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Couple Buys Stolen Home It Does Not Own But Still Stuck With Mortgage

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by hearit

hearit's picture
In The News

It's a homeowner's worst nightmare: A home you buy does not really belong to you. Just months after purchasing a California house, an FBI call says the four-bedroom, Mediterranean-style residence in Murrieta is stolen property involved in mortgage fraud. The Zaharis' don't legally own the property but Bank of America insists on mortgage payments.
The north Murrieta (CA) home, the FBI agency says, has been fleeced from its prior owner in a scheme to defraud people facing foreclosure. While the house's previous owner hasn't yet been located, that female owner could resurface with a legal claim in demands the house and property be returned to the true owner.
Squatters are living in other people's houses -- even allegedly being paid off by banks, in some cases, to get them off the property quickly. Simultaneously, someone who technically paid for a house could be booted from the home at any moment.
The couple who thought it purchased the house for sale is stuck and in more than a bit of a quandary: Mortgage payments must be met despite the fact they don't technically own the house and could be kicked out at any time. The Zaharis' can't sell the home, since it's technically stolen property -- and they also can't stop making monthly mortgage payments, to lender Bank of America, or lack of payments will ruin the couple's credit scores and send it to foreclosure with money already sunk into the Zaharis' "buy".
The story begins with strange, for the Zaharis', with Karen Tappert -- a woman now jailed in Las Vegas, Nevada. She's accused of advertising herself as a mortgage rescue expert, and allegedly receiving thousands of dollars worth of payments for those "expert" services, before supposedly filing phony deeds with California, Nevada and Washington county clerks in order to transfer the homes to shell companies under her control.
According to the U.S. attorney's office in Las Vegas, Tappert began renting the residences to other people -- while selling houses, in other instances, to unsuspecting buyers. She's not charged in connection with the Zaharis' home but the FBI allegedly informed the couple its current California home had been involved in Tappert's scheme.
Karen Tappert's headed for trial in June, in a federal court in Nevada. Ironically the Zaharis bought the home on June 18, 2010 -- less than a year before Tappert's June 14, 2011, trial is slated to begin. The California couple had never heard of Tappert, buying the house from a company called LB Marshall -- now known to be simply a post office box in Las Vegas.
Riverside County property records reflect a woman named Susan Mirador as buying the house in 2006 for $409,400. Mirador fell behind on making mortgage payments, with foreclosure proceedings beginning in 2008 but never completed.
The California couple had spent three years looking for a new home to buy before purchasing their new digs that the FBI now says is really stolen property.
A kitchen cabinet now houses the couple's monthly, paid mortgage statements -- records to show any potentially-arriving law enforcement officer or deputy, who the couple fears may arrive to tell them the house they bought with a $30,000 down payment isn't legally theirs. In other words, the California couple could be kicked out at any time.
"Literally, we don't know if the sheriff is gonna show up and say you're evicted," says 34-year-old Shauna Zahari.
The Zaharis stopped all home improvements last summer, in 2010, after receiving the FBI call -- the couple not wanting to sink any more funds into a house it wasn't sure it would be keeping.
The housing market crash and resulting mortgage crisis has helped seed the arrival of mortgage fraud and scammers. And while Karen Tappert is indicted for wire and mail fraud concerning six houses that federal prosecutors say she stole from owners, the Zaharis' house isn't named in that indictment -- despite the fact letters from the title company, First American Title Insurance Company, indicate the Zaharis' purchased home was allegedly part of the fraud. The FBI isn't commenting on the exclusion.
Charlie Zaharis has been trying to work the fraud problem himself, unable to afford an attorney and unable to get a lawyer on contingency-- with slim chances on any cash settlement concerning the property. He says Bank of America, the mortgage-holder, has advised the mortgage bills remain paid by the Zaharis'. In fact Bank of America owns two outstanding mortgages on the house: The bank bought Mirador's loan from her original lender and later purchaswed the Zaharis loan from its original lender.
It all sparks outrage for Charlie Zahari -- who says the bank didn't check things out on the property before buying the loan. He claims the lack of due diligence by Bank of America is what made the fraud and mortgage scheme possible, the (kind of) property owner claiming: "The whole mortgage mess was a lack of human interaction. That's what's happened here."
But Bank of America has claimed to the Zaharis', via letter the say, that because the bank didn't "originate" either loan, the financial institution isn't responsible for ensuring a clear title. The B of A lawyer seems to be dubbing the bank a "potential victim" in the case, not a responsible party.
The Zaharis' utilized a Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loan, therefore required to pay thousands to a title insurance company that the say should have investigated the title to ensure it was clear. In the other cases against Tappert, the home sales were cash. The title company, First American, has told the Zaharis the company is "investigating".



Murietta, CA 92562
United States
33° 33' 14.0904" N, 117° 12' 50.1228" W
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