Stealing a House

(WSVN) - She discovered her home had been signed over to another woman. He found out his property had been given to another man who used it to steal over half a million dollars. What’s going on? It’s crooks giving your house to them. Sounds unreal, but it’s true. As Patrick Fraser discovered in his investigative report called, Stealing Homes.

Financially, Edward Garcia and Eunice Crawford have little in common…

Eunice Crawford, victim of scam: “The struggles I have been going through to keep the mortgage paid.”

Eunice lives in a small house in Miami.

Edward Garcia, quit claim deed scam: “I’m in real estate.”

Edward has a home in Lighthouse Point and was going to build another house on this pricey lot he owns…

Edward Garcia: “Close to a couple million dollars.”

But Eunice and Edward have something very troubling in common — both were victims of the same scam.

Edward Garcia: “Did I just lose my property?”

While Edward was researching real estate online, he happened to look at his lot.

Edward Garcia: “It had a quick claim deed into somebody else’s name.”

According to the Broward County records, Edward’s lot is now owned by Jamie Fernandez.

Edward Garcia: “I think it’s crazy that someone can go in and just sign your name and your property goes into their name.”

When Eunice checked her tax bill, she discovered a person named Annette Estrada was listed as the owner of her house.

Eunice Crawford: “I don’t know who this woman is. I don’t know any of these people. I never signed anything.”

The crook had forged Eunice’s signature and gave the property to Annette Estrada using what’s called a quit claim deed — and that’s not all. The crook also took out a $33,000 loan using Eunice’s property as the collateral.

Eunice Crawford: “How can a person take from another person like that and then go through it legally and nobody can do anything about it?”

In Edward’s case, it shows he signed his water front lot over to a Fernandez for $10, and then Fernandez convinced a bank to let him cash in by using the lot as collateral.

Edward Garcia: “And then what they did was get a $600,000 mortgage. I thought I was going to have a heart attack.”

The crook walked away with $600,000 of the bank’s money.

Edward Garcia: “This is crazy. I never thought this could happen.”

But now as we discovered, it is happening, and it’s easy. After the crook forges the owner’s name on the quit claim deed, they use a phony notary stamp, then take it to the county to get it officially put in the records. Or if the crooks are lazy, it can be done from the comfort of their own home.

Michael Greenberg, real estate attorney: “It’s extremely simple. You can find a deed online, you can mail the deed. In some counties, you can even record it electronically.”

And one reason the crooks get away with it? Edward and Eunice said the county did not let them know they had given their properties away.

Edward Garcia: “They didn’t notify me. I knew nothing about nothing. I got no letters, I didn’t get anything.”

If the legal owner had been notified their property had changed hands, if the bankers and their attorney had been alert, the crooks would have been stopped.

They weren’t for a simple reason Attorney Greenberg says.

Michael Greenberg: “It’s sloppy work.”

Now Eunice and Edward have to straighten these messes out. A legal aide group is helping Eunice. Edward has to hire his own help.

Edward Garcia: “Thousands of dollars to do this. Not fair at all. Why should you be stuck holding the bag?”

Edward says if you are watching and own a property — watch out.

Edward Garcia: “I would check on my property and make sure I still own it.”

It happened to Eunice and Edward — it might have already happened to you.

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