MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – A Miami Gardens pastor who has been the subject of numerous Local 10 News investigations was arrested Tuesday on five felony charges.
Eric Dion Readon, 46, faces charges of organized fraud, organized scheme to defraud, exploitation of the elderly, theft from the elderly and grand theft.
The Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office alleges that Readon took advantage of a 76-year-old man named Edward Fuller who was trying to obtain a mortgage or a line of credit to finish work on his home. It’s a story Local 10 first reported on back in 2017.
Prosecutors say Readon introduced himself as a pastor and told Fuller that for $15,000 he would help him get a loan to complete the construction, but that he deceptively took ownership of the home on Northwest 19th Avenue in Miami.
“There is something particularly galling when an alleged fraudster snatches away the very hopes and dreams of one of our senior residents,” Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said in a statement. “Elderly exploitation so often is a complex shell-game depending on great trust being quietly transformed into financial deception via a movement of signed contracts, deeds and paperwork. I thank the Florida Department of Law Enforcement for their work in helping us bring this case before our criminal courts.”
Fernandez Rundle’s office says that Readon, pastor of the New Beginning Missionary Baptist Church in Miami Gardens, left Fuller with thousands of dollars of credit card debt and that Readon’s total theft from Fuller was approximately $267,000.
“I’m happy that Pastor Readon has been taken into custody,” Fuller told Local 10 News on Tuesday. “I’m having a personal problem since this man did what he did.”
The State Attorney’s Office says Readon also used the same NW 19th Avenue property to defraud newlyweds Safiyah and Calvin Singleton, promising them “a rent-to-buy agreement on their dream first home and thereby induced them to give him $3,100. Readon stole Safiyah and Calvin’s money and left them without a home to sleep in just before their first Christmas together as a married couple.”
“It is truly disgraceful when someone tries to scam our most vulnerable citizens, especially when that someone promotes himself as a person in a position of public trust,” Florida Department of Law Enforcement Special Agent-in-Charge Troy Walker said. “I commend the dedication and hard work of our agents and analysts who worked nearly 1,200 hours on this case to bring Readon to justice. Elderly exploitation has no place in our communities.”
Readon appeared in court Tuesday and his bond was set at $42,500, but he cannot post bond until he proves that the money he is going to use comes from a legitimate source. A hearing is set for Wednesday morning.
Local 10 News has also learned that the Broward State Attorney’s Office is investigating a possible fraud case against Readon.
Readon’s full charges (according to Miami-Dade state attorney):
- 1 count of Exploitation of an Elderly or Disabled Person - 1st-degree felony
- 1 count of Organized Scheme to Defraud - 1st-degree felony
- 1 count of Conspiracy to Commit Organized Scheme to Defraud - 2nd-degree felony
- 1 count of Theft from a Person 65 Years or Older - 1st-degree felony
- 1 count of Grand Theft - 3rd-degree felony
Local 10 News has been reporting on concerns about Readon for nearly five years, seeking to talk to him about his business practices since early 2017.
He lost a $50 million lawsuit he filed against WPLG and last spring was ordered to pay the station more than $70,000 after losing his appeal.
Back in 2017, Readon first filed a $12 million lawsuit against WPLG.
He then amended it, suing WPLG for $50 million for defamation, claiming our investigative reports on him ruined his reputation.
Readon amended his suit five times.
In 2020, Readon’s case against WPLG was dismissed with prejudice. In the legal world, that means dismissed permanently. Former Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Alex Bokor found no malice, saying what we reported were “true facts.”
“Over the course of four years, we have spent almost 250 hours plus of lawyer time and time of station personnel, money of the station, to try to get rid of a lawsuit that is based on a story that was absolutely true in every respect,” WPLG attorney Karen Kammer said.
Readon appealed and lost. He asked the Florida Supreme Court to hear his case, but they refused.
It all began in 2017 when several people told Local 10 News that they gave Readon cash deposits to rent homes and buy cars. They said they even loaned him cash for church events, and when things fell through and they demanded refunds, Readon called them and said, “You think you can come after me? You don’t know who you are dealing with.”
“He say he can’t be touched,” one individual said.
As Local 10 News reported, Readon was court-ordered to pay Lorenzo Johnson $9,000, plus interest, after Readon allegedly stole a check out of Johnson’s daycare office, forged it and deposited it.
Johnson got paid.
Then there was Fuller, who claimed Readon made himself a contractor on a house Fuller was building and claimed Readon persuaded him to sign over the deed to the house “temporarily” so they could get loans.
Fuller says Readon then sold that house for $380,000 without telling him or giving him a cent.
“He really deserved what he’s getting, because he caused a lot of pressure and a lot of pain on myself,” Fuller said.
During Local 10 investigative reporter Jeff Weinsier’s latest conversation with Readon, the pastor claimed to be getting ready to file another lawsuit.