How it happened: ‘Red flags’ alerted Butler County to attempted theft of house

A Dayton man made some clerical mistakes that “tipped off” the Butler County Auditor’s Office, otherwise officials said he may have gotten away with a brazen white-collar crime: Stealing a West Chester Twp. house.

Angelo Taylor was indicted for burglary, forgery and tampering with records by a Butler County grand jury after he allegedly tried to steal Abe Falah’s home by manipulating the necessary documents.

An arrest warrant has been issued for Taylor, but he is not in the county jail, according to records. Butler County Prosecutor Mike Gmoser said Taylor faces up to 36 months in prison if convicted.

When Taylor submitted the necessary paperwork to the Butler County Recorders Office and the auditor’s office on March 11, he allegedly tried to record a deed for the property on Quail Meadow Lane, according to Chief Deputy Recorder Denise Goll.

Taylor had signed the deed and was listed as the attorney, said Nicole Sczurek, conveyance supervisor for the auditor’s office. She said the memo on Taylor’s check for the filing fee was listed as “not for deposit.”

Sczurek called these “red flags” that were caught by the county employees. The auditor must transfer the property before it can be recorded. The county auditor also refused to convey the property after questioning Taylor’s documentation.

She said the document was notarized, but the notary was verifying the signature, not the facts within the paperwork.

Sczurek said when the paperwork didn’t meet the department’s standards it was rejected. Taylor was notified through the mail, but he never contacted the office, she said.

Sczurek said these type of situations can become “a mess for the owner.”

When Falah was contacted by the recorders office, he said the house was recently bought at a sheriff’s sale and was going to be flipped for another sale. Then Falah called the office and said his subcontractor was at the house and there was a note on the front door that said the property was under new ownership and there was a phone number. All the locks had been changed.

Gmoser said this is the first time he could remember this happening in Butler County.

Scammers across the country have also ripped off consumers by renting out or selling properties they do not own.

For instance, in Dayton recently, strangers were living in Michael Hammaker’s home without his permission, but for a little while, he did not know how to get them out.

Hammaker’s property is in the process of being sold. But multiple people moved in after allegedly responding to a fraudulent ad posted on Craigslist saying the home was available to rent for $500 per month, officials said.

Hammaker wanted the unwelcome occupants out immediately, and he thought that should be easy to do because they were trespassing.

But he said he was wrong. It was much harder than he ever could have guessed. Hammaker says he does not know what could have stopped this from happening.

“In our situation, I honestly don’t know what could have been done to prevent this,” he said. “We can’t stay here every day.”

Hammaker says he visited his property and was surprised to discover it was furnished. His first thought was that maybe the buyer already started moving stuff in. But when he learned the truth, he was stunned: Strangers were living in his home without authorization.

Hammaker, 29, moved out of the home in March with his wife, Ashley, and son, Michael. They accepted an offer for the St. Nicholas home the same day it was put on the market.

Thomas Howell, 39, said he sent three money orders worth $1,500 to someone in Texas to rent the home after responding to a Craigslist ad, a police report states.

Howell told police there was a backdoor key left under a grill in the backyard and he moved in with his significant other, Amy Luttrell, a police report states. At least two other people also moved in, Hammaker said.

Hammaker said he got the police involved, and officers came out to the home multiple times.

But police personnel seemed unsure of the law and couldn’t agree whether Howell and Luttrell might have tenants’ or squatters’ rights, Hammaker said.

Staff writer Cornelius Frolik contributed to this report.

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