For Immediate ReleaseOctober 04, 2021
Recorder’s Office and District Attorney team up to help prevent crime
San Rafael, CA – One of the fastest-growing white collar crimes in the United States is property fraud, also called deed fraud, deed stealing, or house stealing. The County of Marin is taking a significant step to mitigate fraudulent real estate transfers with a new program that notifies property owners when documents have been filed about an ownership transfer.
Assessor-Recorder-County Clerk Shelly Scott and District Attorney Lori E. Frugoli have launched a localized program to help eliminate the trend and the two plan to update the Marin County Board of Supervisors on the program this fall.
The fraud happens when a fraudulent deed is recorded against a property. In many cases, the owner may not even be aware that a deed was recorded changing ownership of their property. Under the new program, property owners or former property owners will be notified by letter about a recent filing with the Recorder’s Office. If they are aware of the transfer, they don’t need to act. If they are not aware, they should contact their local police department or the District Attorney’s real estate fraud division as soon as possible.
In one recent case, a New York lawyer defrauded eight homeowners facing foreclosure out of their properties worth a total of $8 million. According to a report, prosecutors said the man told his victims they needed to sign over deeds so he could negotiate with lenders to prevent foreclosure.
Title companies and the County Recorder’s Office have been handling more real estate transaction paperwork recently because of a rush to refinance home loans and take advantage of historically low interest rates. The Recorder’s Office staff only reviews requirements for recording and has no authority to refuse to record a properly prepared document even if it is suspected to be fraudulent.
“Deed fraud is a serious crime,” Scott said. “We’ve seen reports from Southern California of rightful homeowners having to spend lots of money in legal fees to resolve issues after they have been harassed by criminals. We want to be proactive with this and prevent Marin residents from being victimized.”
Frugoli said her staff is particularly focused on deed fraud because Marin has a large population of senior long-term generational homeowners whose homes have built up a lot of equity. Marin has the highest percentage of seniors out of California’s 58 counties, and preventing financial elder abuse is a shared goal with the new program.
“These homeowners could easily be victimized by friends and/or family members,” Frugoli said. “We are happy to collaborate on this program with the Assessor-Recorder's Office. Our real estate fraud investigator will address any reported fraud or suspected fraud.”
Scott and Frugoli offer several recommendations for homeowners to protect themselves from such fraud.
Learn more about the real estate fraud program online.
Shelly ScottAssessor-Recorder-County ClerkCounty of Marin
Marin County Civic Center3501 Civic Center DriveSuite 208San Rafael, CA 94903(415) 473-7215Email: Shelly Scottwww.marincounty.org