Arlando Jacobs and Clarence Roland stole homes across Texas and two other states with the scribble of a pen, the FBI says. And they did so for about six years before being caught, agents said.
In at least one case, Jacobs and his family squatted in a home they took control of with a forged deed, according to federal court records.
But in most cases, Jacobs, 52, and Roland, 56, illegally took ownership of homes on paper and then sold them, authorities say. Federal authorities say the two ex-cons earned almost $4 million by selling homes they didn’t own by filing bogus deeds in county clerk offices.
“These forged documents gave the appearance that the financial institutions no longer had a claim to title on the properties, and therefore allowed Roland and Jacobs to sell these properties and receive all of the proceeds,” an FBI agent said in a criminal complaint.
Some of the properties were subject to foreclosure proceedings at the time, court records show. Many of the documents were notarized in Denton County, according to the FBI. Jacobs’ daughter was the notary on the “vast majority of the fraudulent documents,” a detention order said.
Both men are in federal custody, accused in the Eastern District of Texas of bank fraud, conspiracy to commit bank fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering, court records show. No indictments had been publicly filed in the case as of early Tuesday afternoon.
Attorneys for Jacobs and Roland could not be reached.
Jacobs was arrested Sept. 14. The FBI had to run surveillance on Jacobs to locate him, court records show.
That’s because he moved often, used aliases and lived under the radar, according to a federal judge who ordered him held without bail.
“Jacobs conceals his identity and moves in a manner off the grid,” U.S. Magistrate Judge Frances H. Stacy wrote in her detention order. “Jacobs’ name appears in no database. He has no Social Security number.”
Stacy said evidence presented at the detention hearing showed that Jacobs is “tied to 18 fraudulent transactions.”
The properties were in 11 cities, Stacy wrote in her order. Most are in North Texas and in the Houston area, the FBI says. Others are in California and Washington.
FBI agents followed Jacobs and his family from an airport in Seattle to a home in The Woodlands, outside of Houston, court records say. The house, worth more than $700,000, was improperly transferred to a trust through a fraudulent deed, court records say.
The true owner, Carolyn LaFleur, had a mortgage on the property and did not agree to sell it, according to court records.
“It is incredible to me that they lived in my house unlawfully,” LaFleur said when reached by phone. “I was shocked to find out about the fraudulent deed.”
Jacobs has several felony convictions, as well as an outstanding warrant in California, the detention order said.
Federal authorities have seized a 2009 Maserati Quattroporte, a BMW and a 2007 Cadillac Escalade from Jacobs, court records say.
Prosecutors filed a court petition on Sept. 28, asking to transport Roland, who was being held in San Diego, to Plano for court proceedings.
In 2000, Roland was sentenced to three months in federal prison for loan fraud, court records show. Roland, who lived in Tacoma, Wash., at the time, also was ordered to pay more than $88,000 in restitution.
An FBI agent detailed the alleged scheme in a 45-page affidavit.
It dates to at least 2010, the FBI said. Bank officers’ signatures were forged, and Jacobs and his wife used more than 20 bank accounts, according to the FBI.
Some property owners said that after meeting Jacobs, he told them he could help them sell their properties, the FBI affidavit said.
In one case, a California woman who struggled to pay her mortgage said she transferred her property to Roland in 2013 because he told her he could stop the bank from foreclosing. Roland later sold the property for $685,000, the FBI says.
Jacobs and his wife, Trina Jacobs, filed for bankruptcy in 2008 in Washington, listing $2.3 million in assets and $2.7 million in liabilities, court records say. Most of their assets were in real estate, according to court records.
Both said in bankruptcy documents that they worked for a Seattle nonprofit, assisting at-risk youth.
Trina Jacobs has not been publicly accused of wrongdoing.
Several mortgage lenders have sued Jacobs and Roland in recent years, saying the men swindled them by taking their properties with fake deeds.
In 2013, Nationstar Mortgage sued Jacobs and his wife and Roland in federal court in Washington, alleging they forged deed records to sell a property they didn’t own.
Trina Jacobs had failed to pay the mortgage on the property, the lawsuit said. But instead of losing it to foreclosure, she earned $235,500 from a bogus sale of the property, along with her husband and Roland, the lawsuit said.
A judge granted Nationstar’s motion for a default judgment against the couple and Roland in the case.
“Defendants … have recorded many false documents in many jurisdictions, including King County, in a similar manner in order to obtain money and/or property by false pretenses,” the bank said in its lawsuit.
Courtesy of Kevin Krause / Dallas News