Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has obtained a temporary restraining order against several defendants who conspired to steal homes from deceased Houston homeowners and their heirs:
James Lanier King, Edward Charles Gray, Charles Eddie Hensley, Callie Hall Herpin, Gustavia Renee Hall, Calvin Balanda Remo, Matthew Wade, Cheryl Shree Swinson, Oscar Hernandez, and Vallery’s House, a nonprofit corporation orchestrated a complex residential real estate scheme by relying on forged and backdated signatures on fraudulent deeds and trusts. In doing so, the defendants fraudulently obtained titles to at least 40 Houston, Texas-area properties, which were subsequently sold to other conspirators and unsuspecting buyers. The enforcement action also charges the defendants with conducting an unlawful mortgage foreclosure scheme that stripped the equity out of fraudulently obtained homes.
According to court documents, King targeted properties owned by the recently deceased, filed a “labor contract with trust deed” on the residence, and falsely claimed that his company, K&W Industries, was performing foundation repair, mold treatment or other repair work for the homeowner. To complete the scheme and obtain fraudulent titles, King would forge and backdate the owners’ signatures by several years, thereby indicating that the homeowners had executed the deeds prior to their deaths. Through the falsified deeds, King established a claim to the homeowner’s property when the bill for the non-existent repair work went unpaid.
Within weeks after filing the bogus deed with the Harris County Clerk’s Office, King would convey and sell the property to his cohorts or to unsuspecting third parties.
Investigators estimate King filed bogus trust and warranty deeds against more than two dozen properties claiming payments for work ranging from $6,000 to $28,000. Based on current appraisal records, King‘s scheme cheated the victims and their heirs of properties worth more than $1.5 million.
The enforcement action also charges Gray with operating an illegal foreclosure rescue scheme. Court documents indicate Gray offered to help homeowners prevent foreclosure. In one case, Gray convinced an elderly homeowner to pay him $350 a month and temporarily transfer title to him. In exchange, Gray promised to return the home to her after her payments totaled $1,500. Gray persuaded the unsuspecting homeowner to execute a deed of trust, which granted a lien to Gray‘s company, with another defendant’s business serving as trustee.
Investigators discovered Gray had the victim sign a warranty deed after falsely promising her that signing the deed would transfer her home back to her. The warranty deed actually transferred the home to another defendant, Erik Lamont Campbell, who used the home’s equity to pay off the property.
“These defendants are charged with orchestrating a fraudulent real estate scheme at the expense of Texas homeowners,” Attorney General Abbott said. “Relying on forged documents, backdated property deeds and a sophisticated mortgage rescue scam, the defendants unlawfully took title to properties that did not rightfully belong to them. The Office of the Attorney General will hold these defendants accountable and continue working to protect Texas homeowners.”
The state is seeking a permanent injunction against the defendants as well as civil penalties of up to $20,000 per violation of the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act.