Zoeller: Misleading deed offers trigger three more state lawsuits


Greg Zoeller

INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller filed three more lawsuits against out-of-state businesses using misleading mailers to offer copies of property deeds for fees as high as $89.

Property deeds – which are usually one to two pages – are public records and county recorders can provide copies for free or at a nominal cost, often times a $1 per page. Homeowners are not required to have copies even when they go to sell a property.

“Many consumers believe these solicitations are notices from a governmental agency requiring them to pay fees for required documents,” Zoeller said. “It is important for consumers – especially new homebuyers – to contact their local government office directly if they have any questions about copies of documents or fees related to homeownership.”

The mailers contained the property owner’s name, address, property deed document number and county recorder’s information. Interested persons would fill out the form and return it with a check, money order or credit card information.

In an effort to protect consumers from paying exorbitant fees, the Attorney General’s office filed three lawsuits this month against California-based businesses:

· A lawsuit was filed in Marion County against Brian Pascal and BWPRS, Inc. doing business as Record Retrieval Department and Secured Document;

· A second lawsuit was filed in Boone County against Neil Camenker and Transaction Data Services, LLC doing business as Conveyance Transfer Services, Compliance Document Services, Secured Document Services, Property Transfer Services and Record Transfer Service; and

· A third lawsuit was filed in Vanderburgh County against Juan Roberto Romero Ascencio and LA Investors, LLC doing business as Local Records Office and Home Owner Title Offices.

The companies are accused of sending government-like mailers to Indiana consumers offering copies of deeds and “property profiles” for fees ranging from $83 to $89. These profiles allegedly include a homeowner’s property address, owner’s name, comparable values and a parcel identification number – all of which is publicly available information.

“On behalf of the Indiana Recorders’ Association, I would like to thank the citizens of Indiana for making Recorders aware of these letters they’ve been receiving,” said Shelby County Recorder Mary Jo Phares who serves as the president of the Indiana Recorders’ Association. “The taxpayers have and will always be able to acquire a copy of their deed for $1 or $2 as opposed to the $89 these companies were requesting. The recorders of Indiana will continue to make the interests of the citizens of Indiana their top priority as it pertains to Indiana land records.”

According to the lawsuit against Ascenscio, the envelope consumers received read “Important Property Information Respond Promptly,” and contained a warning about a fine or imprisonment for interfering with the delivery of mail.

“The Marion County Recorder’s office in past, has worked with local television stations to advise the residents of Central Indiana that these letters are misleading,” said Marion County Recorder Julie Vorhies. “The letters lead the public to believe they must have a copy of the recorded deed. These letters are particularly egregious by charging an inflated price for documents. In addition the law discourages the resale of the recorded documents by commercial entities. I would like to thank Attorney General Zoeller for going after the perpetrators of these acts and protecting the residents of Indiana.”

The state alleges the companies violated the Deceptive Consumer Sales Act and the Deceptive Commercial Solicitation Act. Zoeller’s office seeks an injunction, consumer restitution, civil penalties and investigative costs.

In April, Zoeller filed a lawsuit in Allen County against Illinois Deed Provider, Inc. doing business as National Record Service, Inc. and National Deed Service, Inc. for sending mailers to property owners offering certified copies of deeds for $59.50 and an additional copy for $20. A trial date in Allen County Superior Court has not yet been set, but the company has agreed to stop soliciting Indiana consumers until the case is decided.

“Area homeowners should know that Boone County does not solicit deed copies through the mail,” Boone County Recorder Nicole Baldwin said. “The fee for obtaining a copy of your deed is $1 per page and can easily be obtained by stopping by the county recorder’s office.”

“I am grateful to our local real estate agents for their diligence in bringing this (these mailings) to our attention and therefore allowing us to pursue the necessary steps to protect our residents,” said Vanderburgh County Recorder Z Tuley.

If you have any doubts about a mailing offering a government-provided service, contact the entity directly to confirm the solicitation’s legitimacy. If you have received a notice or paid for this service, you can file a complaint with the Attorney General’s office by visiting www.IndianaConsumer.com or requesting a complaint form be mailed to you by calling 1.800.382.5516.

Zoeller thanked Deputy Attorney General Lisa Wolf for her work on the cases and her dedication to the Consumer Protection Division.