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New twist on deed fraud: duplicate corporation name
by Dave Pelligrinelli | 2009/06/01 |

Over the years I have written several articles about instances of deed fraud. In these cases, a person intending to commit fraud executes a deed transferring a property into their name without the knowledge of the true owner. The most common method used is to find a vacant and un-mortgaged home, and then forge the signature of the current owner on a quit-claim deed. Once this fraudulent deed is recorded, the criminal can sell, mortgage, or rent out the home and pocket the proceeds.

In a recent incident from California, a slightly different variation of the trick was used. In this case, the true owners apparently vested their California property into a corporation which the couple uses to do their real estate business. The company was named “California Housing Association LLC”, although it is domiciled in Nevada. This transaction was executed in 2007. 

Fast-forward to 2009, where a person named Raymond Tate allegedly forms a CA corporation with the same name, and then proceeds to sell the property to an apparently innocent third party. The original owners discover this unknown person living in their home, and the scheme is uncovered. The local county sheriff has some trouble figuring out what to do, and it takes some time to backtrack the process. Fortunately, the title insurer states that the new deed out of the CA corp is invalid. It would be easy to determine this if the corporation was not in existence when the property was vested into it in 2007.

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With this advice from the title insurer, the sheriffs department arrested Tate and charges him with attaining property by false pretenses, attempting to record a false document, filing a forged document and making a false statement to a notary. The story gets more interesting, Tate goes on to claim that he had the right to sell the house. When contacted by the press, he insisted he believed the property had been vacated and that California records show that the company that owned it did not exist. He said the state gave him the authority to create that company. The person arrested is Raymond Tate III, age 37 of Santa Cruz. Additional researching located a real estate agent named Raymond Tate, with offices in Nevada and California, the two states connected to the story. However, the photo of the real estate agent appears to be of a man older than 37.

As deed fraud continues to be a problem, some states are drafting legislation specifically targeting the crime. A Tennessee bill is working through the legislature largely in part of the efforts of Adbul Zaif of Memphis. His home was stolen using deed fraud and eventually was partially burned, with broken Windows and used syringes strewn about. Weeks earlier, there was a report of a robbery, shooting, and rape at this home, before squatters were evicted. Two were arrested and firearms were discovered, including one previously stolen from a state trooper. TN Rep. Henry Fincher states that this legal loophole should be closed. “I don’t care if it’s a deed or a check. We prosecute people for worthless checks, the general sessions courts are full of them. We need to be prosecuting people that are forging deeds too,” Rep. Fincher said.

Back in California, a Monterey County man is under investigation for combining deed fraud with a foreclosure-rescue scam. Over the past few months, 11 homes have been deeded to Antonio Gomez. All of the homes were in foreclosure, and several of the prior owners claim to have never signed deeds, and some have claimed to have given Gomez cash to “fix their credit”, in one instance $50,000. The pattern was noticed by the county assessor who saw the multiple deeds with prices far below market value. He turned them over to the District Attorney who is investigating.


- David Pelligrinelli

AFX Corp., LLC


902 words | 6030 views | 2 comments | log in or register to post a comment

Excellent Argument for Owner's Title Insurance!

Interesting post, Dave.  Ever since I have been reading about cases of people 'stealing' real estate, I have also wondered about the various states' laws regarding the effect of the transaction.  In short, can a person, or corporation, sell property he/she/it doesn't own?

It seems to me that fraud is fraud and that there should be no need for new laws specifically related to real estate.  The transaction should be void, the fraudulent seller prosecuted and the buyer beware. 

If the buyer had purchased owner's title insurance in this case, the dilligent title agent would have varified the seller's interest through various documents - including articles of incorporation and resolution authorizing the sale.  A crafty crook may be able to fool a careful agent.  But that is part of the risk inherent in insuring title.  The bona-fide buyer may not get the property, but he'll at least have financial recourse with the policy. 

by Patrick Scott | 2009/06/01 | log in or register to post a reply

The Raymond Tate case was rather interesting...

Dave & Patrick,

I thought that this case was interesting, too. I couldn't believe how simple it was for Raymond Tate to perpetrate this action. If you'd like to read the article I wrote about the matter, please take a look at "Deed Scam Leaves Couple Temporarily Homeless." It ran on May 14, 2009.

Unbelievable the lengths people will go to in order to hurt another person and make some quick money.

Jarrod A. Clabaugh
Editor, Source of Title

by Jarrod Clabaugh | 2009/06/01 | log in or register to post a reply

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