House of Cards

Today, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said he's shut down a housing scam that his office claims defrauded folks "out of tens of thousands of dollars" locally. This permanent injunction stems from an April 2005 lawsuit filed under the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act (DTPA), which claimed that Dallas-based FCI Equities, Inc. and others "participated in a scheme that involved the sale of homes without valid property titles." The AG says FCI and other people associated with the "company" told would-be home-owners, most of whom were Hispanic, that they could buy a house in Dallas (usually in Oak Cliff) for between $20,000 and $40,000, and that most of the victims were preyed upon at a Mexican food restaurant owned by one of the men involved in carrying out the scheme, which entailed hastily written notes of ownership and cash up front. According to the AG's press release:

"The court imposed fines of $103,000 toward consumer restitution against the operation and its associates, to be paid by the operation's lead proprietor, Jose Demetrio Murrugarra of Dallas. Jose Menjarez, a Dallas man who posed as an attorney to offer legal services to victims of the housing scam, was charged with $10,900 in civil penalties and restitution for consumers for his part in the deceptive scheme.

'It is a disgrace that these scam artists preyed on consumers' dreams of putting down roots in Texas by exploiting their lack of knowledge about the home-buying process,' Attorney General Abbott said. 'Housing scams like this are a flagrant violation of the law, and I am determined to shut them down.'"

Should you want to see some of the properties involved in the scheme or read the lawsuit and the final order against FCI, go here. The AG's office is nothing if not thorough. --Robert Wilonsky


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