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Detroit businessman Robert Carmack and his lawyer said Monday he paid taxes on a parcel of land on Detroit's southwest side and therefore was the legal owner of the property when he sold it three years ago for $1 million.

Carmack, 59, of Woodhaven is charged with four felonies in connection with the sale of the land to an Illinois real estate developer. Authorities contend he never completed a $250,000 purchase of the site but used draft documents from 2007 to fraudulently represent that he owned the land before selling it for $1 million.

During her legal arguments on the a motion to dismiss the case in 36th District Court, Carmack's co-counsel Lillian Diallo said, "We know that the deed was fully executed and signed off by all interested parties."

Speaking at the continuation of Carmack's preliminary hearing, Diallo told Judge Cylenthia Miller that the taxes on the property, at 7751 Melville Street, were "paid at closing."

Diallo said Carmack should not have been charged with a crime.

"We shouldn't be here," she said. "We should not have been a criminal matter. This should be addressed in a civil (court)."

But Miller told Diallo. "I haven't seen anything that addresses the deal." The judge said "nothing in this record yet" shows how the land was paid for or obtained. Miller is taking the motion to dismiss the charges under advisement.

Diallo asked the judge to hold her ruling in abeyance until she brings in more documents.

Afterward, Diallo and Carmack said there are questions about where the $256,000 in property taxes went.

"He has a deed. If this is a mistake, it should not be played out in criminal court. It should be in civil court. There is already a quiet title action going on that means we're trying to figure out who owns this property and that was instituted by ... Mr. Carmack," Diallo said.

The defense attorney said a settlement statement shows that Carmack paid the taxes on the property. She said in court that the taxes, totaling $256,000, were paid at closing in 2016.

Justin Bahri, deputy treasurer for the City of Detroit, testified that no taxes were paid on the property from 2007 to 2012 and that the owner was the City of Detroit, which made the land tax-exempt.

Detroit City Council approved the sale of the 10-acre parcel of land on Melville in 2007; authorities allege Carmack never closed on it.

Diallo produced a document she says shows that the Wayne County Treasurer's Office sent a tax bill on the property to B&C Land Development, a company owned by Carmack. He sold the land in March 2016 to Illinois-based Moby Dick Ventures.

 Alvin Horhn the city's deputy chief financial officer and member of the board of assessors, testified "there were no taxes paid on this property."

Diallo asked Horhn if the city of Detroit owned the property then "no taxes should have been paid if the city owned it, right?"

"My review is that no monies no taxes were collected," Horhn replied, but he acknowledged that "human error" could account for the taxes not being recorded on the property.

The preliminary examination continues next month.

bwilliams@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2027

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