KANSAS CITY, Mo. - For years, people living in a quiet Kansas City neighborhood ignored the invoices that arrived in their mail demanding payment to a homeowners association.
“Just want to let you know it's a scam,” Tony Navarro said he was told when he moved to the Summerfield subdivision. “This is not an HOA neighborhood at all. There are no monthly fees.”
But then, just before Christmas, a $445 lien was filed against Navarro’s home and more than 30 others.
The reason? For not paying dues to the Summerfield Homeowners Association. An HOA that has no board and provides no services.
If you call the phone number for the company that runs the HOA -- Column's Park LLC: “It's some random guy that answers,” neighbor Jesse Kaucher told WDAF.
“He told me he had the number for five years," Kaucher said. "He asked me to let the community know it’s not him. That's how you know it's a scam.”
Even though the HOA may be fake, the liens are real. Neighbors have had to hire attorney Ed Ford to get them removed.
The filing of fake liens and other documents has become a big problem in Missouri. The owners of a $4 million mansion in St. Louis had to go to court to prevent a woman they accused of filing a fake quitclaim deed from taking possession of their home.
“I was stunned,” said Rep. Kirk Mathews, “I did not know this practice existed.”
Mathews has since learned it’s easy to file fake documents because the recorder of deeds in each county doesn’t have the manpower to check out the legitimacy of each claim.
“They are just stamping it, stamping it and it’s filed and done,” said Mathews who has sponsored legislation to make filing fake documents a felony. “Hopefully this bill will provide some real teeth for law enforcement to go after the people who are doing this.”
WDAF paid a visit to Karen Sue Lovell, who filed the liens and is listed as manager of the Summerfield HOA in a letter she sent to homeowners.
Lovell wouldn’t even open the door of her home. Speaking behind a window, she said she had no comment.
Later Lovell’s attorney wrote to WDAF that Lovell thought the neighborhood should have an HOA to pay for the upkeep of the lot containing the neighborhood’s drainage basin. Lovell lives in Independence - far from the Summerfield neighborhood.
The other person behind the fake Summerfield HOA was even harder to reach.
Al Roberts is in federal prison, convicted of $3 million in mortgage fraud. Roberts, a retired Kansas City school teacher, formed Column's Park, the company behind the HOA. Roberts also sent out the initial invoices to homeowners.
Ford, the attorney hired by homeowners, said he spoke with Roberts after that first invoice arrived.
“I very nicely said, 'What the heck are you thinking?' said Ford, who then informed Roberts what he was doing was illegal.
“I thought I had properly educated him but apparently not," Ford said.
A relative of Roberts told WDAF that Roberts is still running the company from his federal prison cell. That’s something the attorney representing Column's Park denied.
The good news is that with Ford’s help the liens have now been dismissed. However, neighbors are worried that there’s nothing preventing it from happening again.