Scammer forged documents to steal title of Cleveland home, records say

CLEVELAND, Ohio – A Cleveland man forged signatures on a quit-claim deed to steal the title of a home from a Beachwood couple who inherited the property from a deceased mother, records say.

Ernest W. Thompson III, 30, has been indicted on charges of grand theft and forgery in connection with the scheme involving a home on Mt. Auburn Avenue near East 93rd Street, according to court records.

Authorities arrested Thompson on Thursday, and he pleaded not guilty to the charges the same day in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court. He was released from jail after posting a $1,500 bond, court records say.

Thompson on May 28 filed a fraudulent quit-claim deed with the Cuyahoga County Recorder’s Office, transferring ownership of the property to himself. A Beachwood woman who co-owns the home filed an affidavit that says Thompson forged her and her husband’s signatures, as well as the signature of her deceased brother.

Thompson’s defense attorney, Michael Marein, could not be reached for comment Wednesday morning.

The Beachwood couple discovered the fraud during a routine check of the home July 5. They found the locks changed on the front door and a work notice that indicated Thompson owned the home, records say.

The woman called Thompson, who claimed he owned the home before he hung up, records say.

The Beachwood couple filed a police report and contacted an attorney. The attorney went with them to the recorder’s office, where they obtained copies of the fraudulent quit-claim deed, records say.

Detectives had been searching for Thompson since obtaining a warrant for his arrest July 8. A Cuyahoga County grand jury indicted him Sept. 26, court records say. 

Scammers typically commit quict-claim deed frauds in order to sell a home to a third party, or obtain funds via a mortgage loan, according to the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council. Vacant or abandoned properties are often targeted in the scams.

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Domestic and international thieves scour online records for homes with equity. It could be the home you live in, your vacation home, a home of an elderly relative, or rental property you own.

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Once they change your home's ownership from YOU to THEM, they re-file the Quitclaim Deed for your home with the proper authorities so it appears your home has been legally sold.

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They take out personal loans through banks and online lenders using all your home's equity. You likely won't know you're a victim until you start receiving late payments or foreclosure notices.

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