'Mastermind' of $15M warranty deed scam against Houston-area properties wanted after missing court

Charly Edsitty Image
Friday, November 10, 2023
'Mastermind' of $15M warranty deed scam wanted after missing court
The suspect, who allegedly forged the signature of at least three property owners, including his own father, is wanted again. He was released from jail after a judge issued a PR bond earlier this week.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- A man who deputies called the "mastermind" behind an elaborate $15 million warranty deed scam is wanted again.

Timothy Willard is charged with a first-degree felony of forgery and aggregate theft greater than $300,000.

He was arrested on Monday, but he later bonded out of jail. A judge issued a personal recognizance bond, meaning he did not have to pay money to be released.

ORIGINAL REPORT: Suspect accused of scheme to sell River Oaks property, including his dad's

Harris County deputies said the man would forge property owners' signatures on their warranty deeds and purchase their property at a drastically undervalued price.

In the newest twist in the case, Willard was supposed to show up to court on Wednesday, but he did not. Now, there is a warrant for his arrest.

Harris County Constable Precinct 1 video shows the moment Willard was initially arrested on Monday after a year-long investigation into a real estate scam where he allegedly profited $15 million.

Willard would allegedly target properties around Houston that were already paid in full with no liens and forge documents showing he was the owner.

He allegedly forged the signature of at least three property owners, including his father, on their warranty deeds and purchased their property at a drastically undervalued price.

Deputies said Willard would re-list the properties under his name, sell them under market value, and collect the money.

Willard's own father says the sale of his property was done without his consent.

A realtor who sold a River Oaks property Willard allegedly tried to target was the one who tipped off investigators.

David Houston with New Leaf Real Estate noticed the $5 million property his client bought was listed for sale at less than half the price.

"Every day, we go through the new listings, and it was shocking to see one of the listings we helped someone buy go back on the market with a different owner's name," Houston said.

He and his client alerted deputies, and through their investigation, the Pct. 1 Constable's Office found there were two other victims. One of the properties was a multi-million dollar lot nearby and the third was a condo owned by the suspect's father in southwest Houston.

Houston shared some advice on how to protect yourself.

"I would suggest going into HCAD and check your property to make sure it's listed in your name. Same thing as pulling your credit every 6 months," he said.

HCAD stands for the Harris County Appraisal District. You can go to their website to check your property records to make sure everything is in the correct name.

Willard managed to pull this off by creating fake notaries and submitting everything online through the county clerk's site, according to deputies. The constable's office isn't sure how the county clerk missed this.

Deputies believe there are more victims and while Houston caught his client's listing, others may have not been as lucky.

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