Judge halts deed scheme

Anthony Gonzalez

December 4, 2012

The North Carolina Department of Justice is once again warning residents not to respond to misleading letters trying to get them to pay $89 for a copy of a property deed, as they’re usually available for free or little cost from their local government.

“Trying to trick people into paying for free public records isn’t honest business,” said Attorney General Roy Cooper. “Consumers let us know about these letters and now we’re taking action to stop them.”

As alleged in a series of complaints, North Carolinians report getting letters from “Local Records Office” telling them to send $89 in order to get a copy of the deed. While the letters look official, they actually come from a company in California, not a government agency. The letter steer victims into sending money to an address in Raleigh, which has been tracked down to a UPS store in a shopping center.

The company involved in the alleged funds siphon scheme were identified as LA Investors. The company has a track record of setting up mail drops across the country, most notably in state capitals and target people who have been involved in a recent real estate transaction.

Wake County Superior Judge Howard Manning, Jr. recently issued a temporary bar against LA Investors and its agent Juan Roberto Romero Ascencio from sending letters to North Carolina residents or processing payments from them. Cooper is now seeking a permanent ban on the mailings, refunds for it’s consumers who paid a fee, and civil penalties.

Surry County Register of Deeds, Carolyn M. Comer first warned county citizens about the suspicious deed-scheme back in July.

“First off, you probably already have your original deed and if you don’t and need a copy, our office can supply a copy of the document for only 25 cents per copied page,” Comer said. And most people don’t actually need a copy of their deed just lying around anyway. If you’re transferring a piece of property or have some other legal reason to need a copy of your deed, we’re happy to help you. But don’t send anyone a check for $80 or $90 to obtain something that’s already available to you here in our office for a tiny fraction of that amount.”

Scams are not new to North Carolinians. In the past, faux and official-sounding agencies, such as State Records Retrieval Service and Corporate Service have asked for funds pertaining to property deeds. Another scam was discovered by a company called Mandatory Poster Agency, which claimed to sell workplace labor law notices that are really available for free.