Improper foreclosure practices are so widespread in Las Vegas that one reporter trying to expose them instead found he too was a victim of foreclosure fraud.
George Knapp, chief investigative reporter for Las Vegas CBS affiliate KLAS, was investigating how "tens of thousands" of people who thought they were homeowners turned out not to actually own their homes due to fraudulent paperwork, when he discovered that he was in that exact situation. (h/t MediaBistro).
Las Vegas foreclosure attorney Tisha Black told Knapp that nine out of 10 foreclosure filings aren't done properly, jeopardizing the ownership status of the house in the future.
"I gave her my address, because I bought a home out of foreclosure three years ago this month," Knapp said on KLAS during the conclusion of his report. "The Attorney General's office confirmed to me that I don't own my home because of bogus signatures and improper filings."
More than a tenth of all homes in Las Vegas received a default notice last year, according to a RealtyTrac report cited by CNNMoney. The national foreclosure average was five times lower than that of Sin City's. In September, Las Vegas-area home prices fell to their lowest level since the start of the recession, according to a Tuesday report by Standard & Poor's.
Knapp told Poynter Institute journalist Al Tompkins that the episode put him in a "very weird spot to be in" as a reporter. After considering not including Knapp's part of the story in the report, he says his managers decided Knapp's coincidence illustrated "one of the central issues in our project... namely, that very bad things have happened to people who essentially played by the rules."
Indeed, Knapp isn't alone when it comes to faulty title transfers causing lost homes. In addition, to the "tens of thousands" cited by KLAS in Las Vegas, one couple and their 18-month-old daughter faced foreclosure in Houston, Texas even though they had stayed current on payments since 2008, because their title wasn't transferred properly.
Another family in Utah was threatened with foreclosure on a home they thought they had already sold for similar reasons.
State attorneys general are pursuing a national settlement with mortgage companies over claims of improperly foreclosing on U.S. homeowners. California last month removed itself from talks.
Tracy Lawrence, set to be sentenced for her part in a Las Vegas-based foreclosure fraud, was found dead this week, according to the Los Angeles Times.