DALLAS — Editor’s Note: WFAA will air the latest installment of its “Dirty Deeds” series at 10 p.m. Thursday.
Every year, there are more than 400,000 documents filed with the Dallas County Clerk’s Office.
Some of those documents are forged property deeds transferring ownership to people who aren’t the rightful owners.
“It requires a lot of effort for us to try to play this chess game [of] preventing property fraud,” District Clerk John Warren said.
As WFAA has shown in its “Dirty Deeds” series, property fraud is easy to do. So easy Arnoldo Ortiz did it again – from behind bars.
“I’m not going to lie, the money was good,” Ortiz told WFAA in a 2019 interview.
Deed fraud may be easy to do. But it is hard to undo.
The law puts the burn on the victim to get their property back.
“It should not be up to the individual only,” Warren said.
The state’s local government code contains the language that people need to file documents to reclaim their property. But for the average person, it would be difficult to create the documents without having a legal background.
So, that’s why Warren’s created a set of instructions and forms for people that needed to reclaim their property. It’ll allow them to do without running up a big legal tab.
He said it’s free to file the documents with the district clerk.
The online forms can be found here on the Dallas County Clerk’s site.
“I can imagine how frustrating it is,” Warren said. “To the extent that I can make things a little bit easier for them, that's what I want to do.”
Last year, lawmakers gave Warren’s office to the right to ask for identification when someone files a property deed.
Now, if someone refuses to show identification, the clerk’s office can refuse to record the document.
He says if they don’t show ID, then those documents are reviewed by the District Attorney’s office.
In most cases, he says, the DA’s office agrees that the needs should not be recorded and the ownership of the property is not transferred.
Still, he says lawmakers have to do more to make deed fraud harder to commit.
The next installment of its “Dirty Deeds” series will air on WFAA News at 10 p.m. Thursday.