Thursday, March 8, 2012

Fort Worth DA: Adverse Possession Vacant Home Hijackings "A Goofy Scam To Excuse Criminal Behavior" After Grand Jury Indicts 8; One Faces Life In Jail

In Fort Worth, Texas, the Star Telegram reports:

  • Eight people have been indicted by a Tarrant County grand jury for illegally taking possession of other people's vacant or abandoned homes, the Tarrant County District Attorney has announced.

  • "A burglary by any other name is still a burglary,'' District Attorney Joe Shannon said in a written statement. "Any invasion of a person's home is a serious matter."

  • The eight so-called squatters filed affidavits with the county to try to claim the properties. A state law allows persons to claim abandoned properties as long as they pay property taxes, provide maintenance for the homes and meet other requirements. After a while, if no owner contests the claim, the squatter may get to keep the property.

  • But Shannon chalked such actions up to "a goofy scam to excuse criminal behavior." In early November, he instructed the county clerk's office, which is responsible for accepting the affidavits, to deny them because he said they were fraudulent. He said such behaviors "will be dealt with by this office, our courts and juries."

  • One of the squatters - Anthony L. Brown, 62 -- is facing up to life in prison because of his prior criminal history. He and seven others are also facing one count of burglary of a habitation and one count of theft ranging from $100,000 to $200,000. The bulk of the indictments carry a penalty of up to 20 years to life in prison.

  • Among the indicted are Jasmine Williams, 22, and David Cooper, 25, who are accused of illegally taking possession of a $400,000 Arlington home. Others include relatives Andrew James LaTour II, 31, and Alicia Renee LaTour II, 30; and Sandra Selena LaTour, 51, Selena Kareen Brown, 29 and Andre Brown, 30.

  • A ninth squatter, Billie V. Henderson, 64, has been charged with criminal mischief for changing the locks on a Grapevine house in an effort to try and take possessions. His case was not presented to the grand jury because it is a misdemeanor charge.

  • Homes the squatters claimed were in Mansfield, Arlington and Grapevine. Shannon and other officials at the district attorney's office are also making presentations to various neighborhood associations to educate the public about the abuses, a spokeswoman said []. No further information was provided regarding the indictments because the cases are pending.

Source: Tarrant grand jury indicts eight squatters.

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