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Like the housing industry, real estate “guru” Mark Bosworth is in crash mode

The widow and the man who cheated her out of hundreds of thousands of dollars come from large Mormon families and lived in the same west Phoenix neighborhood back in the '70s.

Martha Mow, whose maiden name was Judd, is about 13 years older than Mark Bos­worth and didn't know him then. But she remembers babysitting young Berne Fleming, cousin to Alan Davis, a man who would later marry one of Bosworth's sisters.

Fleming and Davis are now the managers of GoRenter.com, a property-management company founded by Bosworth that is the biggest of its kind in the state.

Martha Mow's direct connection to Bosworth came later in life.

In the early 1990s, her life took a wrong turn. She had just gotten a divorce from her first husband and was paying child support and alimony to him. She took a job in 1995 as live-in caretaker for two elderly Scottsdale women who, according to Mow, had been companions for 60 years and had no next of kin. The job didn't pay much, but the women agreed that she would inherit the house when they died. Which is what happened, five years later.

Then, on Valentine's Day 2002, she met Richard Mow. They were married inside a month. He moved into the Scottsdale house with her. And he introduced to her to one of his best friends, Mark Bosworth, a fellow Mormon and, like herself, a former west-sider.

At the time, Bosworth's real estate career was taking off — he appeared to Mow to be a local version of Donald Trump. From humble beginnings as a high school dropout, he grew up to become a self-proclaimed Valley real estate "guru."

His success was linked to the monster wave of rising Valley home prices that had drawn investors from all over the country to the area. Boom times of the 1990s had led many to seek out new places to sock their money, and, combined with killer low interest rates, the real estate market in Phoenix was hotter than the weather. Near its peak, investors saw the median home price for Maricopa County leap from $165,000 in July 2004 to $235,000 a year later.

Bosworth boasted in recent ads that his companies managed more than a billion dollars' worth of residential and commercial property, and that he owned at least $70 million in property personally.

Martha's new beau, Richard, was almost like family to Bosworth. He was once married to the mother of Lisa Bosworth, Mark's wife.

Soon after Richard and Martha got hitched, they sold the Scottsdale house.

"Mark indicated it would be wise to liquidate that house and invest in two houses," Mow says to New Times.

It was one of Bosworth's premier tricks of his trade: leverage. Taking money to make money.

And it's always good to use other people's money to make money — Bosworth's mother collected the commission from the sale. Bosworth's parents, Don and Ethel (who also go by Bryan and Leoda in county documents), act as occasional business partners with Mark.

Martha and Richard, who was having terrible problems with diabetes, moved into a Mesa rental home owned by Bosworth with the understanding, she says, that they could live there until he died and that Martha would buy the place a new air-conditioning unit.

The investment deal came within a year. Martha Mow took $57,000 of the roughly $150,000 she had made on the sale of the Scotts­dale house and paid it to Bosworth. Based on their agreement, the money served as a down payment for her and her husband's purchase of four small, low-rent condominiums in the West Valley, and also as a down payment for two rental homes Martha purchased on her own.

The Mows arranged to have one of Bosworth's property-management companies deal with the cumbersome task of fixing up the properties, finding tenants, and collecting rent.

"She'd never been a real estate investor before," says Fred Judd, Martha's brother and a California attorney who's also licensed in Arizona. "She fully trusted [Bos­worth]."

Judd, who later helped his sister sue Bosworth over the deals, says Bosworth bought the condos from an investor in California for no money down just before selling them to the Mows at a profit. Mow says Bosworth never followed up on his promise to send her the deeds to the condos so that she could record the sales legally in her name, and she says he blew her off when she telephoned him about it.

She says he kept her in the dark about a lot of things.

The rental units were dogs and soon began losing money, but Bosworth didn't notify her about that, she says. Instead, court records show, Bosworth sold all six properties to someone else. Twice.

The first sale became fouled up, and the buyer sued Bosworth to get his money back. In early 2005, Bosworth sold the properties again.