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March 25, 2013

Miami Herald investigation: Dubious deeds used to scoop up Miami-Dade properties

By Scott Hiaasen and Jenny Staletovich

Scavenging the remnants of South Florida’s housing crisis, a partnership called Presscott Rosche appeared to gobble up almost three dozen foreclosed homes in Miami-Dade County last year. The company is currently listed as the owner of 12 homes worth about $3.5 million, according to the Miami-Dade property appraiser.

But this seemingly thriving business is, in many ways, an illusion. The name of the company’s agent listed in state records is fake. So are many of the deeds the company has filed in Miami-Dade Circuit Court to stake its claim to more than 30 houses and condos, a Miami Herald investigation has found.

The company has gained control of these homes — renting them out to unsuspecting tenants, in some cases — by filing dubious deeds and documents filled with legal-sounding jargon and shoddy punctuation. The author of many of these documents calls himself an “attorney in fact,” though he is not, in fact, a licensed attorney in Florida.

“I never saw anything like that. It wasn’t even spelled right,” said Shelley Hallen, an actual attorney who beat back Presscott Rosche’s efforts to evict four college students from a Coral Gables house last fall.

“They’re brazen,” said Frank Lopez, who says he found three people from Presscott Rosche inside a $700,000 Kendall house he owns. “They forged my signature, forged my wife’s signature.”

Despite complaints about the company, Presscott Rosche has managed to vex police and prosecutors: A Presscott Rosche associate was arrested for burglary in November for allegedly breaking into a vacant home, yet Miami-Dade prosecutors dropped the case, saying they couldn’t prove the man didn’t have permission to use the house.

Miami-Dade police detectives are continuing to investigate the company for possible fraud, The Herald has learned. Presscott Rosche representatives declined to comment or could not be reached.

More here.