Detroit businessman argues in court over land deal fraud charge

In theory, the case against Bob Carmack is simple. 

About 10 years ago, Detroit officials sent him a deed for a piece of property in exchange for $250,000. Carmack held onto the deed and paid the property taxes on the land until he sold it a few years ago for $1 million.

Prosecutors call that fraud. Carmack says he told city officials he planned to sell the land, but no one tried to stop him.

"This is a case of intent; why would a man pay taxes on a property he didn't own?" said Carmack attorney Steve Haney.

City officials testified that city land should not have been taxed - and they say Carmack never owned the land because he never lived up to his end of the bargain.

Carmack's attorneys suggested that the case is politically motivated as Carmack attorney Lillian Diallo asked city lawyer Bruce Goldman if he had any conversations with Duggan or his staff about Carmack in 2018 or 2019.

Prosecutor Patrick McCombs objected to every attempt to drag Mayor Mike Duggan into the case.

"To go down the path that this some sort of retaliation is absolutely beyond the pale," McCombs said.

Goldman testified that politics did not play a factor in going after Carmack...

"You are talking about somebody involving Mayor Duggan's staff," Goldman said. "The city is pretty well organized. No one on his staff or the mayor did I speak to in 2018 or 2019."

Goldman and Carmack attorney Lillian Diallo also clashed on the significance of Carmack's property tax payments on land the city says it never sold to him.

"We can agree that people just don't pay taxes for nothing on property they don't think they own," Diallo said.

Bruce Goldman: "No."

Lillian Diallo: "Thank you."

Bruce Goldman: "We don't agree."

Part of Carmack's defense may be that he believes he was entitled to the land because he spent $246,000 developing another piece of city land that the city never sold him.

Diallo: "Can we agree that $246,000 is a lot of money?"

Bruce Goldman: "It is to me, yes."

Diallo: "Me too."

Goldman stepped down moments later. It remains to be seen whether Carmack's attorneys will develop this argument further as the case proceeds. 

Because this case is at the preliminary examination level, it is up to Judge Cylenthia Latoye Miller to decide whether there is enough evidence of a crime to send Carmack to trial on the fraud charges.