3 men accused of forging documents to steal, sell houses in Cleveland, Garfield Heights

  Back to News

CLEVELAND — A Cuyahoga County Grand Jury has indicted three men accused of using forged documents to steal and then attempt to sell houses across Cleveland and Garfield Heights.

Dwayne Mitchell, David Garner and Maquis Lomax were charged in a 15-count indictment accusing the men of forgery, tampering with records, grand theft, theft and identity fraud.

Investigators say the group forged signatures on quit claim deeds and then filed them with the county recorder's office to make it appear as though they owned the properties. Police say the group then listed the properties on the internet in hopes of finding buyers. According to court records, at least four homes were fraudulently transferred in the scheme.

Cleveland Police told 5 On Your Side Investigators they've received more than a dozen reports of similar cases in recent months. They have not said if all the cases are connected.

"They in effect steal the house and then they just make money on it right away," said Cleveland Police spokesperson Sgt. Jennifer Ciaccia.

Jeff Kovatch, owner of Kovatch Property Investments, said the scheme held up his plans to purchase, renovate and move renters into a now-vacant home on Tioga Avenue on Cleveland's East Side.

"At face value it sounds like that can't be possible, right? You can't steal a house can you?" said Kovatch. "Well, yeah, you can."

Kovatch said he was just days from closing on the purchase of the home, when his title company alerted him to the fact the owners Kovatch was dealing with didn't actually own the house, according to a quit claim deed on file with Cuyahaoga County.

"Somebody went through a lot of work," said Kovatch, "they had an attorney's name on there, they had a notary on there, they had stamps and everything looked official."

But investigators say it was fraud.

"It all looks like it adds up, and sometimes it just doesn't," Ciaccia said.

But spotting the crime can be difficult. When a crook files fraudulent quit claim deeds, county records reflect the change in property ownership.

"It's hard because if you do your research and look up who owns the house, you're seeing the name of the person who's trying to sell it to you," said Ciaccia.

Police suggest going through a reputable realtor or title company when purchasing a house and avoiding buying from someone who insists on using a quit claim deed to transfer ownership.

"Typically these documents are made to make it easy to transfer property between trusted parties," said Ciaccia. "They're not really meant for sales."

Now, months after he was set to close on the home, Kovatch said his purchase has stalled. No work has started. No one has moved in.

The house on Tioga remains an empty eyesore while it's caught in what investigators believe is a web of fraud.

"Everything rolls downhill and everybody is affected," said Kovatch. "Everybody is on hold. Everybody is now at the whim of what this person did."

This content has been reproduced from its original source.   

This content has been reproduced from its original source.

SHARE:

  Back to News

How Title Fraud Works

Thieves simply change ownership of your home from YOU to THEM. Then they TAKE OUT LOANS on your home and just disappear - leaving YOU with the payments and a mountain of legal bills.

Click to see if your home's title has been compromised.
Get your FREE TITLE SCAN and COMPREHENSIVE TITLE REPORT (a $100 value FREE with sign up)

Sign Up Today

Speak to a live agent
(800) 899-6268

Money Back Guarantee

"I've been a Home Title Lock customer for 2 years. Their customer service is excellent and I most appreciate the comfort that comes from knowing that I will be immediately alerted and assisted if anyone ever attempts to fraudulently use my title."

Read more of our reviews


Property ownership is not just the American dream, it's also the most flexible financial tool to build family prosperity. Home Title Lock ensures that your assets are protected against Title Fraud and Title Thieves.

Find Out More


Watch This Now

Sign Up Today


You Need Home Title Lock to Protect Your Property

Thirty years ago we started creating the largest database of property records in the United States. Today, that database has 6.1 billion property records. We protect your property value and ownership from on-line threats both foreign and domestic.

Get Protected

Speak to a live agent
(800) 899-6268

Today's System Isn't Protecting You From Title Theft

"People think there's somebody that's checking your signature. Nobody is checking any of these things. Nobody is looking out for you but you."

— Matthew Cox (Convicted Home title Thief)
  • County clerk won’t call you if someone changes title on your home
  • Homeowners insurance doesn’t cover home title theft
  • Credit card or traditional identity protection doesn’t cover home title theft
Protect Yourself today, with Home Title Lock.
  • 24/7 monitoring of your Title
  • Instant alerts if we detect tampering with your title or mortgage
  • Up to $1,000,000* in legal fees and expert fees on your behalf

How Easily Title Fraud Occurs

EVERYTHING is stored online in the cloud - including your home's title information

1

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.

2

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.

3

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.

Click to see if your home's title has been compromised.
Get your FREE TITLE SCAN and COMPREHENSIVE TITLE REPORT (a $100 value FREE with sign up)

Sign Up  

Speak to a live agent
(800) 899-6268

Title Fraud is NOT COVERED by



Your Bank


Legal Trust


Homeowners Insurance


Identity Theft Protection
Signing Up Is Easy - Start Your Subscription Today

Title Lock alerts help you detect property fraud before it's too late.
Create your account for only pennies per day.

Sign Up Today
#1 Leader in Home Title Protection