‘Shocked:’ Checks, IDs, designer brand boxes found in home rented by suspected identity thief (2024)

HARRIS COUNTY, Texas – A home rented by a suspected identity thief in Northwest Harris County has led to a law enforcement investigation and the recovery of many items possibly connected to other identity theft cases.

The battle between the property owner and tenant is brewing in the Everett Point neighborhood and only KPRC 2′s cameras were there to capture how it all unraveled.

The landlord’s realtor reached out to KPRC 2 after seeing a recent story on a woman arrested for allegedly using a stolen identity to attempt to rent homes.

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He said the circ*mstances were similar and asked for help after getting what he called the run around from law enforcement.

“Credit came clean, background came clean, eviction came clean, criminal record came clean. Everything was clean,” the realtor said, who asked for his name to be withheld over safety concerns.

The rental application came in for the home on Vander Rock Drive a couple weeks ago. An error on the first one with a Social Security Number was fixed, he said, and everything was cleared to proceed.

But one of the checks required to move-in came back as counterfeit and forged, which is when suspicions set in. He and the homeowner began their own investigation, which led them to a woman in California.

She told them her identity had been stolen and she hadn’t lived in Texas for a decade.

"We located the real person that lives outside of Texas with her social, her ID. She’s identified all the credit hits,” the realtor said, including a $4,000 credit card charge to install a home-security system at the Vander Rock Drive home.

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The tenant used a real Texas ID of the victim, but the picture had been changed, the realtor said.

He called the Harris County Sheriff’s Office to the home on Monday.

Deputies responded, but the woman staying there had already left. A man toting duffle bags took off in a rideshare.

Inside the home, the homeowner’s family found stacks of boxes from designer brands, bank, insurance and passport cards with different names, and tens of thousands of dollars in checks with other names.

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Some of the checks appeared to be from the U.S. Treasury Department. Other documents were connected to businesses and the states of Massachusetts and New York.

There was also blank cashier’s check paper stacked on top of a printer on the kitchen counter.

“I was shocked,” the realtor said. “There’s got to be at least hundreds of thousands of dollars in purses and Louis Vuitton’s and Fendi’s and Burberry’s and stuff. That was a small thing ... when I opened up the box with all the checks, there’s probably maybe, maybe $500 [thousand] or maybe $1 million worth of checks in there.

Fraud is becoming a more rampant issue for Houston-area realtors to combat, according to the Houston Association of Realtors.

“More and more people are doing it; it’s getting a little bit more sophisticated. And, you know, you got to use technology as best as you can to stay in front of it,” Houston Association of Realtors’ chair Thomas Mouton said.

The association has rolled out a free app to members, known as Forewarn, which can be used to research identity, financial, property, and criminal records of potential clients.

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“Could it have stopped it, maybe, maybe not. But it definitely would have created a lot more red flags,” Mouton said.

As the locks got changed at the home, a moving truck pulled up. The employees said they got a call from a woman with urgent moving needs. She wanted her stuff picked up and taken to a nearby storage unit, they said.

But they didn’t have luck picking anything up. The homeowner’s family told them to take it up with law enforcement.

KPRC 2 called and texted the number connected to the lease application and the hired movers, but no one answered.

“The system’s broke, and it protects the criminals right now,” the realtor said.

He said he did due diligence, but the renter still made it through the process, and he hopes law enforcement will dig deep on the investigation.

A spokesperson for the Harris County Sheriff’s Office confirmed deputies were called to the home on Monday and said the case will be investigated by the financial crimes unit.

No arrests have been made nor charges filed.

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‘Shocked:’ Checks, IDs, designer brand boxes found in home rented by suspected identity thief (2024)
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