An Asheville attorney was arrested this week on six felony charges related to Buncombe County real estate deals, and her client, a woman already charged with fraud, was arrested on 32 additional counts of felony forgery.
Lisa K. Roberts was charged with forging her uncle’s signature on deeds, mortgages, and checks, and the attorney, Ilesanmi “Ile” O. Adaramola, was charged with notarizing the signature on legal documents.
Arrest warrants say Adaramola, 37, “while acting as a duly commissioned North Carolina notary public did take an acknowledgment the notary knew was false of [sic] fraudulent.” Each of the six counts against her is a Class I felony, the least serious, punishable by up to 24 months in prison. But barring any criminal history, under state sentencing guidelines she would likely receive probation.
Roberts, who was booked under her married name, Roberts-Allen, was charged with six counts of forgery of deeds, a Class H felony, each punishable by up to 39 months in prison, and 26 counts of Class I check forgery, each punishable by up to 24 months imprisonment. Roberts’s charges are more serious and, if convicted, could result in prison time, defense attorneys said.
Roberts, 60, was taken into custody at the Buncombe County Courthouse when she appeared Wednesday morning for a hearing on her previous charges, nine felony notary fraud counts. She was released from jail Wednesday afternoon after posting a $10,000 bond.
Adaramola was arrested Wednesday at her Asheville law office. “She asked if she could make a phone call before we left. We did allow her,” Buncombe Sheriff’s Executive Lt. Bryon Crisp said. “She was polite. She cooperated.”
Adaramola was released on a $3,000 unsecured bond, payable if she fails to return to court. Neither Adaramola nor Roberts responded to messages seeking comment.
Both have figured prominently in Asheville Watchdog’s investigative series, Equity Erased, which revealed how Buncombe homeowners, many of them elderly and Black, lost years and sometimes generations of property wealth in deals with Roberts and Asheville investor and attorney Robert Perry Tucker II. For many of the homeowners, their homes were their only assets of value.
The charges Wednesday, initiated by the North Carolina Secretary of State, stem from a company, VLM Investments LLC, which was incorporated in 2017 with Adaramola as registered agent. Roberts’s uncle, Eddie George of Gary, Ind., was listed as chairman.
George said in a 2018 complaint that he had no knowledge of VLM and did not sign documents bearing his name. His family previously told Asheville Watchdog that George is disabled and rarely left Indiana.
VLM bought and sold four properties in Buncombe County and filed a court case, all with George’s purported signature on the legal documents. The arrest warrants allege that it was Roberts who forged her uncle’s signature on four deeds and two mortgages. The documents contain Adaramola’s signature and notary seal, certifying that George had personally appeared before her.
VLM also maintained a bank account at Capital One. On 26 occasions from August 2017 through September 2018, the warrants allege, Roberts “did forge, falsely make and counterfeit a check” containing “the forged signature of Eddie George.”
The checks, totaling $97,490, included $1,793 for “furniture and repairs,” $3,801 to a Toyota dealer, $20,000 for “hauling and work in progress,” $7,429 to “Lisa Roberts-Allen,” $2,500 to Lisa Allen “for home improvements,” $450 for landscaping, and $50 for “hair appt.”
Roberts has been involved in Buncombe County real estate for years, often working with Tucker. Adaramola opened her law practice in 2014 and has represented Roberts and her companies in court and in real estate deals.
One of the properties VLM purchased was a 50 percent interest in a house in Arden owned by a man who spent decades as a law enforcement officer in Asheville and Buncombe County. A civil complaint recently filed on behalf of the ex-officer accuses Roberts, Adaramola, Tucker, and two others — Tucker’s attorney Peter R. Henry and realtor Kirk Booth — of fraud in a scheme to illegally sell his house and keep more than $40,000 that belonged to him.
The North Carolina Secretary of State began a criminal investigation last year following Asheville Watchdog’s reporting. So far, only Adaramola and Roberts have been charged.
Buncombe District Attorney Todd Williams said Wednesday he could not comment except to say the investigation is ongoing.
The North Carolina State Bar is also investigating.
Asheville Watchdog is a nonprofit news team producing stories that matter to Asheville and Buncombe County. Sally Kestin is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter.
Asheville Watchdog gratefully acknowledges the assistance of the Duke University School of Law’s First Amendment Clinic.