Scam Artists Sell Home They Don't Own - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

2/2/05-Tyler

Scam Artists Sell Home They Don't Own

For Merced Espinoza, owning a home in Tyler was his American dream.

He and his wife and children had their eyes set on a home on Earle St. more than a year ago, when they saw a "For Sale" sign in front of the vacant home.

"Us having limited knowledge of what goes on in real estate and the real estate practice, we purchased the house," Merced said in Spanish.

He made a $10,000 down payment to two men selling the home. The Espinozas lived there for about a year and paid the men more than $300 a month for mortgage until about three weeks ago.

Merced began receiving letters in the mail telling him to move out because Bank of America had foreclosed his home. We contacted the bank, but they're not commenting.

Southside Bank has been helping Merced sort out the mess. They found out the sellers never owned the home, but used false deeds to sell it. According to the Smith County Appraisal District, the actual owner was from out of state.

Local real estate broker Crystal Crisp, who co-owns the Crisp Realty Group, says this isn't the first time she's heard about this type of scam.

"When you are buying, you have to be protected, I think, through either having an attorney look over the documents or to use title insurance," she said. "Title insurance protects against any liens that are against the property."

"I felt defrauded by the people who did this to me," Merced said. "And me coming here from a different land, one of our basic needs is the need to be housed. And to just be treated this way for a bare essential need was very unpleasant."

Now that he's lost $15,000 and a home, Merced is hoping to save enough money to start over, this time with sound advice and help from professionals.

An easy way to find out who owns a home you're interested in buying is to go to your county's appraisal district web site, or call their office.

Julie Tam, reporting.

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