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Special report: 'Dirty Deeds' investigation reveals how house thieves exploit system failures

For the past three years, WFAA’s deed fraud series has highlighted how easy it is to steal someone’s most valuable asset – and attempts by lawmakers to stop it.

Tanya Eiserer, Mark Smith, Jason Trahan

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Published: 5:11 PM CST December 13, 2022
Updated: 5:29 PM CST December 19, 2022

Nothing’s sacred for people accused of stealing property.  

Not even a church. 

Since 2019, WFAA’s “Dirty Deeds” investigation has exposed thieves stealing not only a church, but dozens of homes, a former restaurant – even an entire former Sam’s Club building.  

Thieves have learned to take advantage of a real estate transaction system that, for generations, has relied largely on the honor system for recording purchases and sales of property – sometimes worth millions of dollars. WFAA has uncovered a rash of fraud cases where thieves forge sellers' signatures on property deeds, file them with the county clerk and take control of properties they don’t own.  

In some cases, they’re forging signatures of people who died years ago.  

In fact, WFAA learned Texas ranks No. 2 in the nation for deed fraud cases investigated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Office of Inspector General. 

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