The real estate investor who bought the property at the center of a criminal case against Detroit businessman Robert Carmack testified Thursday he didn't know ownership of the site was disputed when he made the $1 million transaction in 2016.

Harry Conkey III said he bought the 10-acre property on Melville Street from Carmack without realizing its status was "impaired," and that his rights to the riverfront site remain in limbo.

Carmack, 59, of Woodhaven is charged with four felonies in connection with the sale. Authorities allege 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.

Conkey, who is based in Illinois, said he was interested in the property because it was on the Detroit River and was economically attractive since it was in an area where a second bridge to Canada was potentially going to be built.

"We went back and forth many times ... on price," Conkey said.

Conkey was one of two people who testified Thursday during the continuation of the preliminary examination for Carmack. The other was Michael Cuschieri, the president and owner of Minnesota Title, which conducted the closing between Conkey and Carmack.

Under questioning from Assistant Genesee County Prosecutor Patrick McCombs, Cuschieri said his office received a quit claim deed from Carmack that indicated that he was the owner of the property that was being sold to Conkey.

Cuschieri says he normally only closes with warranty deeds but closed with Carmack's quit claim deed because had done many closings with the attorney who was part of the closing and trusted his work.

Carmack's co-counsel Steve Haney produced a copy of the deed from 2007, which, he said, showed Carmack was granted ownership of the property through a quit claim deed "for the sum of $250,000" and that the official document was signed by city officials.

Haney said Detroit City Council members approved the deed to Carmack June 20, 2007, two days before it was signed by the city's director of planning/development as well as the city's finance director. 

But McCombs said Haney was mischaracterizing facts involving the deed, saying "we do know that $250,000 was never paid to the city of Detroit by Mr. Carmack."  

Carmack and Haney refused to say whether the businessman paid for the deed.

"He got a valid quit claim deed mailed to him (from the city of Detroit) and he received the deed and now he's the valid owner of that property. End of story," Haney said after the hearing. "I don't know if he paid cash. This deed satisfies all (the) requirements." 

Prior to his court appearance over the disputed land purchase, Carmack took to the skies again Thursday, flying banners from a plane over downtown Detroit with messages targeting Mayor Mike Duggan.

One banner read, "Kilpatrick in jail 28 years 4 corruption — Put Duggan 4 for the same." Another banner alleges, "Duggan spent $1.5 million of "city tax $$ on his mistress & sex." Carmack hired a plane to fly over downtown with similar banners during the Tigers' home opener last week.

Duggan on Wednesday vowed "100 percent" cooperation in an investigation into claims the city gave favor to a nonprofit dedicated to premature births, saying the assertions are "completely false."

Detroit's Office of Inspector General on Monday announced it is investigating "whether the mayor and/or any city officials potentially abused their authority by providing preferential treatment to the Make Your Date Non-Profit,” led by Dr. Sonia Hassan, who is affiliated with Wayne State University. 

The mayor said Wednesday the city never directed any dollars toward a nonprofit and that its partnership was with Wayne State.

City of Detroit spokesman John Roach said Thursday: "As accurately reported by (The) Detroit News, thecity money that went to the Make Your Date program went directly to Wayne State University, which administers the program. That amount was $358,000 from 2015 to 2017," Roach said. "Any suggestion of the contrary is purely made up."

Roach said he was "only commenting on the alleged misuse of funds banner."

Carmack appeared was scheduled to be in court at 11 a.m. for a motion hearing on a request that criminal charges be dismissed against him in connection with a disputed land deal.

Carmack, 59, of Woodhaven is charged with four felonies in connection with his 2016 sale of a 10-acre property. Authorities allege 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.

Carmack told The News Thursday it is costing him $3,000 to fly the banners. He said the banners were airborne starting at 8:30 a.m. and were scheduled to run for six hours.

"I'm flying them for one reason. I feel this administration under Duggan is corrupt," said Carmack. "He should do the same time as Kilpatrick is doing."

The preliminary examination continues at 10 a.m. April 22.


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