Gainesville, Ga. -
She thought she'd have no trouble one day selling her 10,000 square foot home in a gated community, complete with a beautiful view of Lake Lanier. Instead, a Hall County widow ran afoul of her tenant, a man known as the Mold Doctor.
Michael Pugliese -- aka the Mold Doctor -- faces a Georgia Medical Board investigation sparked by complaints from patients and former employees. He said he's done nothing wrong. Try telling that to a frustrated former landlord who still owns the home that Pugliese supposedly claimed was making his own family sick.
Grand Marina Circle in Gainesville is high rent territory. The proper home, you might expect, for a man who promotes himself on YouTube as an international expert and best selling author.
Pugliese is not a licensed physician and denied calling himself a doctor, but plenty of patients and former employees complained to the state Medical Board he did just that, charging thousands of dollars for special treatments and supplements.
Pugliese labeled those former employees as disgruntled or people he dismissed. That included a worker who documented pouring those so-called special minerals into spray bottles while sitting in the laundry room of an old Gainesville house.
"There's nothing like this going on," insisted Pugliese when we tried talking to him outside that century-old building in Gainesville.
"You're not packaging anything in this old building that you're giving to people to put up their nose?" I asked.
"OK, this is what I've said," Pugliese responded. "I will sit down with you later this week and you can ask me any question you want."
Instead, he canceled. So we never got a chance to ask him in person about that house on Grand Marina Circle. Pugliese and his family began renting there in 2011. By 2013, with the lease running out, the owner decided to put the house on the market.
"He was very good about paying the rent until it came to the end of the lease," homeowner Moria Fowler told us via Skype from her new home in Ireland.
"When did the word "mold" come up?" I asked.
"The last week of his lease is when he started saying there was a mold problem."
In emails Ms. Fowler gave to the Georgia Medical Board and Gainesville police as part of her complaint, Pugliese informed her "the house officially has mold now." He blamed an air conditioner leak in the basement and listed a bunch of repairs -- $232,000 worth -- all necessary to fix the house and address the mold, not including "medical damages" for Pugliese's family.
"I was a widow," Ms. Fowler pointed out. "I was on my own. I was very vulnerable. He wanted my house."
He sure did. Those same emails stated Pugliese was ready to sue her over the mold, but would drop his claim if Moira Fowler financed the sale of her house to him. If not, Pugliese wrote "I'm pretty sure ---- Grand Marina Circle will be known to all as the "Mold House.""
"He wanted me to sell my house to him for nothing, me carry all the paper, and if I didn't do it, that's what he was going to do," Ms. Fowler lamented.
Pugliese would not respond to any of our questions about his old address.
One month after that email prediction, someone put together a website, calling Moira Fowler's house "The Million Dollar Mold House."
The following year someone posted her full address on the Ripoff Report website, calling "The Mold House," "unsellable... unrentable.." and claiming Ms. Fowler's husband "died of CANCER while living in this MOLD INFESTED home."
Ms. Fowler says her late husband, a longtime pilot for the US Air Force and United Airlines, developed cancer more than three years before the couple moved into Grand Marina Circle.
"His wish was to have one day in that house and that's why we bought it," Ms. Fowler remembered.
We investigated the email used by the person who made that Ripoff Report post. It's connected to a website domain created by a "Michael Pugliese."
"I don't know how anybody could do this," Ms. Fowler complained.
Pugliese and his companion Deborah Mechwart would sue Moira Fowler claiming negligence, representing themselves in a complaint filled with spelling mistakes and grammatical errors. The lawsuit was never served because Fowler now lives in Ireland.
She ultimately had to hire a lawyer to get Pugliese to leave.
"We had so many people interested," she said after listing the house for sale. "But every time they Googled my house, the Million Dollar Mold House came up."
So Moira Fowler decided to hire her own mold testing company. The results of that test? No mold whatsoever. How could two different tests on the same house result in two different conclusions? That's one of many questions we had.
Remember that "Million Dollar Mold House" website? It included a positive mold inspection report from a company called Mold Test USA in South Carolina. But the man listed in the report as the inspector, Greg Morgan, told the FOX 5 I-Team he's never been to that house. In one place in the report, the inspector's first name is even misspelled, "Gregg" instead of "Greg."
Morgan told us the report appears to have been cut and pasted.
The Million Dollar Mold House has no mold, but it does have a new tenant. Jon Sapp and his wife.
"How long have you lived here?" we asked, standing in the foyer.
"Since February 15. Last year," replied Sapp.
"How are you feeling?"
"Uh, everything's great," Sapp confirmed.
Despite Google, Sapp and his wife fell in love with the house, the neighborhood, the view and their landlord Moira Fowler. If everything works out, they could one day be the new owners, three years after the Mold Doctor finally moved on.
Moira Fowler: "It was an absolute nightmare."