Sunday, March 31, 2013

Outfit Using 'Dubious Deeds' To Snatch Vacant Homes In Foreclosure & Rent Them Out Runs Wild In Miami; Cops To Two Complaining Homeowners: Take A Hike, No Crime Here - It's A Civil Matter!

In Miami, Florida, the Miami Herald reports:

  • Scavenging the remnants of South Florida’s housing crisis, a partnership called Presscott Rosche appeared to gobble up almost three dozen foreclosed homes in Miami-Dade County last year. The company is currently listed as the owner of 12 homes worth about $3.5 million, according to the Miami-Dade property appraiser.

    But this seemingly thriving business is, in many ways, an illusion. The name of the company’s agent listed in state records is fake. So are many of the deeds the company has filed in Miami-Dade Circuit Court to stake its claim to more than 30 houses and condos, a Miami Herald investigation has found.

    The company has gained control of these homes — renting them out to unsuspecting tenants, in some cases — by filing dubious deeds and documents filled with legal-sounding jargon and shoddy punctuation. The author of many of these documents calls himself an “attorney in fact,” though he is not, in fact, a licensed attorney in Florida.

    “I never saw anything like that. It wasn’t even spelled right,” said Shelley Hallen, an actual attorney who beat back Presscott Rosche’s efforts to evict four college students from a Coral Gables house last fall.

    “They’re brazen,” said Frank Lopez, who says he found three people from Presscott Rosche inside a $700,000 Kendall house he owns. “They forged my signature, forged my wife’s signature.”

    Despite complaints about the company, Presscott Rosche has managed to vex police and prosecutors: A Presscott Rosche associate was arrested for burglary in November for allegedly breaking into a vacant home, yet Miami-Dade prosecutors dropped the case, saying they couldn’t prove the man didn’t have permission to use the house.

    Miami-Dade police detectives are continuing to investigate the company for possible fraud, The Herald has learned. Presscott Rosche representatives declined to comment or could not be reached.

    Presscott Rosche has primarily targeted homes in the legal limbo of foreclosure — homes vacated by their owners, and left untended by the lenders holding mortgages on the houses. In Miami-Dade County, more than 6,200 residences are now owned by banks, with thousands more left abandoned by their owners — and vulnerable to squatters.

    The squatter problem is not unique to Miami-Dade. In the past year, at least two people have been arrested in Broward County for trying to take homes with forged deeds. A Sarasota couple were charged with real-estate fraud last week.

    The drawn-out foreclosure process often makes it difficult for police or city inspectors to determine who owns a property. It can also lead to disputes over ownership that police are ill-equipped to handle.

    Two property owners told The Herald they complained to police about Presscott Rosche, but officers said the dispute was a civil, not criminal, matter.

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