A local man schemed to falsely claim ownership of multiple properties across the area, targeting vacant houses as well as those owned by the elderly — and the dead — authorities and victims say.
“He literally STOLE it from me,” wrote a 71-year-old widow in poor health who said she was one of Inman’s victims.
Dale Inman, 44, was indicted Monday on 25 counts in connection with filing fraudulent property deeds, a practice that becomes time-consuming and costly to rightful owners, officials said. And the practice is becoming more common.
“Real estate deed fraud has become more prevalent recently,” said Montgomery County Prosecuting Attorney Mat Heck Jr. “Fraudsters, like this defendant, seek out homes or victims that appear to be easy targets.”
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In court documents, the woman says Inman and a notary public conspired to strip her of a rental house she owns in Trotwood.
“The notary stated that I personally stood before her, showed my license, and signed my name. I have NEVER met that notary, nor Dale Inman, in my life!” the woman wrote to the Montgomery County Prosecutor’s Office in March.
Over a period of several months in 2017, Inman filed 16 “quit claim” deeds on properties — including one owned by the 71-year-old woman — and tried to sell them to unsuspecting buyers, prosecutors allege.
Seven of the properties were still in the names of the deceased, according to the prosecutor’s office.
Brandon McClain, the Montgomery County recorder, said the crime begins with a fraudster abetted in forgery by an inept or unscrupulous notary public.
“The biggest issue we have from the notary perspective is notaries not following the protocols and procedures — that means actually witnessing signatures, actually being able to verify the identification by state-issued ID — those things are vital in ensuring an individual who signs a governmental document is in fact the individual,” McClain said.
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Before Monday, the recorder’s office had identified at least a dozen cases since 2017 where a property deed was transferred out from under a rightful owner. But that number may rise higher with the indictment revealed Monday, McClain said.
McClain had members of his staff on Tuesday flag any other documents in the pipeline with Inman’s name. The search yielded 16 deeds waiting to be picked up, though it’s unknown how much, if any, overlap there may be in the batch from those in the indictment, McClain said.
Documents flagged Tuesday will be turned over to the prosecutor, McClain said.
The 71-year-old woman learned of the alleged fraudulent transfer when her son called the county to check on taxes and was told the house was in Inman’s name.
The quit claim deed was recorded June 19, 2017, after being notarized by a certified notary on June 12, 2017. The homeowner’s name also appears as a signature the woman disputes.
Authorities do not know Inman’s current whereabouts or last known address, according to a prosecutor’s office spokesman. He is scheduled to be arraigned on Tuesday, July 17, at 8:30 a.m.
Court records show Inman with a number of traffic infractions and unresolved drug paraphernalia and OVI charges from January 2017. He is also a defendant in a February foreclosure action brought by the county for unpaid property taxes of $8,970.41 on the Trotwood woman’s rental property.
The Montgomery County Recorder’s Office unveiled a new system in May that can alert property owners when changes are made to real estate records.
The Fraud Alert Notification System (FANS) allows family members living afar to keep tabs on the home of an aging loved one and out-of-state owners to monitor multiple properties.
The FANS service is voluntary and free. Those enrolling can opt to receive an email, a letter or both whenever a deed, a mortgage or a lien is filed on parcels enrolled in the service.
A defrauded property owner can expect to spend $2,500-$3,000 on legal fees to get the mess untangled, McClain said. The process can be even worse if the fraud targets the property of deceased individuals.
“Now you are talking about a situation where, generally speaking, their loved ones, their relatives have to take up this cause through probate proceedings,” he said.
McClain said deed fraud can take more and more unsuspecting victims as properties are bought and sold.
“Depending on how the fraudster has manipulated the property, we could be talking about potentially numerous victims – not just the true owner,” he said. “When we talk about the ripple effect that property fraud – and specifically property deed fraud — it becomes clear we must be proactive to combat it.”