Feisty senior fights to expose estate sale business
With help from a TV station, Marie Walsh gets some justice
On Aug. 1, KGW News Channel 8 aired a segment on estate sale scams, and the victim at the heart of the piece was familiar to many in King City: former resident Marie Walsh, who lived on Monterey Lane.
In the piece, KGW reporter Ed Teachout pointed out that "no one regulates the estate sale business," and he investigated Bill Mann of Oregon Estate Services, learning that "10 complaints have been filed against him in recent years" and that the Better Business Bureau has given the company an F rating. In addition, Teachout learned the Saltzman Road address that the business used didn't exist.
Since Marie left King City in late March, she has been living happily in a lovely apartment in the Springs at Tannesbourne's independent-living complex, and she luckily retained enough furniture, artwork and glassware to decorate her new place.
Marie, who has 28 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren, moved to King City in 1996 after her second husband died and met Mann at a Summerfield estate sale about five years ago. She bought a high-backed chair from him, and a friend purchased two chairs.
"He even delivered it to me," she said. "I got his card in case I wanted to have an estate sale in the future, and my son put it in my safe deposit box."
Fast forward a few years, and Marie was having some health problems and looking for a place to live that would be easier on her.
"My grandson found this - it's a lovely place," Marie said of the Springs. "I was going to move at the end of April, but this apartment with a balcony over the courtyard opened up, and I moved in two weeks.
"I had been planning on having a joint garage sale with two friends, but when things happened fast, I called Bill. I trusted him - he was such a nice man, and he only takes 25 percent of the profit."
On the evening that Mann came by with a contract, Marie's real estate agent, Brad Wyatt, also was there, and after everyone was through talking, Mann left without the contract being signed.
"I called him, and he said, 'That's OK,'" Marie said. "'You know you can trust me, and I can trust you. I live near you, and I'll come by with it.' But he never did."
The sale was held April 21 and 22, and Marie said she went to her old house the day before to check on things.
"The hutch was gone and so was the refrigerator," she said. "Bill said that he was going to take the hutch to an auction. He sold it for only $175 - it was a Georgetown Manor piece and didn't have a scratch on it."
Marie said that Mann also got really low prices for items - including garden structures such as a lion fastened down with cement screws - that she intended to leave for the next owners.
In addition, numerous small but expensive pieces such as Lalique glassware, German flower vases, wine glasses, collector plates, pedestal cake plates, doll collections and Hummel figures were not even listed on the inventory of items sold.
"Bill said that the contract said that he didn't need to itemize items under $50, and my son pointed out that he didn't have a contract," said Marie, who came into her second marriage with three grown children while her husband had seven.
"I used to have fancy dinners all the time, and everything matched - the crystal, the china, the tablecloth," Marie said. "I had so many beautiful things. My kids had their own homes, and my second husband and I agreed that each of our kids would get our stuff.
"I would have given more things to the grandkids, but they said, 'No, you will make more money if they are sold in the estate sale.' Bill said he would sell everything, and he told Ed (Teachout) that he sold everything."
Marie said that after the sale she kept calling Bill to get a check for her items, and when he did occasionally return calls, he kept coming up with excuses such as going to auctions, visiting sick relatives, attending a funeral and going on vacation in the Ozarks.
"I'm sure he did go to the Ozarks - with my money," she said.
Finally, two months later, with Mann also getting pressure from Marie's son Al Lyons, he sent a check via certified mail for $1,725.50 that Al received July 18.
Marie was given an inventory of the items sold, but "some things that were not listed just disappeared," she said. "You can't tell me all those glassware pieces weren't worth $50 each. It was very disappointing - I didn't expect Bill to be dishonest."
According to Marie, friends estimated her estate sale items to be worth between $10,000 and $20,000, and the brother of one of Marie's friends was so irate that he called KGW, which did the story.
"There is no law you can use to get these guys," said Marie, who remembers every piece she lost. "I hated to move from my King City house. I loved my place - I was going to die there.
"But this place is perfect for me. I felt I had to give up my car. I thought other people on the road were safer without me driving."
Just as Marie stopped driving to protect others, she also wants to protect people from scam artists.
"It's a shame that people have to take you," she said. "The main thing is that people should investigate who they use. I would have much rather given my things to needy people than to lose them this way.
"Ed Teachout plus me and my son caught Bill in fibs - he couldn't tell the same story twice. Somebody's got to stop these people."
According to Marie, the KGW segment was filmed at her home a couple of weeks before it aired, but Teachout just found Mann's home address the day before the airing. The segment shows him knocking on Mann's door with a camera operator behind him, Mann opening the door and then slamming it shut as soon as he saw Teachout.
According to KGW, the Oregon Department of Justice is looking into Oregon Estate Services, and Marie's son in Salem is trying to get more money from the company.
The phone number listed on Oregon Estate Services' website is now out of service.