New protection is coming for homeowners and renters in Kern County. Local realtors and industry professionals are teaming with local law enforcement and the Kern County District Attorney's office. Combined, they have formed the Real Estate Anti-Fraud Advisory Committee.
The Bakersfield Association of Realtors approached the local District Attorney's office after they saw numerous real estate scams.
People can go to this task force with issues, realtors can point out the problems and make them public, and law enforcement can go after the scammers and prosecute.
In January, the owner of a Bakersfield home confronted who, he claimed, were squatters living there. At that time, the owner turned to 17 News for help since he didn't know where else to go. He's not alone. In recent months, numerous others have have claimed the same. They had been scammed somehow in the real estate market. With this new task force, they will now have a place to turn.
Donna Carpenter is the Government Affairs Director for the Bakersfield Association of Realtors. "There's just lots and lots, and there seems to be a higher propensity for fraud here in Bakersfield than some other places in the state," said Carpenter.
Carpenter and Bakersfield Association or Realtors President, Scott Tobias, saw the need and got the idea to form a Real Estate Anti-Fraud Advisory Committee during a trip to Sacramento and upon learning of the success of similar task forces in the state.
"We're never going to stop all of the bad guys," said Tobias. "But, what we can do is create a deterrent with the law enforcement agencies doing the investigations. And, we have a ways to go."
The voluntary task force has met just once. It's made up of about 20 realtors, industry professionals like title and mortgage specialists, local law enforcement and the District Attorney's office.
"Its been at the forefront, and now we're trying to get the word out on how to prevent it and also what to do in terms of prosecuting it," said Kern County District Attorney, Lisa Green. "I'd like to get more investigative support through our Bureau of Investigations and get a full-time dedicated attorney. Right now, it's only part-time."
Together, the task force will educate people about all forms of mortgage fraud, selling scams, and rental deceit and go after those caught taking advantage of others.
"People will say oh they are looking at these things and maybe we shouldn't do it. So, hopefully it will be a deterrent for people to do bad things in the future," said Carpenter.
"Who knows?," said Tobias. "We could just be scratching the surface, but it's a start."
The Real Estate Anti-Fraud Advisory Committee expects to be functioning next month with a website and educational information to protect you from scams.
Kern County District Attorney Lisa Green says it's too early to tell if she can get dedicated personnel prosecuting these types of crimes right now, but that is her goal.