If you have properties sitting vacant, be sure to check on them regularly. Otherwise, you might swing by one day to a happy, well-tended home with new locks and a new owner, particularly if you live in Harris County in Texas. For at least six years, con artists have been forging deeds to vacant properties in the area, delivering the deeds to the local courthouse and then seizing and selling the properties. At least 70 houses – and probably more – were affected by the scheme. Many property owners have not been able to recover their properties.
Authorities are calling it “the largest deed scam in Harris County history,” and only one man has, as yet, been convicted despite $6 million in penalties and three years of civil litigation on the part of the Texas attorney general. “Most of the houses are still in limbo,” says Nick Abaza, an attorney who represents many of the victims of the scam. Furthermore, many of the buyers paid cash, which means they are unlikely to ever recoup their losses.
This is a huge mess for the Houston area with many victims involved on both sides of each transaction. How do you think that the problem should be resolved?
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