CLAYTON (CBS SF) – A Clayton man's alleged plan to defraud his elderly parents of their home last month was thwarted by Contra Costa County's new fraud notification program, according to the county's district attorney's office.
Walter Roberts, 63, was arrested Dec. 16 after the computerized system caught a fraudulent grant deed transferring ownership of his parents' $300,000 home to himself, Deputy District Attorney Ken McCormick said.
Roberts, an unemployed real estate agent who lives with his parents, has been charged with forging their signatures on the grant deed and with financial elder abuse.
KCBS' Bob Melrose Reports:
Without the county's fraud notification system, in which the county clerk-recorder's office now automatically sends letters to homeowners whenever their property title has been transferred, "it could have been years and years before anyone ever discovered (the fraud)," McCormick said.
Through the program, which launched in November, Roberts' parents received a letter alerting them of the fraudulent title transfer.
The couple, aged 92 and 85, respectively, also received a copy of the grant deed with their forged signatures and a doctored notary stamp, McCormick said.
Each notification letter sent through the automated system includes a copy of any property ownership transfer, easily allowing homeowners to see if a deed was forged in their name, he said.
"In this instance, it was clear that these people never signed the document," McCormick said.
A week after Roberts' sister responded to the fraud notice, the 63-year-old was arrested on suspicion of forgery.
He remains in custody on $280,000 bail and is set to appear in court for a preliminary hearing on Jan. 10, according to the district attorney's office.
Roberts' parents, Burmese immigrants and parents to five other children, declined to speak to the press about their son's alleged crime, McCormick said.
He said Roberts appeared to have an "entitlement mentality" that spurred him to defraud his own parents.
While this is the first crime caught by the new fraud notification program, McCormick believes it won't be the last.
For now, he said, "We hopefully have prevented someone from stealing their parents' assets."
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