Ozella Campbell is the latest victim of deed theft, a troubling new trend in the United States where sly con artists prey on the most innocent. Campbell was watching TV and saw a commercial offering to pay cash for her house and close within seven days. Curious, she called the toll free number and a short time later a company representative knocked on her door.
Campbell, who is partially paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair, had fallen behind on her bills. She was intrigued when the representative offered to pay her outstanding bills, including her mortgage, cover her housing expenses for 2 full years, and purchase her house for $43,800. He also promised to arrange for a lawyer to help Campbell with the paperwork. A year has passed since that fateful day, and Campbell has learned that the entire setup was a scam. Now, she no longer has a home and her bank is coming after her for an outstanding $529,000 mortgage.
Her family has investigated the matter and learned that her old house is currently owned by Jefferson Holding LLC but they’re unable to locate any additional information about the company, including a valid address.
Sadly, Campbell’s case isn’t isolated. Each day, there are new reports involving people who are down on their luck who have been victimized by a shell company. The shell companies gain ownership of properties by using dishonest techniques. Once the paperwork has been completed, the shell company sells or rents the property, leaving the former owner in the cold. Many of these victims have found it difficult to even prove that the shell company has even committed a crime.
Jennifer Sinton is a lawyer who wants to see the practice of deed theft obliterated, which is why she took Campbell’s case. According to Sinton, “Sham LLCs are a huge problem in terms of their lack of transparency, in terms of who is behind the property and who is behind these schemes.”
The New York Times has taken an interest in deed thefts and has reported several different cases in an attempt to urge officials to investigate the cases. New York City’s Department of Finance reports that it is currently working on 120 separate cases of deed theft, but that they’re having a difficult time making much progress.
For the moment, it’s up to home owners to protect themselves against deed theft. Owners of properties that have been abandoned or that are in need of repair are the most likely to be targeted, and the shell companies tend to target owners who are disabled, like Ms. Campbell. Anyone who is in this situation and is approached by someone offering them a deal that seems to be too good to be true, needs to be cautious. These companies will stop at nothing and there have also been cases where the shell company forged signatures on a deed.
Mortgage fraud is a huge problem in the United States. The FBI reported that in 2008, they investigated more than 63,000 total incidents and that the number increases every single year.
The best way to make sure you aren’t a victim of mortgage fraud is to contact reputable New York real estate lawyers if someone approaches you about selling your home. Don’t use any lawyer they offer you. In this case you need your own New York real estate lawyers who are only interested in serving your best interest.
Having a good team of New York real estate lawyers look over an offer that has been made on your home will save you a great deal of aggravation and financial hardship.