A Bastrop County jury levied Justice of the Peace Donna Thomson with a $1 million judgment in a case involving real estate fraud and the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act. According to a recent article in the Austin American Statesman, Thomson deceived Raul Vasquez to encourage him to buy her house on Bastrop’s 200 block of Lamaloa Lane.
According to court documents and testimony during trial, Thomson said she owned the property “free and clear,” when in reality she had a mortgage on the property.
The Judge Was A Repeat Offender
Vazquez agreed to pay $150,000 for the home and put $30,000 as a down payment. He then paid Thomson $1,300 monthly beginning at the end of July in 2016. Thomson later evicted Vazquez and kept the money. While these legal actions were part of initial contract for purchase, Thomson did the same thing to a school teacher and her fiancé who tried to buy the property a year earlier.
The Damages Awarded
Considering the amount awarded for damages, it is clear that the jury took a dim view of a judge (and perhaps other public officials) using their office as leverage to exploit ordinary citizens. The jury awarded $750,000 for exemplary damages, $64,300 in damages, $57,300 for violation of the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act, as well as an additional $30,000 because the jury thought the judge acted knowingly and intentionally.
This is a cautionary tale with a happy ending. However, that is not always the case. It is important to remember that buying a house or home is the biggest investment most Americans make, so it is always wise protect your investment.