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One charged, five investigated in Wake County squatting scheme

Posted August 10, 2011

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— The state Attorney General’s office is investigating a Wake County property deed scam ring after authorities arrested a Raleigh man Tuesday who they say squatted at a foreclosed home on Graedon Drive for more than a month.

Shawn Adrian Pendergraft, 39, of 2630 Cherry Circle, faces breaking and entering, obtaining property by false pretenses and second-degree trespassing charges. He is being held in the Wake County jail under a $170,000 bond.

No one else has been charged, but Attorney General Roy Cooper says Pendergraft and five others filed fraudulent paperwork to transfer foreclosed homes into their names and then set up bogus land trusts to place more than $1 million in property liens on the homes.

“It’s a very bizarre occurrence,” Cooper said. “These people go in and file bogus liens on properties. They file bogus deeds to themselves.”

The liens, Cooper said in a news release, were “filled with phony legal language lifted from the Internet and designed to intimidate the true property owners and potential buyers into thinking that the property couldn’t be sold without paying the phony lien.”

The investigation was prompted by complaints from several homeowners in the neighborhood, off Lake Wheeler Drive, where Pendergraft was allegedly squatting. Neighbors told police that they saw someone moving into the home on Saturday, even though it's listed for sale by Prudential York Simpson Underwood Realty, with an asking price of $700,000. AG investigates Wake County squatting scheme AG investigates Wake County squatting scheme

Realtor Lee St. Peter, who listed the property, told investigators that the home is still listed for sale and that DLJ Mortgage Capital, which purchased the property in a foreclosure sale, still claims ownership.

“This is something that has started recently. There are a couple of cases like this down in Union County (and the) Charlotte area,” Cooper said. “It’s important that we be able to take action.”

Realtor Peter Greijn is the listing agent for a $2 million home on Thaney Court in Wake Forest. He said that Nu Vision International Trust filed a general warranty lien and a common law lien on the property, even though the Bank of Hampton Roads legally owns the home.

Though he said he doesn't think anyone was squatting at the home, he does believe the people behind the phony land trust put up a handwritten "No Trespassing" sign on the front door.

Greijn said that this kind of fraudulent interference could impact his ability to sell a home.

"It could stop the closing," he said. "It can spook buyers."

At Cooper’s request, Wake County Superior Court Judge Henry W. Hight Jr. granted a temporary restraining order against four phony land trusts – Natural International Land Trust, ONCE International Land Trust and Nu Vision International Trust – and the individuals believed to be behind them – Pendergraft, Nathaniel John Church, Don Cornelius McCullers, Malandie Terrell Winston, Montreal Lee White and Lawrence Christopher White.

The order bars them from trying to take possession of homes by filing false deeds or liens, Cooper said in a news release. It also prevents them from destroying any paperwork that might assist the investigation.

Cooper is seeking tougher laws to crack down on people who file false paperwork to move into foreclosed homes and wants the defendants to pay civil penalties. A hearing on that is scheduled for Aug. 19.

"We are not going to tolerate this," Cooper said. "My office is going to take action."

75 Comments

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  • LocalYokel Aug 11, 2011

    Kill someone with your bad driving and you probably wont even go to jail but squat on a banks property and you'll end up in jail with $170,000 bond. Remember that before you mess with big business - your government works for them.

  • fatkatts2 Aug 11, 2011

    There was recently a program on TV about another man trying the "squatter's rights" angle in another state. He actually allowed the TV crew to follow him around in the house, showing it off. I believe the reporter said something about he would have to live in it 3 years without anyone making any claims, and that it would doubtful he would be left alone by the banks for that long.

  • wa4dou Aug 11, 2011

    "By all means, don't get a job and work for the nicer things in life. No instead, figure out a way to scam your way... If people would apply themselves toward positive things in life instead of illegal things, society would be much better off. Maybe these folks feel as though Obama hasn't responded quick enough for these people so they decided to do it on their own; thinking that Obama and his government of goons were going to be today's version of Robin Hood."

    Criminality is stupid and fails to recognize that the piper must be paid.

  • NCAries Aug 11, 2011

    More of the something for nothing mentality that's so prevalent today. Wonder who's responsible for that type of thinking?????
    WRALisLIBERALtrash aka NCcarguy

    Probably the originators of America? The got the land by stealing and killing and they've managed to stay on top by legislating misery in everyone's life that does not look like them.

  • mac240 Aug 11, 2011

    "There are plenty of people that can afford these homes. In my development homes from 700k to a well over a million sell pretty quickly and many more are under construction."

    Really? If that's true, then I wonder how long it'll take these new buyers to default on payments due to the lagging housing market"
    Statick

    www.the-riverfront.com

  • LambeauSouth Aug 11, 2011

    if someone squat's in the woods , does anyone really care?

  • Rebelyell55 Aug 11, 2011

    The difference is few if any bank officers have been charged with foreclosing on properties using phony documents.
    tran
    August 11, 2011 12:55 p.m.
    That's true, but some have been fired and the crimmial part is yet to come to light. Some state Att. are looking at this. Also if the law was put in place and passed, this would not of been an issue. Our Rep. in the state house are behind the 8 ball. But these guys are not the brightest bulb in the pack for sure, they just create a paperwork mess that takes money to clean up.

  • LambeauSouth Aug 11, 2011

    How can one evict "comment" squatters on golo who hijack the thread and stop talking about anything truly relevant to the actual news story?........ sssshhhhh! I'm "squatting here!
    pass the t-p!

  • what_in_the____ Aug 11, 2011

    By all means, don't get a job and work for the nicer things in life. No instead, figure out a way to scam your way... If people would apply themselves toward positive things in life instead of illegal things, society would be much better off. Maybe these folks feel as though Obama hasn't responded quick enough for these people so they decided to do it on their own; thinking that Obama and his government of goons were going to be today's version of Robin Hood.

  • tran Aug 11, 2011

    "There are plenty of people that can afford these homes."

    Maybe so but they aren't buying. There's half a dozen empty houses in my neighborhood that have been unoccupied for several years. Some are foreclosures.

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