Tucson mayoral candidate on odd spree of house claiming
He seizes, but doesn’t own, 21 foreclosures
by Catherine Reagor, The Arizona Republic, June 17, 2011
A Tucson mayoral candidate from a fringe political party has seized dozens of foreclosed homes in metro Phoenix, changing the locks, kicking out real-estate agents and posting “Do Not Trespass” signs.
Marshall Home, who claims many foreclosures are illegal, has filed documents in the past two weeks with the Maricopa County Recorder’s Office showing he has supposedly taken ownership of at least 21 homes belonging to government-owned mortgage giant Fannie Mae. But none of the documents shows any money has changed hands, and Fannie Mae says it has not sold the houses.
Real-estate agents and experts say Home’s documents, a type of real-estate form called a special-warranty deed, aren’t valid.
“Fannie Mae has not authorized the transfer of the properties in question to the organization,” spokesman Andrew Wilson said. “We will pursue appropriate legal action and involve law enforcement as necessary.”
But for now, Home’s Independent Rights Political Party Trust is claiming to own the houses. Several of the homes have people living in them.
“Lenders are gangsters, and they can’t prove they own these homes. So they have no right to foreclose,” said the 80-year-old self-professed billionaire from his real-estate and political office in Tucson on Tuesday. “I plan to continue to take homes from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. I would buy them, but those groups can’t produce the notes showing they are the rightful owners to sell or foreclose on them.”
He said he plans to continue to seize houses from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac even if he’s not elected. The chances are slim he will become Tucson’s next mayor.
He has filed several lawsuits against what he considers unlawful foreclosures in Arizona.
Registered as a Democrat, Home is a controversial mayoral candidate. His opponents are trying to have him expelled from the race because he has a criminal record, and some say he is not fit to serve as mayor.
Tom Ruff, real-estate analyst with data firm Information Market, examined the 21 special-warranty deeds Home’s group filed in Maricopa County.
“He knows how to file a real-estate document that looks legitimate,” Ruff said, “even if it may not be.”
Last week, Phoenix HomeSmart real-estate agents Brett Barry and Roland Cleveland got a call from their brokerage telling them Independent Rights Political Party Trust had sent a letter saying it “acquired all rights” to the house at 6032 E. Skinner Drive in Cave Creek. The agents were hired by Fannie Mae to maintain and market the property and had heard nothing about a sale of the home.
The notice told the real-estate agents they had 72 hours to remove their signs and lockboxes, so they rushed to the house wondering what was happening and why hadn’t they been informed. But they were too late. Home’s group had taken their lockboxes, installed new locks and posted signs saying the house was under video surveillance and any trespassers would be “dealt with to the fullest extent of the law.”
A special-warranty deed, stamped by the Maricopa County Recorder’s Office, also was posted on the window of the home. The deed said the Federal National Mortgage Association, Fannie Mae, had conveyed the property to the Independent Rights Party. It was signed by Home and his notary, but there were no signatures from Fannie Mae on it.
Cleveland immediately sensed something was wrong.
“We called the people who hired us and work with Fannie Mae, and they didn’t know anything about a sale,” he said. “It appeared right away the document was fraudulent.”
On orders from Fannie Mae, Cleveland broke the new locks, tore down the trespass warning and other fliers and put new locks on the home. He now watches the house closely every day.
“It’s crazy,” he said. “How does someone just declare they own a home without paying for it or obtaining a clear title?”
A warranty deed is a document filed for almost all home sales conveying a property from the seller to the buyer. But a special-warranty deed is only used in unusual circumstances. In a typical transaction, a title agent makes sure the property has no liens or ownership issues and all the paperwork is correct before both the buyer and seller sign the documents, which are then filed with the Maricopa County Recorder’s Office.
All types of documents can be filed with the Recorder’s Office as long as they are notarized. Not all documents are scrutinized before the county agency accepts them because that’s not its job. But Home said Maricopa County Recorder Helen Purcell did reject some of his filings, though he would not say why.
Home said his group also has claimed control over foreclosure houses in Tucson and other parts of the country, including Florida and Las Vegas.
Besides his political party, Home runs a company called Stop Foreclosure Underwriters. Home said he receives requests from homeowners for help taking back their homes and files the paperwork in response. He and his employees or members of his party post the signs and handle the paperwork to take control of a government-owned home.
Home said he took control of a 145-unit condominium project for a man in Florida.
“We’ve seized hundreds of homes from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac,” Home said. “Those groups have no legal right to them.”
Home said he likes to have someone living in a home his group seizes because that makes it more difficult for the federal agencies to reclaim the houses and evict tenants.
The Cave Creek house Cleveland and Barry are in charge of is empty, but the agents are checking it regularly for unwanted tenants.
The houses that Independent Rights is claiming ownership to in metro Phoenix span from Scottsdale to Peoria.
Besides suing Home, Fannie Mae must contact local law enforcement and prosecutors to stop him from taking over its foreclosure homes.
Angst at lenders
Home is tapping into a growing sentiment among homeowners angry with lenders who won’t work with them on loan modifications. Instead, the homeowners are often dismayed to see the lender foreclose, then resell the house for a bargain price, sometimes a price the original owner could have paid. Some of Home’s critics call him an anarchist. He has said the government doesn’t have the right to require licenses of any kind, whether business, marriage or driving. Home himself said he drives but doesn’t have a license.
Home said he is running for mayor in part to try to stop fraudulent foreclosures, but he could be kicked out of the Tucson election this week because he hasn’t lived in the city for the requisite three years and has a criminal record for assaulting a federal court officer.
He said that won’t stop him from taking back foreclosure homes from Fannie Mae and fellow mortgage backer Freddie Mac.
“I haven’t been contacted by either entity nor has either one done anything to stop me,” Home said. “I look forward to a call from one of them so I can explain why I am legally in the right to take over taxpayer-owned homes.”