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

Wednesday, November 8, 2023
Warranty deed scam: Harris County deputies arrest man accused of targeting Houston-area properties valued at more than $15 million
Harris County deputies said the man would forge property owners' signatures on their warranty deeds and purchase their property at a drastically undervalued price.

HARRIS COUNTY, Texas (KTRK) -- An alleged mastermind behind a $15 million warranty deed scam in Harris County was arrested on Monday after a year-long investigation, according to deputies.

Timothy Willard is accused of forging the signature of at least three property owners, including his father, on their warranty deeds and purchasing their property at a drastically undervalued price.

Harris County Constable Precinct 1 deputies said Willard would then resale the properties under market value. Authorities said the properties involved were located throughout Houston and included River Oaks. At least three were valued at more than $15 million.

One of those properties was 11 West Lane in the River Oaks area, valued at $5 million. In fact, the real estate agent who sold the property to the real owner is credited for cracking the elaborate scheme.

David Houston, with New Leaf Reality, noticed the 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.

According to records, the suspect's father told deputies his son sold a property he owned without his consent, and he worried he would get arrested for forgery one day.

"It's frightening, I mean, look this is something you saved up for, something you put money aside for," Houston said. "Regardless of the value, it's a big chunk of your assets. To think someone can just steal it, take it out of your hands, without you knowing anything about it is scary."

The Pct. 1 Constable's Office says Willard targeted properties that were paid in full with no liens.

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. Houston recommends homeowners to set up a routine to check their property on the Harris County Appraisal District's website, to make sure their name is listed under the property.

"The same way, you check your credit every six months, an extra step to protect yourself," Houston said.

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

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