SAGINAW COUNTY (WJRT) -
(05/16/14) - A Saginaw County man has been accused of selling homes and renting out several others - homes that he did not rightfully own.
The man was arraigned this week on nine criminal counts, and a Mid-Michigan detective says this crime is occurring all over the state.
"It was relatively easy," said Greg Klecker, Buena Vista Township Police.
That's how Detective Sergeant Klecker describes what 36-year-old Todd Riggins is accused of doing. Riggins has been arraigned on eight counts of uttering and publishing and one count of false pretences in an elaborate racketeering scam involving vacant homes.
Investigators say Riggins would look for property that had been abandoned.
"Estates that have essentially been left dormant are public record," Klecker said.
Riggins would then draw up a quitclaim deed, a property transfer common among family members, where no money is involved in the transaction, no title search is done to verify ownership and no title insurance is issued.
"You can get a quitclaim deed on the Internet," Klecker said.
Police believe he forged the signature of the former deed owner, got it notarized by a notary public who does not exist, and then the deed was filed with the register of deeds office. In the case of a home on Hess Avenue, the property owner had passed away a few years ago.
"He gets the property for nothing, except the cost for recording, he goes across the hall, he might pay the back taxes on them, and turns around and sells them," Klecker said.
Riggins is believed to have sold one of the homes that did not belong to him and was in the process of selling another.
The alleged scheme unraveled when someone who owns a vacant home in Buena Vista, but now lives out of the area, was notified that someone was living in his home. He called police. Klecker says Riggins had rented out seven other homes - homes he did not rightfully own.
"In many of these cases, you have renters out there that are now going to be displaced because of this particular crime," Klecker said.
Riggins is being held on a $350,000 bond in the Saginaw County Jail.