[Post updated with sentencing and aftermath information] Fraudsters have few boundaries. Their crimes hurt millions of Americans each year. Texas resident Norris Fisher now enters the Hall of Shame after forging deeds from the recently departed and the mentally challenged. His story is pulled from the court records of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, Fort Worth Division.
In this post we examine the growing problem of deed theft and forged titles. We first look at the Norris Fisher case and then discuss steps you can take to protect yourself from deed theft.
Norris was convicted of federal mail fraud charges after being caught in a scheme that involved filing forged deeds to real estate. In lay terms, he was convicted of deed theft. By forging the deeds, not only were the rightful owners of the real estate deprived of their property but the subsequent buyers who then purchased the stolen property were also deprived of their money.
According to a sealed complaint from the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Norris is believed to have forged over 300 deeds, affidavits of heirship and other documents. His net haul? Police say in just 2 years, he falsely acquired over 100 properties in the Fort Worth area worth almost $4 million.
How did he accomplish this feat?Forged documents, forged notary seals and a newspaper.
According to sworn testimony from Postal Inspector Eric Bodak, the deed theft scheme began to unravel in late 2008 when John Special of Fort Worth found out his vacant lot had been sold to a woman in Los Angeles. (Inspector’s Bodak’s arrest warrant affidavit is reprinted at the bottom of this post.)
Police found that the transfer of the property had been done by a forged deed. Both Special’s name and the notary’s seal were forged.
Ultimately, investigators determined that forger would first use a phony deed to acquire control of the property and later sell the property for cash to an unsuspecting buyer. Anyone conducting a title search would believe that all paperwork was in order.
Cops tracked down Fisher through a series of post office boxes where the deeds were mailed.
To avoid getting caught, Fisher usually stole vacant lots. To further avoid detection, he often would identify properties whose owners had recently died. His depravity didn’t end with defrauding the recently departed, however.
In one case, an alert caseworker at the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services discovered that one of her clients, a 77-year-old ward of the state, had “sold” all 3 of her properties. Suspicious, the caseworker tracked down the alleged notary and discovered both the notary’s signature and stamp were forged.
In July of 2009, police executed a search warrant at Fisher’s home and found seven different notary stamps. Immediately prior to the search warrant, an undercover police officer purchased one of the stolen properties from Fisher at Fisher’s home. The entire conversation was recorded.
Faced with overwhelming evidence, Fisher ultimately pled guilty to 4 counts of federal mail fraud and conspiracy in October of this year. Although facing 20 years on each count, Fisher is likely to receive less at his sentencing hearing scheduled for early February.
Fisher Sentenced to Prison for Deed Theft
[Updates] Norris Fisher will likely die in prison. That is because on April 26th, 2011, U.S. District Court Judge Terry Means sentenced Fisher to 20 years in prison. Even with good time, he won’t be eligible for release until he is 80 years old.
Fisher immediately appealed his sentence saying it was too harsh. Fortunately, a three judge appeals panel disagreed with him. In their words,
“Fisher contends the court should have imposed a shorter sentence because he is a Vietnam veteran, because he committed his offenses out of desperation after his wife’s illness depleted their savings, and because he provided the government with information in an attempt to rectify the harm caused by his crimes. He also asserts, based on his advanced age, that he will likely remain in prison for the rest of his life.
Fisher’s disagreement with the district court’s assessment of an appropriate sentence does not establish abuse of discretion. He essentially seeks to have us reweigh the [statutory sentencing] factors, which we will not do.”
Not happy with that response, Fisher filed more motions and yet another appeal. In 2018, the U.S. Court of Appeals declared Fisher’s multiple appeals frivolous and warned that continued filings could result in an order barring his access to the courts. (Fisher certainly has free time on his hands – probably the rest of his life.)
For many property owners, the sentencing of Fisher wasn’t the end of their deed theft problems.
Some of the heirs don’t have the money to hire lawyers and get back their property.
How To Protect Yourself from Deed Theft
As I write this post, a company called Home Title Lock is conducting a national ad campaign to sell their service. We express no opinions as to how well this service – or similar services – perform, it isn’t difficult to protect your home from being stolen in a deed theft scheme. (While we have no opinion on Home Title Lock’s service, we do think their ad campaign is a bit over the top. Don’t let fear be your guide.)
You can protect your title by periodically checking your property record with the register of deeds in the county where the property is located. In most counties, you can do that online. Look for deeds and mortgages that you didn’t sign. Also look for liens of contractors that you never hired or that didn’t perform work on the property.
An increasing number of counties are rolling out notification services that let you know anytime something is recorded against your property.
Other warning signs include failing to receive tax, water or sewerage bills. To gain control of your property, fraudsters will frequently change where bills are sent so that you don’t see new mortgages or borrowings.
If something is amiss visit your register of deeds and personally review your property records. If something is wrong, the quicker you report the crime and consult an attorney, the easier it is to fix the problem. Once a deed theft occurs and an innocent purchaser buys the property or a fraudster obtains a loan against the property, things get complicated.
Vacant Homes and the Elderly Most at Risk
Unoccupied homes and vacant real estate are the most common deed theft targets. If you own multiple properties, make sure you visit them regularly. Homes belonging to the recently deceased, disabled and the elderly are also more at risk. All of these factors were present in the Norris Fisher case.
Are You or a Loved One a Victim of Deed Theft
Fraud takes many forms. As quick as the police identify and shut down once scam, two more surface. The fraud discussed above was stunningly simple in its operation.
If you are the victim of deed theft, contact the fraud recovery lawyers at Mahany Law. Our team and network of experienced recovery lawyers help businesses and individuals recover their hard earned money. Deed theft, land swindles, stockbroker fraud, legal malpractice, investment fraud, Ponzi schemes… our team can help. We have handled cases from Maine to Hawaii and throughout the world. [We limit our deed theft practice to properties with $1 million or more in equity but often we can help in smaller cases.]
Contact attorney Brian Mahany today online, by email or by phone at 202-800-9791. All inquiries are protected by the attorney client privilege and kept confidential.
Bonus! Anatomy of Deed Theft – The Fisher Probable Cause Affidavit
A good way to learn how these deed theft crimes occur is by reading what the police say. Here is the affidavit from the postal inspector in the Norris Fisher case. We apologize for the typos which occurred when reproducing the document from the court clerk’s online system.
I, Eric R. Bodak, Postal Inspector, being duly sworn, state the following is true and correct to the best of my knowledge and belief:
On or about June 3, 2008, in the Fort Worth Division of the Northern District of Texas, NORRIS LYNN FISHER, defendant, for the purpose of executing and attempting to execute a scheme and artifice, did knowingly and with intent to defraud, cause to be sent, delivered, and moved by the United States Postal Service, a letter containing a forged warranty deed which purported to transfer the property located at 4909 Lyndon Drive, Fort Worth, Texas, to “Linda J. Covington” in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1341.
1. I am a United States Postal Inspector currently assigned to the Fort Worth Division of the United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS). I have been a Postal Inspector for the USPIS the past five Prior to becoming a Postal Inspector, I was a Police Officer for the City of Arlington, Texas for 8 years. As a Postal Inspector, I received specialized training in the investigation of federal criminal offenses relating to the United States Mail and use of the United States Mail, and participated in the investigations of these offenses, including violations of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1341 (Mail Fraud).
2. The information contained in this Complaint is the result of my own investigation as well as information provided to me by other investigators and law enforcement officers. In each instance when I recite information from such others, I have gained that information either by talking directly to such investigators and law enforcement officers or reviewing written reports of their investigation, or both.
3. On October 1, 2008, I was advised by Jim Mathine, Consumer Fraud Analyst for USPIS that he was contacted by Presley Darnell, a forensic accountant with the Economic Crimes Unit of the Tarrant County District Attorney’s (TCDA) Office in Fort Worth, Texas. Mr. Darnell requested assistance in obtaining United States Postal Service (USPS) records to document a potential mail fraud scheme involving the filing of fraudulent warranty deeds with the Tarrant County Clerk’s office to facilitate the theft of real property from rightful owners.
4. Darnell advised that on September 24, 2008, he received a complaint from David McMillan and John Special regarding an allegedly fraudulent warranty deed no. D208295129, dated July 18, 2008 and filed with the Tarrant County Clerk’s office on July 29, 2008. The fraudulent deed purported to transfer 500 Wall Street, Fort Worth, Texas 76102, a vacant lot owned by John Special, to “Maria C. Flores” at 500 South Alexandria Avenue, Los Angeles, California 90020.
5. Mr. Special reported that his name had been forged as the Grantor on the warranty deed. John Pierson, Mr. Special’s attorney, informed Mr. Darnell that he had contacted Sara LeAnn Ivy, the notary whose seal was affixed to on the warrant deed. Ms. Ivy stated her name had also been forged on warranty deed no. D208295 l 29.
6. Darnell informed me that after warranty deed no. D208295129 was filed, the original deed was mailed to “Maria Flores” at 500 Wall Street, Fort Worth, Texas 76102 by the Tarrant County Clerk’s office. I reviewed warranty deed no. D208295 l 29 and confirmed the information provided by Mr. Darnell.
7. On October 2, 2008, I obtained USPS records and learned that a change of address order had been filed and signed by “Maria Flores.” The change of address form, effective on July 29, 2008, caused mail sent to 500 Wall Street, Fort Worth, Texas 76102, to be forwarded instead to Post Office Box 150052, Fort Worth, Texas 76108.
8. I obtained USPS records which reflect that Post Office Box 150052, Fort Worth, Texas 76108 was rented on March 2, 2007 by NORRIS FISHER, Secretary/Treasurer of J-Tex Construction, Inc., 3140 Rodeo, Fort Worth, Texas 76119. When FISHER rented the post office box, he produced Texas Drivers License number 04876109 as proof of his identity. I confirmed through records maintained by the Texas Department of Public Safety that Texas Drivers License number 04876109 was issued to FISHER and expires on December 24, 2010.
9. Consequently, effective July 29, 2008, all mail addressed to “Maria Flores” at 500 Wall Street, Fort Worth, Texas 76102, was instead forwarded to a post office box that had been rented by FISHER since March 2, 2007. That would have included warranty deed no. D208295129,which was filed with the Tarrant County Clerk’s office on July 29, 2008, and was mailed by the Tarrant Country Clerk’s office thereafter.
10.On January 9, 2009, Darnell advised me that in late September 2008 he connected FISHER to numerous corporations through several post office box addresses opened by FISHER and used in this fraudulent real estate scheme. Mr. Darnell conducted an extensive review of real property transactions and connected FISHER to the names “Linda Covington,” Chance Housing Management, Inc. and others where a number of fraudulent warranty deeds were filed with the Tarrant County Clerk’s office during the period of 2007 to present. Mr. Darnell identified over 300 forged warranty deeds, affidavits of heirship, and other documents that were filed from 2007 through December 2009 in what appeared to be a scheme to defraud rightful owners of their property. In the course of the scheme, FISHER acquired over 100 real properties in Tarrant County Texas valued at over $1 million. [Ed. note: The Justice Department later said the properties taken in Fisher’s deed theft scheme were worth $3.7 million.]
11.The investigation that I conducted with the assistance of other investigators and law enforcement agents revealed that the method FISHER employed to accomplish his scheme typically followed the same pattern.
12. The properties involved in the fraudulent warranty deed transfers were almost always vacant lots with unpaid back taxes due and/or with weed liens filed against them by the City of Fort Worth. [Ed. Note: Deed theft schemes often target vacant properties. We believe that Fisher may have been searching county records to find properties with city weed liens, a telltale sign that a property is vacant. Maintain your property!]
13. After identifying a property, FISHER would often file a forged warranty deed transferring the property to a fictitious buyer. In creating the forged warranty deed, FISHER would forge the signature of the true property owner, and would forge the signature and notary stamp affixed to the document. After forging the warranty deed, FISHER filed it with the Tarrant County Clerk’s Office.
14. Once the warranty deed was filed, it would be recorded by the Tarrant County Clerk’s Office, then the original file stamped fraudulent warranty deeds would be mailed by the Tarrant County Clerk’s Office to the name and address designated on the warranty deed. However, before the mailing took place, FISHER filed change of address forms with the United States Post Office which caused mail addressed to the address on the deed to be forwarded instead to a post office box that had been rented by By using this tactic, FISHER concealed his connection to the initial fraudulent conveyance, and ensured that he would receive the original warranty deeds.
15. In another variation of this pattern, FISHER would identify properties whose rightful owners had passed away recently. FISHER would then filed a forged heirship affidavit, attesting that a fictitious person was the sole heir of the deceased owner. FISHER would then file a forged warranty deed transferring the property from the fictitious heir to a business entity controlled by FISHER.
16. After transferring the stolen property to an entity he controlled, FISHER often filed additional fraudulent warranty deeds transferring the property from the first entity to other business entities controlled by FISHER operated several business entities for this purpose, and would often transfer stolen properties between multiple entities to conceal his connection to the original fraud. FISHER also often concealed his connection to these business entities by listing deceased relatives and/or fictitious people as the owners of the business entities.
17. Many times, FISHER filed multiple fraudulent warranty deeds simultaneously. Consequently, these deeds would be consecutively numbered by the Tarrant County Clerk’s office. However, although the deeds were filed on the same date, the dates shown as the date of transaction on the warranty deeds were usually varied and spread out to make each warranty deed appear to have been prepared on different dates than the others.
18. Eventually, after transferring the stolen properties to an entity that he controlled, FISHER would lease the mineral rights on the property or sell the property to a buyer who was typically unaware of the fraudulent conveyances.
19. In the course of investigating this scheme, I and other investigators discovered that the following indicators of fraud were common to most of the fraudulent conveyances that FISHER effected:
- The font, style and print on almost all the forged deeds looked similar, as though coming from the same computer and/or typewriter and
- The fictitious buyers’ names were used multiple times, and the properties conveyed to those buyers were ultimately transferred to FISHER-controlled
- The return addresses shown by the fictitious buyers on the initial fraudulent warranty deeds were often out of state, and, upon further investigation, were not valid for the names
- Many of the notaries’s names used on fraudulent warranty deeds were fictitious or did not match the signatures of the notaries portrayed.
- Several notary stamps matching the notaries’s names used on the fraudulent warranty deeds were found at FISHER’S residence during a search.
ACTS IN FURTHERANCE OF THE SCHEME
4909 Lyndon Drive
2o. On January 9, 2009, I met with Mr. Darnell and Greg McNeese, an Investigator with the Economic Crimes Unit of the TCDA. Investigator McNeese related that on September 26, 2008 he received a complaint filed by Ron Turpin, Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services and registered guardian on behalf of Virgie Parker, age 77, a ward of the state. According to McNeese, Turpin discovered that Parker had been the owner of three properties, all of which had been fraudulently conveyed on June 3, 2008 to the ownership of “Linda J. Covington” by the use of fraudulent warranty deeds. McNeese reported that Turpin contacted Cherie Allen, the notary on all three of the fraudulent warranty deeds, and determined that both her signature and her notary stamp were forged. The three property conveyances were:
- Warranty Deed no. D208206594; 4909 Lyndon Drive, Fort Worth, Texas; Lot 46, Block L, Arlington Heights West #2;
- Warranty Deed no. D208206595; 2900 Sappington Pl, Fort Worth, Texas; Lot 18, Block 1, Golf Hills Addition; and
- Warranty Deed D208206596; 3033 Lackland Rd, Fort Worth, TX; Lot 9, Block 4, Golf Hills Addition.
[The elderly and recent immigrants are frequent victims of deed theft schemes. This is especially true if the elderly person is presently residing in an assisted living facility or nursing home. If someone in your family fits that profile, check the county deed records and the property frequently. If you are not around to do so or if the county doesn’t have electronic records or a notification service, consider a company that offers home title monitoring.]
21. I reviewed the fraudulent warranty deeds and observed that “Linda Covington” listed a return address on all three documents of 1221 West 3rd St., Los Angeles, California 90017. I obtained USPS records and determined that on June 2, 2008 someone using the name of “Linda Covington” filed a change of address order, requesting the forwarding of mail from 1221 West 3rd St., Los Angeles, CA 90017, to Post Office Box 150052, Fort Worth, Texas 76108. As previously stated, this post office box was rented by FISHER on March 2, 2007.
22. I reviewed warranty deed records of the Tarrant County Clerk’s office and learned that on June 26, 2008, the property at 4909 Lyndon Drive, Fort Worth, Texas was conveyed by warranty deed no. 208246611, dated June 25, 2008 and filed on June 26, 2008, from “Linda Covington” to Chance Housing Management, , (Chance) Post Office Box 150052, Fort Worth, Texas 76108. As previously stated, this post office box was rented by FISHER on March 2, 2007.
23. Warranty deed D2082466 l l, filed June 26, 2008, wherein “Covington” conveyed 4909 Lyndon Drive to Chance, bears the notary signature of “Maria Flores”. The notary commission expiration date of September 24, 2008 on the document matched a commission expiration of a notary in south Texas by the name of Maria Flores and none other. Investigator McNeese informed me that he contacted Maria Flores and she did not sign warranty deed no. D208246611, or witness the signature of Linda J. Covington.
24. I learned from corporation records of the Texas Secretary of State that Chance listed a primary business address of Post Office Box 185033, Fort Worth, Texas 76181. I obtained USPS records and determined that Post Office Box 185033, Fort Worth, Texas 76181 was rented on March 19, 2002 by Marvel S. Kissinger, Richland Mortgage Inc., SKF and “various companies,” 4312 Wheeler Street, Fort Worth, Texas 76117. I determined from an Accurint search that Marvel S. Kissinger died in Tarrant County Texas on December 7, 2002 at 99 years of age. During an interview on May 26, 2009, with Becky Oliver, Investigative Reporter with Channel 4 News in Dallas-Fort Worth, FISHER admitted that Marvel Kissinger was his deceased grandmother.
25. “N. FISHER” and “Rick Perry” were also shown on the USPS record as authorized representatives of Marvel S. Kissinger for Post Office Box 185033. The person who rented this box showed Texas Drivers License number 04876109 as proof of identity. As previously stated, this number was issued by the Texas Department of Public Safety to FISHER.
26. I reviewed Tarrant County Appraisal District records and determined that 4909 Lyndon Drive, Fort Worth, Texas was conveyed from Chance to JCCF Investments (JCCF) on June 26, 2008 and then from JCCF to Glidden Development Corp. (Glidden) on December 20, 2008. I reviewed Tarrant County Clerk’s office records and determined that warranty deed no. D208252999, dated June 26, 2008 and filed on July 1, 2008 was used to convey 4909 Lyndon from Chance to JCCF, 3651 Monticello, Drive, Fort Worth, Texas 76107. I also reviewed Tarrant County Clerk’s office records and determined warranty deed no. D209092484, dated December 20, 2008 and filed on April 7, 2009 was used to convey 4909 Lyndon from JCCF to Glidden, Post Office Box 470830, Fort Worth, Texas 76147. Both of these warranty deeds were purportedly notarized by James Stokely. Both of these warranty deeds contained similar fonts, format and style as other fraudulent warranty deeds reviewed by myself and Mr. Darnell.
27. On July 14, 2009, Postal Inspectors and Investigators from the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office executed a federal search warrant at FISHER’S residence, 2504 Dean Lane, Fort Worth, Texas. During the search of FISHER’S residence, we seized seven notary stamps , including a stamp purporting to belong to James A James Stokely notary stamp had been used on fraudulent warranty deed numbers D208252999 and D209092484 related to 4909 Lyndon. (See Paragraph 26 above.) The original notary certificate issued by the Texas Secretary of State to James Stokely was also seized at FISHER’S residence.
28. I obtained USPS records and determined that Post Office Box 470830, Fort Worth, Texas 76147, the mailing address given for Glidden on warranty deed no. D209092484, was rented on February 5, 2009 by FISHER, who listed his title as Secretary/Treasurer of Edlemann and Cohen, FISHER used Texas Drivers License no. 04876109 as proof of his identity. As previously stated, I confirmed through records maintained by the Texas Department of Public Safety that Texas Drivers License number 04876109 was issued to FISHER. I also obtained information from a confidential witness that Glidden was created and controlled by FISHER. (See Paragraph 48.)
29. On May 26, 2009, I was advised by Mr. Darnell that several other properties had been transferred to Glidden via fraudulent warranty deeds filed with the Tarrant County Clerk’s office. In several of these instances, Glidden listed a mailing address of Post Office Box 2195, Fort Worth, Texas 76113. I obtained USPS records which reflect that Post Office Box 2195, Fort Worth, Texas 76113 was rented by FISHER, 4312 Wheeler, Fort Worth, Texas 76119, on August 28, 2008. When renting the post office box, FISHER produced Texas Drivers License number 04876109 as proof of his identity. As previously stated, I confirmed through records maintained by the Texas Department of Public Safety that Texas Drivers License number 04876109 was issued to Fisher.
30. On June 16, 2009, I reviewed records of the Tarrant County Clerk’ s office and determined that 4909 Lyndon Drive, Fort Worth, Texas was conveyed from Glidden to KEM Services, Inc., Post Office Box 121485, Fort Worth, Texas 76121. Warranty deed no. D209146901, filed on June 3, 2009, was used to fraudulently transfer the property. I reviewed a copy of the warranty deed, and determined the font, format and style was similar to other fraudulent warranty deeds identified in this Complaint.
31. I obtained USPS records which reflect that Post Office Box 121485, listed as the address for KEM Services, Inc., was rented on November 2, 1998 by N.L. FISHER. When renting the post office box, FISHER produced Texas Drivers License number 04876109 as proof of his identity. As previously stated, I confirmed through records maintained by the Texas Department of Public Safety that Texas Drivers License number 04876109 was issued to FISHER.
32. I reviewed records of the Texas Secretary of State and determined that KEM Services, Inc. was incorporated on December 15, 1997 by Marvel Kissinger, the deceased grandmother of On March 30, 2003, the corporate records were updated and N.L. FISHER was listed as the President and Director of KEM Services, Post Office Box 121485, Fort Worth, Texas 76121.
33. On June 23, 2009, I monitored a covert conversation between FISHER and a undercover police officer using the alias of Martin The conversation took place at FISHER’S residence, 2504 Dean Lane, Fort Worth, Texas and was for the purpose of negotiating the purchase of 4909 Lyndon, Fort Worth, Texas. FISHER agreed to sell the property for $7,500. I again monitored a conversation between the undercover police officer and FISHER on June 26, 2009 at 2504 Dean Lane. FISHER prepared a warranty deed and drove the undercover police officer to a notary public on Camp Bowie Boulevard in Fort Worth. FISHER and the undercover police officer entered the notary public office and FISHER signed the warranty deed as the Grantor and Secretary/Treasurer of KEM Services, Inc. FISHER gave the undercover police officer a copy of the signed warranty deed and a two page estimate of costs to repair 4909 Lyndon. The undercover police officer gave FISHER $7,500 cash for the purchase of 4909 Lyndon. FISHER gave the undercover police officer a receipt for $7,500, dated June 26, 2009.
34. The warranty deed prepared by FISHER on June 26, 2009 was mailed to the Tarrant County Clerk’s office by KEM Services, on June 30, 2009. The original mailing envelope was provided to me by Mr. Darnell, who received it from Diane Bounds, Assistant Manager for Recording. I reviewed records of the Tarrant County Clerk’s office and detennined this warranty deed was filed under document no. D209174554 on July 1, 2009; Grantor: KEM Services, Inc.; Grantee: Martin Flores, with instructions to mail the original filed document to KEM Services, Inc., POB 121485, Fort Worth, Texas 76121-1485. I found warranty deed no. D209174554 to be similar in font, format and style with other fraudulent documents identified in this Complaint.
310 N. Hardin1: Street
35. On February 5, 2010, I reviewed an heirship affidavit filed on May 15, 2008 with the Tarrant County Clerk’s Office under document D208181603. In this document, Raymond Gonzales, purporting to be the cousin of Julio Guerrero, claimed that he had knowledge that Julio Guerrero and his wife Felicita Guerrero were deceased. The affidavit further attested that Juan Guerrero was the sole heir of Julio and Felicita Guerrero. The signature of Raymond Gonzalez was notarized by Craig Davis. The clerk’ s office was directed to mail the original filed document to Juan Guerrero at 310 N. Harding Street, Fort Worth, Texas 76102. I researched change of address records of USPS and determined that on May 7, 2008, someone filed a change of address order to have mail for the Guerrero family forwarded from 310 N. Harding Street, Fort Worth, Texas 76102 to Post Office Box 150052, Fort Worth, Texas 76108. As previously stated, FISHER rented Post Office Box 150052 on March 2, 2007. I found the heirship affidavit to be similar in font, format and style with other fraudulent documents identified in this Complaint.
36. I conducted Accurint searches and was unable to find anyone with the name Raymond Gonzales residing at the address listed on the heirship affidavit. I was not able to locate anyone named Juan Guerrero at the Los Angeles address listed on the heirship affidavit. I was only able to locate one Juan Guerrero in the United States with a date of birth matching that listed in the heriship affidavit. This Juan Guerrero lived in El Paso. A Spanish-speaking Postal Inspector contacted this Juan Guerrero, and Mr. Guerrero stated that he has never lived in Fort Worth or Los Angeles, and his parents are not Julio and Felicita Guerrero. Moreover, this Juan Guerrero did not have a social security number matching that listed for “Juan Guerrero” on the Heirship Affidavit. I could not find anyone named Juan Guerrero with a social security number matching that listed in the heirship affidavit.
37. On July 14, 2009, Postal Inspectors and Investigators from the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office executed a federal search warrant at FISHER’S residence, 2504 Dean Lane, Fort Worth, Texas. Several documents were seized that related to the fraudulent warranty deed scheme, including original warranty deed no. D208181606.
38. Original warranty deed no. D208181606 was dated May 13, 2008 and filed with the Tarrant County Clerk’s Office on May 15, 2008. The document conveyed ownership of 310 N. Harding Street, Fort Worth, Texas from “Juan Guerrero,” 6228 West 87th Street, Los Angeles, CA 90044 to Edelmann and Cohen, Inc., Post Office Box 470830, Fort Worth, Texas 76147. The signature of “Juan Guerrero” was notarized by Craig Davis with a Commission Expiration Date of August 1, 2008.
39. On May 15, 2009, during a telephone conversation, Mr. Darnell asked FISHER what companies he owned. FISHER responded that he owned Edlemann & Cohen, Inc., among other companies. FISHER also rented a Post Office box using the title “Secretary/Treasurer of Edleman & Cohen, Inc.” (See Paragraph 28 )
40. As previously stated, Postal Inspectors and Investigators from the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office executed a federal search warrant at FISHER’S residence on July 14, 2009. During the search of FISHER’S residence, we seized seven notary stamps, including a stamp purporting to belong to Craig Davis.
41. On February 11, 2010, Mr. Darnell advised that he contacted Craig Davis, the Notary whose stamp was affixed to the heirship affidavit referenced in Paragraph 35 and warranty deed no. D208181606 referenced in Paragraph 38. Mr. Darnell faxed copies of the warranty deed and heirship affidavit to Mr. Davis at his Houston, Texas office for examination of the notary stamp and signature. Mr. Davis stated he did not notarize the signature of Raymond Gonzalez on the heirship affidavit, nor did he notarize the signature of Juan Guerrero on warranty deed no. D208 l 8 l606. Moreover, Mr. Davis stated that he had never notarized the signature of anyone in Tarrant County Texas.
42. On February 5, 2010, I reviewed records of the Tarrant County Appraisal District and determined that 310 N. Harding Street was conveyed from Edelmann and Cohen, Inc. to Lots of Land, Inc. with warranty deed no. D209327573, dated and filed on December 16, 2009. The original filed warranty deed was returned by mail to Lots of Land, Inc., Post Office Box 2195, Fort Worth, Texas 76113.
43. I reviewed records of the Texas Secretary of State and determined that Lots of Land, Inc was incorporated on November 17, 2009. The incorporator was shown as NORRIS L. FISHER, 4312 Wheeler Street, Fort Worth, Texas 76117. The mailing address listed on the Articles of Incorporation for Lots of Land, Inc. was Post Office Box 2195, Fort Worth, Texas 76113. I obtained USPS records which reflect that Post Office Box 2195, Fort Worth, Texas 76113 was rented by FISHER, 4312 Wheeler, Fort Worth, Texas 76119, on August 28, 2008. When renting the post office box, FISHER produced Texas Drivers License number 04876109 as proof of his identity. As previously stated, I confirmed through records maintained by the Texas Department of Public Safety that Texas Drivers License number 04876109 was issued to FISHER. Post Office Box 2195, Fort Worth, Texas 76113 was also used to receive fraudulent documents related to other properties. (See Paragraph 29.)
CONFIDENTIAL WITNESS INFORMATION
44. On May 26, 2009, I was informed by Mr. Darnell that he developed a confidential witness with knowledge of the mail fraud scheme described in this Complaint. Mr. Darnell met with the confidential witness on several occasions and obtained information which he shared with me as follows.
45. On April 16, 2009, the confidential witness admitted that he and FISHER had worked together and filed fraudulent warranty deeds with the Tarrant County Clerk’s office. In 2007 and early 2008, the confidential witness would meet FISHER at the residence FISHER shared with Janice King (now deceased) at 2504 Dean Lane, Fort Worth, Texas. On numerous occasions, FISHER had fraudulent warranty deeds prepared for the witness when he arrived. On these occasions, FISHER gave the confidential witness money for filing fees and gave him instructions to hand deliver the warranty deeds to the Tarrant County Clerk’s office for filing.
46. On April 16, 2009, the confidential witness stated that during the summer of 2008, the volume of fraudulent warranty deed documents prepared by FISHER began to increase and FISHER asked the confidential witness to forge grantor signatures. FISHER informed the confidential witness in the spring or summer of 2008 that many of the buyers’ names used in the warranty deeds were either deceased or fictitious. FISHER told the witness that he had identified a number of vacant lots in Tarrant County that they could illegally convey to themselves by filing fraudulent warranty deeds using various fictitious purchasers and corporations controlled by FISHER.
47. On April 16, 2009, the confidential witness advised that with respect to all the forged deed transactions conducted, FISHER would prepare all the documents using his computer and printer at 2504 Dean Lane, Fort Worth, Texas, 76107. Many times the forged signatures were already on the documents when the confidential witness arrived at 2504 Dean Lane, Fort Worth, Texas, 76107. However, there were a number of times FISHER would direct the witness to forge various signatures on the warranty deeds. [Ed. Note: Every deed theft scheme involves forgery.]
48. On April 16, 2009, the confidential witness stated that in October 2008, FISHER asked him to travel to Austin, Texas and file the articles of incorporation for Glidden Development Corporation (Glidden) with the Texas Secretary of State. The confidential witness stated that FISHER has since used Glidden in the fraudulent warranty deed scheme.
49. In May 2009, the confidential witness stated that at FISHER’s direction, during the last year, he negotiated and signed agreements for mineral rights on fraudulently obtained properties with Dale Property Services, LLC. FISHER and the confidential witness received over $100,000 dollars from Dale Property Services for mineral rights to fraudulently obtained properties. Dale Property Services issued checks to various FISHER controlled corporations which had been used on fraudulent warranty deeds. FISHER instructed the confidential witness to visit the offices of Dale Property Services, pick up mineral rights bonus checks, and give the checks to FISHER for deposit into various accounts at both Frost and Wachovia banks in Fort Worth, Texas. The confidential witness estimated that FISHER received payments for mineral rights from Dale Property Services on at least 75 fraudulently obtained properties.
50. On or about June 3, 2008, in furtherance of the scheme to defraud, FISHER filed with the Tarrant County Clerk’s Office a forged warranty deed which purported to transfer 4909 Lyndon Drive, Fort Worth, Texas, to “Linda J. Covington”. The Tarrant County Clerk, operating in the due course of business, recorded the deed and mailed the original via S. mail to “Linda Covington” at 1221 West 3rd St., Los Angeles, California 90017. However, on June 2, 2008 a change of address order had been filed which caused mail addressed to 1221 West 3rd St., Los Angeles, California 90017 to be forwarded instead to Post Office Box 150052, Fort Worth, Texas 76108. As previously stated, this post office box was rented by FISHER on March 2, 2007.
Based upon the foregoing facts and information, I submit there is probable cause to believe that FISHER did knowingly and with intent to defraud, cause the mailing of fraudulent warranty deeds to various persons and entities, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1341, (Mail Fraud).
[signed] United States Postal Inspector Eric R. Bodak
Civil Remedies for Deed Theft
Erik Bodak is a postal inspector. It’s not surprising then that Fisher was charged with mail fraud. While deed theft is illegal in all fifty states, it is usually prosecuted as ordinary theft, theft by deception, forgery, identity theft or mail fraud. Whatever the crime may be called, stealing someone’s property is a crime.
The police and prosecutors may be able to put the offender behind bars but ordering restitution against a felon doesn’t get your property back and can’t unwind any loans the fraudster may have obtained on the property. That is because the criminal court doesn’t have jurisdiction over third parties such as mortgage companies or the people who purchased the property.
If you are a victim of deed theft, we certainly encourage reporting the theft to both the police and the county registry. Most likely you also need the services of a lawyer to unwind the transactions or seek damages.
If you are the victim of deed theft, contact us as soon as possible. [We limit our deed theft practice to properties with $1 million or more in equity but often we can help in smaller cases.] Contact attorney Brian Mahany today online, by email or by phone at 202-800-9791. All inquiries are protected by the attorney client privilege and kept confidential.