Woman charged with burglary for squatting on Fort Bend County home

October 26, 2011 5:03:35 AM PDT
An empty house attracted a new "homeowner," but the move is not sitting well with neighbors or law enforcement. It's called 'adverse possession' and officials say in this economy, they're seeing a growing number of squatters taking liberties with the law.

The prosecutor on this case says a woman who was allegedly squatting here told investigators she had learned about taking possession of distressed properties during a seminar in Houston. In this case, however, the DA says what happened was illegal.

According to Fort Bend County tax rolls, the assessed value of a property on Everhart Terrace is $204,000. But according to prosecutors, Chinyere Ngwu was living there for free.

"She actually came over and introduced herself," neighbor Pam Foster said.

Foster met Ngwu in September. Foster thought it strange that she'd only see the woman at night.

"Pull in, open the door, put in a few things and leave," Foster said.

Foster knew the woman who previously lived there, who had moved out and tried unsuccessfully to sell the house. Foster became suspicious and called the sheriff's office.

"In this case, our defendant was essentially squatting at the home which belonged to another person," prosecutor Scott Carpenter said.

Carpenter says Ngwu was indicted just Monday for burglary of a building. He tells us she somehow broke into the home and even changed the locks and moved in.

We went to the Houston restaurant where investigators said Ngwu works. Though neighbors, investigators and the prosecutor all identify the woman you see here as her, she denies it and says she did nothing wrong.

"Were you living in a house on Everhart Terrace?" we asked her.

"Oh, no, no, no, that's not me," she replied.

"That's not you? That's somebody else?" we asked.

"Yes," she said.

But Ngwu even filed this legal document claiming "adverse possession" where she stated in September that she owned the home because it had allegedly been abandoned.

"No in my mind, that's not enough. You just can't go down and say I own a piece of property," Carpenter said.

But Carpenter says the home hadn't been abandoned. He says this is a growing problem -- people trying to take possession of properties citing a rarely used facet of the law. What's more, Carpenter says that the process requires at least a three-year history at the property before title can be claimed.

Neighbors say they work hard and just want the person living here to have to pay what is fair to do so.

"We look out for each other and we want to keep it safe," Foster said.

In this case, Ngwu faces up to two years in jail and a $10,000 fine if convicted.


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