I suppose in the messed up world of robo-signing and fraud-closure, this shouldn’t be so surprising, but who knew you could buy a stolen house? Pity the poor Zahari family, who bought their first home last summer: [Thanks L!]
They custom painted the girls’ bedrooms and sodded the backyard.
They stopped making improvements when they found out they’re not the legal owners of the home.
“We actually got a call from the FBI who said we just wanted to inform you that your house has been part of a deed fraud scheme,” Zahari said.
Karen Tappert is the person the Zahari’s say is responsible for stealing the home and selling it to them. She’s facing federal charges, but that does little to help the Zahari’s with their situation. They must continue paying for the home or otherwise put their credit at risk. They can also be forced to vacate at any moment.
Officials said it started when the original owners of the property vacated the house because they thought the bank was going to foreclose on them. That never happened, and the alleged scam artists swooped in and fraudulently sold it to the Zaharis.
The family said neither the title company, First American Title Insurance, nor the bank have done much to help answer how the title company allowed the purchase of the home in the first place.
Given the liability on the part of the title company, it’s not surprising they don’t want to go into the details.
In a statement, First American said, “For privacy reasons we cannot comment on the specifics of Mr. & Mrs. Zahari’s claim, however, generally the process of establishing title involves other necessary parties and is dependent on their cooperation. This process can be time consuming and complicated.”
Karen Tappert, now jailed in Las Vegas, is accused in court documents of advertising herself as a mortgage rescue expert, taking thousands of dollars in payments for her services, then filing phony deeds with county clerks in California, Nevada and Washington to transfer the homes to shell companies she controlled. She was indicted last summer for wire and mail fraud inconnection with the alleged schemes.
In some cases, according to a federal indictment by the U.S. attorney’s office in Las Vegas, she rented the properties to other people. In others, she sold them to unsuspecting buyers. Though she has not been charged in connection with the Zaharis’ home, the family said the FBI told them their house was involved in the scheme.
It’s clear that, even after stricter lending standards and mortgage fraud legislation, mortgage fraud remains a problem.
–For an interesting and seedy read, here’s a link to an indictment for some of Tappert’s other cases.
With luck, she’ll be in secure, government subsidized housing for many years to come.