DENVER (CBS4) - People are moving into vacant houses under foreclosure in some cases they are then sold or leased to unsuspecting buyers.
A 4 On Your Side Investigation has uncovered at least a dozen homes in which this appears to have happened. In some cases the people living in the homes claim they have a right to the property under a little known law called Adverse Possession.
One such property is a luxury home in Castle Rock assessed at nearly $1 million. No one legally bought it or rented it while it was available as a short sale and under foreclosure, but 4 On Your Side Investigator Rick Sallinger found people living in it.
The Douglas County Sheriff's Department had opened an investigation. A sign on the window of the property claims the house now belongs to Sergio Hernandez. Police have now arrested Hernandez on charges related to the illegal occupation of the Castle Rock residence. He is accused of burglary, attempted theft, criminal trespass and violation of bond.
Hernandez had already been arrested on charges of trespassing and filing false documents on another home in Larkspur.
"The individual had filed paperwork with the county claiming he had purchased the house and he had actually not purchased the house and there was an arrest for doing so," said Robert Henry, a neighbor to the Larkspur.
The house in Larkspur also had a sign posed by the door. It reads in part:
Dear Mr. Sheriff Deputy Detective, cease and desist from continuing any non-existing criminal allegations and wrongful persecution.
When Sallinger knocked on the door, no one answered. It is another of the dozen homes under foreclosure throughout the Denver Metro Area and up into the mountains that CBS4's investigation revealed may have been stolen from their legal owners.
Investigators believe the common thread in all of this is a man named Alfonso Carrillo. Carrillo is a former real estate broker whose license was revoked by the state. Now he calls himself a real estate consultant. Attempts to talk to Carrillo have been met with closed doors or silence.
While he's not talking to the media, Carrillo has filed lawsuits against several law enforcement agencies alleging they have been harassing the occupants of the various homes because they are Hispanic.
In Denver, Carrillo is charged by the District Attorney with theft, forgery and filing false documents.
But the scheme is far reaching. Mary Molinar lives in a home she thought she bought in Firestone, in Weld County. She has a document of adverse possession that claimed she owned the house, but after seeing the CBS4 stories about a similar case, she consulted an attorney.
"When I went to the lawyer, he said he doesn't want to tell me like that, but it's a piece of trash. This isn't real. It's not real," Molinar told CBS4 about her paperwork that says she owns the house in which she lives now.
4 On Your Side started looking into this, when Aurora neighbors of Larry Asbery called to say someone had "sold" his house without his knowledge. Asbery had been in the hospital for several month, when he got out of the hospital, strangers were living in his home.
Asbery called Aurora police to try to get the people out of his house, but finally had to turn to a lawyer to file for an eviction. The Adams County Sheriff's Department carried out the eviction order at the beginning of January.
"I thought it was my house and all I had to do was come down and say, 'This is my house. Get out.' And it didn't turn out that way," Asbery told CBS4.
Asbery won back his house, but unfortunately passed away recently from natural causes.
As for Alfonso Carrillo, he sent a cease and desist letter to CBS4 demanding the station stop airing false information. He claims he does not rent or sell houses or issue phone deeds.
Colorado does have an adverse possession law for property and land left abandoned, but it requires 18 years of continuous, unchallenged possession, and 7 years if the taxes are paid on the property.
--Written for the Web by CBS4 Special Projects Producer Libby Smith
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