INSIDE EDITION Investigates Squatters
16 dollars for a house sounds like an amazing deal. Across the country, people are moving into foreclosed homes for next to nothing, but that doesn't always sit well with neighbors who are asking if these folks should be called squatters or burglars? P
Imagine living in a lovely house in a beautiful Texas suburb for just $16.00.
Well for one man this amazing bargain became a reality. Ken Robinson, a self proclaimed real estate guru, claimed a $340,000 McMansion, complete with granite countertops, top of the line appliances and even a billiards room for the price of just four Big Macs.
That's right, for just sixteen bucks, Robinson took over a 3,200 sq. ft home, complete with a pool, in suburb outside Dallas, TX.
So how's this possible?
After the previous owner walked away when the home went into foreclosure, Robinson swooped in and took advantage of a little known law dating back to the Wild West called "adverse possession," which is sometimes still used today to settle property disputes. Robinson says he legally could occupy the home after filing a one page affidavit at the county clerk's office. The filing cost: just $16.00.
But this didn't sit well with many of his neighbors.
"You just don't move into a home that you didn't pay for. Where are the morals, where are the values?" one of Robinson's next door neighbors told INSIDE EDITION's Paul Boyd.
Robinson agreed to discuss his unique living situation in an exclusive interview with Boyd.
"How did you [first] get inside?" asked Boyd.
"I had the locks changed," answered Robinson.
"Some people would call that breaking and entering," responded Boyd.
"Okay," said Robinson. He continued: "Whoever the home owner was walked away."
"But that doesn't, Ken, when someone walks away that doesn't make the property a jump ball and the first person to move in takes over," countered Boyd.
"I totally agree," said Robinson.
And a judge recently agreed too. Robinson was evicted from the home earlier this month after nearly eight months of free rent. And now local authorities have launched an investigation.
Tarrant County Constable Clint Burgess told Boyd that all the media attention surrounding Robinson's $16 house has sparked a squatting spree across the Dallas-Ft. Worth, TX area.
"It's definitely a scam," claimed Burgess.
Burgess says dozens of copy-cats have followed Robinson's lead and moved into seemingly abandoned homes in the area, including a sprawling $2.7 million mansion that was also briefly taken over for $16.00.
"He set up a website basically teaching people how to do it." For $150 you can buy his book. For $250 he'll sit down with you and teach you how to do it," explained Burgess.
INSIDE EDITION purchased Robinson's e-book. In the book, Robinson offers guidance to would-be squatters on how to target abandoned homes and then "change the locks" and "post no trespassing signs."
Dallas attorney Patricia LaRue says that's exactly what happened to her client.
"It's a scam. It's purely a scam," said LaRue.
LaRue says she agreed to help Brenda Thorton pro bono after she told her she was victimized by squatters connected to Robinson. Thorton was struggling to make payments on a $175,000 home after her husband died, when she says squatters moved in and trashed the place.
"It's devastating. It's sad to see your house trashed," Thorton told Boyd.
The squatters ruined the white carpeting in Thorton's home with pink nail polish, permanently stained the kitchen floor and left behind all sorts of other junk. The squatters were later evicted and arrested for burglary and theft.
The owner of another home was away getting chemotherapy treatments when squatters broke in and took over the house. They looted the place and sold of thousands of dollars worth of furniture and valuables and threw out everything else, including a cherished wedding dress and even the ashes of the beloved family dog.
A different couple, who say they got advice from Robinson, were also arrested after they removed the dead bolt locks on another beautiful suburban home. They too, were eventually evicted and had to haul all their belongings to the curb. So far, at least eight people all allegedly connected to Robinson have been arrested and charged with burglary and theft after they took over seemingly vacant homes.
"Are you aware that eight people that you have been associated with were arrested for burglary in connection that you guided them thru it," Boyd asked Robinson.
"Yes, I'm aware of it" said Robinson
"How do you explain it," asked Boyd.
"I don't," said Robinson.
But then the interview suddenly came to a stand still when Constables showed up and gave Robinson a subpoena to testify before a grand jury about whether he taught people how to take over homes.
Robinson didn't feel much like talking after he was handed the subpoena.
"Did you have any relationship with these [squatters]," Boyd asked.
"No," said Robinson.
"You didn't guide them in any way," asked Boyd.
"We're done," said Robinson as he started walking towards his car.
Boyd continued: "You don't believe that you're giving people false hope they can move into a neighborhood like this and take over a home?"
"The media has, not me," said Robinson, who then took off his microphone and drove away.
And the neighbors couldn't be happier.
"I'm happy he's out of the neighborhood and I hope he stays out!" said a neighbor who lives across the street.
Robinson, who denies any wrong doing and has not been charged with any crime, is appealing the eviction on the home he once famously owned for just $16.00.
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