A Mid-Michigan man is facing real estate fraud charges after police said he falsely claimed homes as his own and then used them to make a profit.
Some of the vacant homes he put in his name belonged to people who died years ago.
"I was like that was the landlord that I just paid all this money to and come to find out he never owned the house," Christina Huett said.
She said she has been a victim of housing fraud before. When she heard about a Saginaw County man who was arrested and accused fraudulently buying properties in her Buena Vista neighborhood, she was upset.
"It hurts a little bit because I feel like I'm going through the same thing with this house. You never know if it's the real person or not. You fix these houses up and you put money and time into them and then next thing you know you got to get out of them," Huett said.
Police said the man searched online for distressed homes in the area. He allegedly checked the ownership on the deed. He printed out the deed and made a copy of it. After that authorities claim he signed that copy and passed off the property as his own.
Cops said the real homeowner had no idea what was going on. Meanwhile, the alleged fake landlord stayed at the properties rent free or charged rent to tenants, pocketing the cash.
"That's all people want it seems these days is money, money, money," Huett said.
The Saginaw County register of deeds officials said the instances of people signing fraudulent deeds occur more often than one might think.
"We have had it happened in the past," said Mildred Dodak, register of deed official.
Dodak said deed information is public record. Anyone can get access to a deed and try to cash in. Fake deeds that look legitimate have to be taken in by the county.
"If a document is brought in that meets all Michigan recording requirements by law I have to accept it and put it on record," Dodak said.
That means someone using pretend deeds also leaves a paper trail behind, she said.
"There's evidence out there you've done this so eventually you're gonna be caught," Dodak said.
The paper trail makes for convincing evidence in court. Meanwhile, Huett wants to see the suspect punished if a court finds him guilty of what he's accused of.
"He should get in trouble for the things that he has put people through," she said.
Copyright 2014 WNEM (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.
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Friday, August 29 2014 10:05 AM EDT2014-08-29 14:05:45 GMT
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