CASTLE ROCK, Colo. (CBS4)– A Douglas County judge has ordered a man who had been living in a million dollar home to stand trial on charges including trespassing and perjury.
CBS4’s On Your Side Investigator Rick Sallinger has linked this case to at least a dozen other “stolen homes” across the area. The homes involved were under foreclosure and taken over by people who claim they have a legal right to do so under a law called “Adverse Possession.”
Sergio Hernandez was in court for a preliminary hearing after he was evicted from a million dollar mansion in the Bell Mountain Ranch subdivision near Castle Rock on March 22nd. Hernandez is charged with trespassing, perjury, offering false instrument and violation of a bail bond.
In March, Hernandez and his family members were forced to leave the four bedroom, five bathroom home at 1252 Rosewind Circle. All their possessions were hauled to the curb by bank hired movers.
The true owner of the furniture inside the home remains the subject of debate.
The home was originally owned by Joyce Carroll, who tells us her furniture was still inside when Hernandez moved in. She went into the hospital, was unable to make payments, and Bank of America started foreclosure proceedings. When she was able to leave the hospital, she found strangers living inside a home she never fully moved out of. That’s when Sergio Hernandez provided a document of “Adverse Possession”, which he claims gives him a legal right to live in the house.
During the court hearing, the Douglas County prosecutor said the document of Adverse Possession “has the exact legal force as Monopoly money.” But that document, which the public defender centered her questioning around, gave Hernandez time inside the home.
He allegedly squatted in the house from August of 2011 until late March 2012.
On the stand, Detective Mike Trindle testified that he questioned Hernandez about the scheme, “He told me the matter was larger than him and I. It dealt with corruption of the banks on a national level.”
But while the matter of ownership made its way through civil court, Hernandez and his family were allowed to remain in the home.
Neighbors describe Hernandez and his family as quiet people who kept the blinds closed and were rarely seen outside. The Bell Mountain Homeowners Association got wind that something was amiss when neighbors spotted a prohibited trailer parked in the driveway. They called the bank, which said it had no legal means to move the trailer because it belonged to someone who has illegally entered the home. In December, the neighborhood watch captain called police, who reported back there was nothing they could do because at that point it was a civil manner.
“We wanted to go picket the house and do whatever we could to get him out of here because some people felt unsafe,” says HOA Board Member Doug Deleff.
At a recent HOA meeting neighbors were upset they weren’t all notified. But Deleff defended the decision not to put the incident in the HOA newsletter.
“They didn’t say they were vicious criminals if they are illegally living in the house. It could be like an Enron guy living next door. They are definitely doing something wrong, but not necessarily violent,” said Deleff. “Anybody that takes advantage of the system makes me sick to my stomach.”
Deleff says he is relieved that the home is now empty and on the market at a drastically reduced price. He wasn’t surprised when we told him Sergio Hernandez showed up at another eviction, just ten-miles away in Larkspur.
“They knew exactly what they were doing and will keep doing it until they are thrown in jail,” said Deleff.
Last Friday, Hernandez arrived in a U-Haul van to help move a family out of a $750,000 home in Larkspur. The home was occupied by a man named Gonzolo Perez, who is believed to be related to Hernandez.
In a similar fashion, Douglas County deputies were accompanied by a locksmith, who picked the lock to the home at 648 Independence. The bank-hired real estate agent helped haul Mr. Perez’s possessions to the curb. Hernandez refused to talk with us about his connection to this home. But back in court, Detective Trindle made the link. He said he learned about Hernandez and the home in Castle Rock after investigating the house in Larkspur.
Sergio Hernandez is due back in court on August 13th. Gonzolo Perez also has future court appearances scheduled.
Written for the web by Investigative Producer Mark Ackerman