Jail, judgment don't stop Gilbert conman from swindling Valley residentsPosted: Updated:
It's a name that's the subject of our reports several times over – Derek Walker Bollwinkel.
The Gilbert man with a history of conning people continues to come up on our radar.
He's done jail time twice in the past for forgery and criminal impersonation. He was busted for forging homeowners' names and renting out their empty homes in foreclosure.
Just last summer, Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich came down on Bollwinkel and his wife, Sydnee, with a $2.1 million judgment for a housing scam they ran on Craigslist. Our undercover cameras caught him in the act.
One might think jail time and a huge civil judgment would stop Bollwinkel in his tracks.
But after following him for years, we again find him embroiled in yet another scam involving cons, Craigslist and cash.
At the center of this latest incident is a run-down old house in Mesa that brought an unlikely cast of characters together.
That house is where we met 26-year-old Erinn Stewart, a waitress who had just moved in with her boyfriend and their eight pit bulls.
She found the three-bedroom house on Craigslist, where the post advertised "no credit check or background check."
"You could move in right away, and we needed something right away. We needed a place for dogs and a backyard. It was affordable," Stewart said.
She was shocked to learn she was renting from an ex-con.
"What? I gave him so much money. Like all the money I had!" she said.
As Stewart showed our cameras around the house, she started remembering some shady dealings.
"He wants cash. That's like the only thing he accepts. Now it makes sense," she recalled.
Just days before, Stewart gave Bollwinkel rent money. The exchange happened inside his car in a grocery store parking lot.
"It was really kind of sketchy honestly, because I was like, I feel like this is a drug deal or something," said Stewart.
She did know their stay would be short. The house on Indigo Street was in foreclosure. It belongs to Don and Sallie Morrison, who had to let it go after some major health issues.
"Right now I'm not working," Don Morrison said. "I haven't worked in almost a year."
The Morrisons thought their luck had changed when recently, Derek Walker Bollwinkel turned up at their house.
"He was a very smooth talker," describes Morrison.
Bollwinkel had the foreclosure paperwork on the Morrison's home. He knew how much they owed and claimed he was an investor who would negotiate with the banks, give the Morrisons $10,000 cash and get the foreclosure off their credit report.
"We just don't have a lot, and I thought this was going to help us," said Morrison.
Morrison said Bollwinkel claimed he typically closes a deal within 30 days and until he got a new contract with the banks, he would pay the Morrisons $250 a month.
Seemingly with nothing to lose, the Morrisons signed over the rights to their home to Bollwinkel.
Morrison tells 3TV he typically always thinks things through and wouldn't typically sign something so quickly, but Bollwinkel was a smooth talker and Morrison believed what he was saying.
Not too long afterward, the Morrisons had another visitor. It was an investigator from the Arizona Attorney General's Office.
It wasn't until he showed up at their door that the Morrisons learned who Bollwinkel really was. They found out he was hardly an investor and had a criminal past.
"I found out about what kind of person he really is, and I would never enter into a contract with someone like that," said Morrison.
And in those moments, Don Morrison realized he did, in fact, have something to lose in the deal with Bollwinkel after all.
"It kind of took your dignity away to have someone like that do that to you," said Morrison.
Within minutes of posting the Morrisons' home on Craigslist, Bollwinkel had a renter.
"He knew I was desperate because of the dog. He knew I needed a place to live," said Pauline Mueller. She was the first to answer the ad about the house on Indigo Street -- before Erinn Stewart.
The 62-year-old met with Bollwinkel that same night, giving him $1,100 of the $1,750 total move-in costs he was asking for.
She promised him the rest in five days when her tax return came in. In the meantime, the plastics factory worker had to take time off of work and rent a steam cleaner to clean the house.
When her return was late, Mueller told Bollwinkel she needed one more day to come up with the balance.
"I called him on Saturday. ‘I've got the rest of the money. Where can I give it to you?'" she asked. "'Oh, I'm sorry,' he said, ‘I've already rented that house.'"
The house was now suddenly rented to Stewart and her boyfriend. Mueller was devastated.
"It's just overwhelming," said Mueller.
Losing the house was one thing, but losing her money was another.
"He said, ‘I'm going to refund you $300 .' Out of my $1,100? And I said, Excuse me? And he goes, ‘You didn't give me a 30-day notice.' I said, I didn't even move into the house. What do you mean a 30-day notice?" recalls Pauline.
It was then she learned who she was truly dealing with. Mueller's niece had done a little digging.
"I texted him, and I said you should be ashamed of yourself, and I'm going to every state office I can go to. And he said, ‘Ashamed of myself? For what? You not paying your bills?'" read Mueller from her phone.
Bollwinkel further wrote, “Obviously, bad press does not bother me because I deal honestly with people and don't feel the need to prove it to low information people."
So how does a guy with a history of housing scams manage to stay in the housing business? We spoke with a real estate lawyer who read the contract the Morrisons signed with Bollwinkle. He said even though the paperwork might be misleading, it wasn't illegal.
We now know that as of this story, Bollwinkel never called the banks on the Morrisons' behalf and did not pay them the $250 as promised on the first of July. They now consider their contract null and void.
Last year, when we spoke to Attorney General Mark Brnovich about the $2.1 million civil judgment against Bollwinkel, he said, "folks like Mr. Bollwinkel will never operate in this town again."
This time, his office is not commenting because Bollwinkel's case is reportedly under investigation by the criminal division.
For now, Derek Walker Bollwinkel is free to keep doing what he's been doing to people like the Morrisons and Mueller and those caught in the middle, like Erinn Stewart and her boyfriend.
In realizing Bollwinkel may no longer have rights to the home, the couple questions whether they now owe him rent money.
The civil unit of the Attorney General's Office has reached out to Pauline Mueller to help settle her claim with a mediator. Bollwinkel reportedly offered to refund all or part of her $800 on certain conditions. One of those conditions is that she call 3TV and ask us to stop our story.
Mueller says, though she could certainly use the money, she doesn't care if Bollwinkel gave her $800 or $8,000.
She refuses to be silenced and wants as many people as possible to watch out for Derek Walker Bollwinkel.
"I want to be his last victim," said Mueller.
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