Indiana is suing three out-of-state companies for allegedly orchestrating a scheme that bilked dozens of state residents out of millions of dollars after their homes were sold in tax sales.
The lawsuit, filed Monday by Attorney General Greg Zoeller in Marion County, alleges the defendants defrauded at least 48 homeowners in Allen, Johnson, Lake and Marion counties whose homes were sold by tax sale after they fell behind on their property taxes.
Those homeowners, including seniors and vulnerable individuals in dire financial straits, were deceived about their legal rights in the tax-sale process and tricked into signing documents that surrendered their home's deed to the defendants in exchange for $450 or less, Zoeller said. By signing over those deeds, the homeowners gave the companies access to tax-sale surplus payments of amounts ranging from about $2,000 to $900,000 — money the actual winning bidder had paid beyond the amount that was owed in taxes.
"Homeowners who don't know they're entitled to the surplus can be conned into selling their title for little or nothing," Zoeller said Tuesday at a news conference. "This scam is unfortunately happening to the most vulnerable Hoosiers who fall behind on their real estate taxes."
The lawsuit seeks an injunction to prevent the defendants from engaging in any transactions in Indiana and seeks more than $9 million in restitution and civil penalties. The complaint names FLRC LLC, based in Jupiter, Florida; Oak Tree Title LLC, a Nevada limited liability corporation with a principal address in Stillwater, Oklahoma; and Coastal Title, an unregistered and unincorporated entity.
The suit also names the companies' owners, Diana Castro, Craig Talkington and David Fuqua, none of whom hold licenses to conduct real estate transactions in Indiana. Contact information for the companies and their owners could not be found Tuesday and none of the companies appeared to have websites that might list contact information.
Only FLRC is registered with Indiana's Secretary of State's office, Zoeller spokesman Molly Gillaspie said, adding that most of the 48 deeds were transferred to FLRC.
The defendants allegedly used court records and public records to identify homes sold at tax sales for a surplus. The original owners of many of the targeted homes had already paid off their mortgage.
The suit alleges the companies paid the 48 original homeowners a combined total of $13,640 for signing so-called quitclaim deeds. Those companies then either claimed or submitted claims totaling $3.26 million in tax-sale surplus payments.
Some of those payments have been blocked through court orders.