In Indianapolis, Indiana, WRTV Channel 6
reports on an alleged scam by two local men involving the purchase of homes using a legal arrangement known as a land contract, a deal whereby the purchaser takes immediate possession of a home in exchange for a promise to make monthly payments until a final lump sum payment completes the sale.
- Two men who buy homes under land contract but skip out on the payments after a few months have been looking for homes again, according to alleged victims who contacted Call 6 For Help. Joseph L. Stanley and business partner Steven Harris, who both own Spectrum Property Corp., would prefer people not know they are house hunting, Call 6's Rafael Sanchez reported. Call 6 has been following Stanley and Harris' activities since late summer 2006 and recently found them on Indianapolis' northwest side, where they were being forced from a home.
- According to a Call 6 investigation, the owners of 30 properties were left with stacks of legal fees or ruined credit histories after dealing with Stanley and Harris over the last 14 years. As a result of several court battles, there are $326,639.98 in judgments combined against the men and their companies.
- In some cases, the men move into the homes and live for free while the courts often take months to evict them. In other cases, they have tenants move into the homes. Spectrum keeps the rent and, according to homeowners, the company rarely pays what's owed on the property. That means the original homeowner gets stuck with a financial mess.
- Call 6 brought the men's activities to the attention of the Marion County prosecutor's office in November 2006. "In and of itself, it's not a crime," deputy prosecutor David Wyser said. "It's just a breach of contract." The prosecutor's office confirmed an ongoing grand jury investigation into a possible pattern of abuse.
For more, see Call 6 Investigation: Land Contract Buyers At It Again (Men Leave Homeowners With Big Legal Fees, Bad Credit) (watch video) (read transcript).
For earlier stories on this alleged scam, see:
The prosecutor who commented for the story claims that the activities are not crimes, but rather, are simply civil matters. In other states, these activities may fall under the criminal charges of:
- grand theft, theft by fraud or deception, obtaining property under false pretenses, securing writings or execution of documents by fraud or deception, engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, theft of property by false pretenses from victims over the age of 60.
I wonder if the prosecutor quoted in this story is trying hard enough to find the existence of a crime in this case. Maybe it's possible that the state of Indiana doesn't have any of these crimes listed in its statutes.