Trial starts for man in alleged foreclosed home scam

July 15, 2013 9:00:00 PM PDT
The trial for a man accused of "squatting" in high-end Wake County homes began Tuesday.

The trial comes two years after a lawsuit was filed against Shawn Pendergraft who was the focus of an ABC11 I-Team investigation.

Pendergraft is facing charges in connection with an alleged scheme to take over ownership of foreclosed houses in the Triangle that were bank owned.

An ABC11 investigation in July 2011 revealed how people formed private trusts, made themselves the trustees, filled out a deed, got it notarized and recorded at the register of deeds office.

Pendergraft, who is tied to at least two of the trusts, was able to get the deeds to several homes in the Triangle just by filing new deeds.

In court Tuesday, Pendergraft defended himself with part of a state law called "adverse possession," which he interpreted to mean that anyone who moves into a vacant property, eventually owns it.

The Wake County Sheriff's deputy, who was on the witness stand Tuesday morning, told the courtroom that Pendergraft presented a deed when the deputy said he had gone to a home in south Raleigh in 2011 after a realtor filed a complaint about someone "squatting" there.

The house, valued at more than $850,000, was in foreclosure at the time.

The deputy said he has never dealt with "adverse possession," and made Pendergraft leave the property.

After the I-Team investigation, Attorney General Roy Cooper filed a lawsuit against Pendergraft, along with the five others, to stop what he called, "a scheme to take over property without paying for it."

Soon after, the Wake County Sheriff's Office charged Pendergraft with breaking and entering, obtaining property by false pretence and trespassing.

It's not clear how long the trial will last.

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