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Fatal fire victim was about to file lawsuit over suspicious property deal

Target 12

COVENTRY, R.I. (WPRI) ─ The victim of a deadly Coventry fire had gone to police in February claiming he was the victim of check fraud by a man who acquired his home last year for pennies on the dollar.

Coventry land records indicate Jeff Michelot’s LLC purchased 71 Read St. from the fire victim, Terrence Goodwin, for one dollar and refinanced it for $91,000 two weeks later. Michelot then sold the property for $103,500 in a deal that closed in February.

Target 12 reached out to Michelot with a phone number from a Coventry police report and through his LinkedIn page, but so far there has been no response.

There have been no charges filed stemming from the land deal.

Goodwin, 54, who was pronounced dead at the scene last Thursday, had hired attorney Christopher Lefebvre to look into the land deal.

Lefebvre said Goodwin was poised to file a lawsuit before he died in the fire, claiming he had no idea the home had been sold until after the deal closed.

“He was shocked when he discovered that,” Lefebvre said. “He went to the town hall to pay a bill and discovered the house was no longer in his name.”

Lefebvre questions Goodwin’s purported signature on the deed and the validity of the notary who witnessed the transaction and stamped the document.

“When you look at his traditional signature and you compare it to the one on the deed, it’s a pretty quick conclusion that something ain’t right here,” Lefebvre said. “He really thought his home was stolen.”

Coventry Police Detective Rich Pendola said investigators are not currently looking into the sale of the property, but there is an investigation into a February claim by Goodwin that about $25,000 in forged checks were cashed from his account.

Pendola said restrictions and requirements brought on by COVID-19 stalled the check fraud investigation, but it is active again.

The cause of death and the cause of the fire remain under investigation.

Goodwin’s father Charles Goodwin Jr, a 90-year old retired East Providence police officer, said his son had not discussed the legal issues he was facing with him.

“I saw him every weekend,” Goodwin said. “We went out to eat and talked. He was in good humor. He’s my only child. I loved him.”

Goodwin lamented that the medical examiner has yet to release his son’s body.

‘They told me it is still under investigation. They won’t tell me why,” Goodwin said. “I can’t bury my son.”

Send tips to Target 12 Investigator Walt Buteau at wbuteau@wpri.com and follow him on Twitter @wbuteau.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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