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Consumer Justice: 'Serial Squatters' Cost Homeowners Thousands

NORTH TEXAS (CBS11) - A North Texas couple is playing a frightening game of cat and mouse with other people's homes. They're called "serial squatters" and they owe local homeowners tens of thousands of dollars.

Kristine Reddick was trying to find the perfect family to rent her late father's home. She thought Heather and William Eric Schwab were it. "I spent two hours with them," said Reddick. "And that's how important it was. It's not like 'here's your keys, c'mon in.'"

William and Heather Schwab
William and Heather Schwab - accused "Serial Squatters"

Reddick is a realtor and relocation expert who regularly runs background and credit checks. She said everything on the Schwabs' application checked out, from salary to rental history.

Right away, the rent check bounced and the excuses started.

"Can't talk, Eric's grandmother died, CPS is coming over... I got fired at my job for personal phone calls," said Reddick. "You can only go so far with a story -- and I was born at night but not last night."

She started the eviction process and five months after they moved in, the Schwabs were forced out. "There was stuff everywhere, they had smoked in the house, my pool was now a Mountain Dew green." The Schwabs still owe Reddick more than $7,325 as part of the court judgment.

Reddick had no idea the Schwabs had been evicted before. Tarrant County court records show William and Heather were evicted at least 14 times before moving into Reddick's home. Former landlords said they use fake information to move in with their children and pets, then work the system as long as possible without paying.

Two evictions later, the Schwabs moved into Dustin and Arlene Harrison's home in Carrollton. "They made it a big deal like, 'hey it's Thanksgiving and we just need to get in real quick," said Dustin. "Just seemed like good guys, good people." The Schwabs said they were military veterans, like the Harrisons, and small business owners. "They owned their own collection agency," said Dustin. "They sell themselves well."

The first check bounced, but Dustin said he kept covering the rent to give the Schwabs time to pay. For weeks he received excuses about wire transfer delays and slow bank service. Then the Harrisons started receiving foreclosure notices. "It was the worst feeling in the world -- like we were paying the mortgage on a home that they were just squatting in," said Arlene.

The Harrisons tried to evict the Schwabs themselves but soon learned their renters knew the law better than most. "I said, 'these people know more than we do' so I contacted an attorney."

That attorney was with Marc Girling's law firm. "I like to call them serial squatters -- that's what they do."

Girling said he was familiar with William and Heather Schwab because he had just evicted them from a home in Lewisville. "They know eviction law in some cases, as well as many attorneys."

Seven months after they moved in, the Schwabs were evicted, but the damage was done. "We were 780, now we're 530," said Dustin, referencing their credit scores. "I couldn't get a bag of chips if I wanted, you know."

The Schwabs were then evicted from two more homes in the area. When the Harrisons checked the Denton County courts website and saw the list of evictions growing -- they called Consumer Justice. "Because these people are just chronically victimizing and no one is holding them accountable," said Arlene.

CBS11 found the Schwabs in a luxury gated community in Frisco. They had signed a contract to buy a home and move in and pay rent until the closing date. The checks bounced, the sale fell through, and the Schwabs were evicted. So they moved into a home a few streets over, where rent was $3,000 per month.

Cristin Severance approached Heather Schwab as she appeared in court on a bad check charge, but Schwab said she didn't know anything about the evictions or the landlords. She later called a Consumer Justice producer and admitted to some of the evictions, but denied several others that are on her record. Schwab pointed out that there is another woman with her name, but the women have different middle names and are 12 years apart in age.

About a month after Schwab denied the evictions, she and her family received another eviction notice. This time it was Justin and Kristi Merrill taking them to court. "I'm just still in shock," said Kristi, adding, "I think it's criminal to move into a house knowing you have no intentions of paying rent."

Their attorney, Jeff Sprigg, is familiar with the Schwabs because he had helped evict them before. "The Schwabs like to game the system!" said Sprigg. "They know who to look for, they know who their victims are going to be."

During a court hearing in October William Schwab told the judge they were too poor to pay court costs, and showed paperwork claiming they made $3,500 a month. Sprigg showed the judge a W-2 the Schwabs had provided showing they made more than $15,000 a month. The judge ruled against the Schwabs and days later, granted the eviction.

It was during that time the Schwabs agreed to purchase a $473,000 home in the same gated community. Just like last time, they moved in immediately and agreed to pay rent until closing. Days later the checks were found to be no good, and the seller started the eviction process. This will be the Schwabs' ninth eviction case in Denton County since 2015.

CBS11 contacted the Schwabs multiple times requesting an interview or statement, but did not receive a response.

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