Leiper’s Fork, Frankln, TN

LEIPER’S FORK — In mid-February, a couple in a white Jeep pulled onto the 11-acre farm of Dorene and Stephen Pearson’s luxurious Leiper’s Fork estate.

The Pearsons wanted to sell, and the couple wanted to buy.

A contract was signed for the $5.3 million home and repairs were designated. The Pearsons bought a lavish dinner for the couple, Kim and Phil McDowell, and gave them four $250 bottles of wine.

But two weeks later, after the Pearsons paid more than $60,000 for the requested renovations, the excuses began. Kim McDowell, the charming wife who spoke in a British accent, had been in a car wreck, then she had cancer, then the millions she’d inherited from her family in Wales was trapped in a New York clearinghouse and several lawyers were working around the clock to free the money up.

Meanwhile, the Pearsons, who have five children and an elderly parent living with them, had all but moved out of their home. Three-quarters of their belongings were in storage. The house the Pearsons wanted to buy in downtown Franklin went to another buyer.

Six months later, the couple still receives messages almost daily from Kim McDowell, saying the money is coming. The Pearsons don’t believe it.

We didn’t extend our contract past the two weeks when they said they could close,” Stephen Pearson said. “The agreement was verbal after that. After all, their realtor said (the McDowells) provided a proof of funds, so we believed they had the money.”

As the Pearsons spoke to families in Leiper’s Fork, it appeared others had been similarly duped, paying thousands of dollars in renovations and lavish entertainment for the McDowells, who posed as prospective cash buyers accompanied by an entourage of staff and proof-of-funds letters.
Along the stretch of Leiper’s Fork where the Pearsons live, several homes are priced in the $5 million to $6 million price range and the Pearsons said most of the families know one another. Prospective home buyers with sufficient funds to close on such large purchases, especially with the kind of cash on hand the McDowells claimed to have, is often a rarity, even in some of the most affluent corners of Williamson County.
The Pearsons were disgusted and confused as to how they could have been victim to a scam. A Realtor had vetted the couple and the McDowells brought an estate manager and a professional chef to help evaluate the Pearsons’ property. A local property inspector also came and spent a day examining the home, Dorene Pearson said.
“Finally, I’d had enough,” she said. “I wanted answers. I wanted to face Kim, and I wanted her to tell me that this was all a lie.”

The McDowells listed an address on documents the couples exchanged, so Dorene Pearson drove to the home in Spring Hill.
“I knocked on the door, and a young woman answered,” Dorene said. “I asked her if she knew Kim and Phil McDowell. As soon as I said their names, the color drained from her face. She looked like she was afraid.”

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The Tennessean
Reporter Jordan Buie can be reached at jbuie@tennessean.com or on Twitter @jordanbuie

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