rodriguez last year after they could not get the money transferred.

“Many times they called me, trying to reach Jason and I told him and all he would say is tell them to call him. They were always trying to reach him. He even said when they come they could bring the money and when they came (June 2017) they could not find him,” said the person who spoke to SEARCHLIGHT under the condition of anonymity.

The person added, “they work hard for their money and this is the outcome. I think they should be given their justice.”

Another witness who also wanted to remain anonymous said that the buyers tried to reach Rodriguez on numerous occasions and could not.
Matthews and Smith have handed the matter over to a lawyer.