Beware! Pirates Still Stealing!

Galveston Pirates With Us Today! A true story.

[Originally submitted to two Galveston Is. periodicals, publication rejected.]

Crimes of theft often pepper the late night news. Somebody here or there on a lonely street or darkened alleyway is robbed at gunpoint. The news always involves people quite distant from the comforting confines of our living-room television set. Tragedy happens so distant from us. That is, until the robbery hits home, literally.

If you have not already been informed, let me tell you, the theft of real estate property, homes, across America is on the rise, and it just might happen to you as on Galveston Island! Let me share from our recent experience.

My wife and I live near Fort Worth. We have vacationed Galveston for the past 25 years. The dream of owning a ‘piece of island heaven’ never waned; but stood far off, aloof from becoming a reality. Our Daughter often travels to Houston on business, from where she usually descends on Galveston for a reprieve, like a bee to a prairie wildflower. There, she fingers her iPad with stark rapidity, searching the likes of Zillow, Realtor.com, and the Galveston taxing authority for real estate information. Such diligence aided her quest one day as she drove up and down beachfront communities looking for a promising structure. You could say, ‘She got the ‘itch’’ on those trips, and often continued her property searching even after returning home to the Metroplex.

Then she found a small structure, a fisherman’s shack really, that still held the scars of Hurricane Ike. With all boldness, she talked to a neighbor and found out that the owners lived off-island. Digging some more, she found an address and wrote a letter of inquiry to the owner, but never received a reply. A year later, she again contacted the owner, but this time, through a Realtor representative conducting business where the owners lived.

About the time the sales contract was presented, the owner’s wife passed! That Galveston property had long since lost its pleasurable draw, and the owner promptly agreed to sell. From this point on, pirating shenanigans surface!

I had told my Daughter to ask the title company for a preliminary title search report. She did and two issues surfaced: a Chain of Title issue because one of the owners was deceased; and a cloud to the title which showed that someone else, not the owner, had recently granted a Warranty Deed to another individual! Someone simply wrote out a Warranty Deed to another person, and that person went and recorded it as proof of conveyed ownership!

The first issue is germane to readers because the property was originally titled to parents of the owner, way back in the 1960’s; parents who had died Intestate, meaning without a Will, and the proper Chain of Title to our seller had never been resolved in court. I can only surmise that there is yet today property owners with such title issues. If you are concerned about your interests, consult an attorney; you will need resolve title issues before you can sell.

My Daughter’s seller and real estate agent were totally flabbergasted that someone, unknown to them, posing as but not being in truth the owner, had conveyed the property to a third party with a fraudulent Warranty Deed! And to make matters worse, that third party moved into the house, and there was nothing anyone could do about it!

After a convoluted course of trying to work through all the problems, having invoked the local police authorities, a Galveston judge, the seller’s agent, the title company and the costly private attorneys, the aggravation was insurmountable, and the contract abandoned. You can imagine the horror and grief this seller was feeling, as we certainly were.

The phony conveyance resulted in the loss of one man’s family property interest, the loss of bonifide purchasers, and then possession of the property by an interloper! And folks, our Texas Property Law allowed this to take place! Many questions were asked, many avenues traveled. But through it all, the alarming question I had was, “How did such person X obtain an interest in the property in order to grant a recordable Warranty Deed? The obvious answer is that he had no legal interest /or right to convey, and nobody seemed ready or willing to investigate that point! In the end, the pirates on Galveston Island are alive and well, stealing like never before!

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