Tuesday, March 22, 2005
Carmel on the Case: Deceiving Delivery
For most people, it can be the biggest investment of their lives. But for one South Florida couple, it was almost the biggest con job. They received a letter saying they could lose their home in ten weeks. In tonight's "Carmel on the Case," investigative reporter Carmel Cafiero shows us what we should be looking for in the mail.
WSVN -- 91-year-old Ralph Harris bought this house more than 50 years ago.
Even though he suffers from Alzheimers, he thought he'd stay here for good with his partner Donna.
But then an unexpected letter arrived in the mail.
Donna Harris: "Well he said to me when he opened it up, he looked at me and said Donna, are we being thrown out?"
The letter informed the couple they were about to lose their home. In part it reads...
Ralph Harris: "Do you realize that in about 10 weeks your home will be auctioned off?"
Donna Harris: "Don't be like most homeowners who are losing their homes."
And that was enough for Donna to call the woman who sent the letter.
Donna Harris: "She's even saying that she's a real estate investor and that we're on the internet with bad debits."
Donna says the woman told her the property taxes had not been paid on the house.
She offered to help the pair by buying the house at a marked-down value.
Donna Harris: "I told her she was nuts-there's no way because my taxes are paid."
And Miami Dade's Tax Collector-- Ian Yorty says - she's right.
Ian Yorty: "There are no outstanding taxes on this property-everything's paid in full."
The woman who sent the letter refused our request for an interview, but did fax us a copy of her mortgage brokers license and a hand written note reading in part, "I am a licensed mortgage broker and do help mortgages and foreclosures, sending that letter was all a big mistake."
Ian Yorti: "It doesn't seem like there was a mistake, it seems like an intent to deceive someone."
In the second letter, the woman blames a web site for incorrect information although the original letter cites records at the county courthouse, which can't be found online.
Regardless - if Donna hadn't done her homework…
Ian Yorti: "They potentially could have sold their house not wanting to sell their house and selling it for a lesser amount than they could have got if they put it on the market fairly."
We don't know if this woman - or other investors - sent out more letters "by mistake". But make sure if someone wants to sell or buy your home - you know all you need to about the deal.
For more information, or if you have a story for Carmel:
Call her in Dade at 305-627-CLUE
Or In Broward at 954-921-CLUE