DENVER (CBS4) – An unusual trial began this week in Denver District court in which a man and his wife are accused of taking over vacant homes and selling them to unsuspecting buyers.
To some Maria Elena and Alfonso Carrillo are a kind of modern day Robin Hood — they allegedly took homes from rich banks and helped the poor. Prosecutors, however, claim they are guilty of racketeering.
Attorneys with the Denver District Attorney’s office said in court Monday that that Carrillo would kick in the doors of the homes, change the locks and sell the houses.
Defense attorney Mark Burton is countering by telling jurors that Alfonso Carrillo’s scheme may have been unusual, but it wasn’t illegal.
One of the counts involves a once-derelict house in Southwest Denver. It’s now home to Carlos Thurman’s family.
Thurman moved in three years ago with the impression that if they stayed there for 18 years, it would be theirs. He took possession after giving Carrillo $5,000 to help him find an abandoned home that he and his family could occupy.
“Carrillo told me there was a program called adverse possession, but he never said the house was his,” Thurman said.
The house is one of dozens of homes CBS4 found in an investigation that were in financial distress and then occupied by people connected to the Carrillos.
Prosecutors claim the couple did not have ownership of the properties and had no right to offer them to others for money.
In February 2012 Carrillo told CBS4 outside a courtroom that he is innocent.
“I’m innocent. I haven’t been found guilty, and you are saying lies,” he told CBS4 in response to questions about the case.
Mary Molinar bought a home in Firestone and then found out the adverse possession Carrillo gave her entitled her to nothing.
“Did he want some money from you?” CBS4’s Rick Sallinger asked Molinar in 2012.
“Yeah. I had to pay what he told me was $16,000 but I didn’t have that much in cash,” she said.
So she gave Carillo her truck for the house.
A jury will now be asked to decide if the Carrillos are guilty of crimes that could send them to prison for 24 years or more. The trial is expected to last at least a week.
Another person was charged in the case — Rudy Breda — but those charges have been dropped. It’s not known if he will become a witness for the prosecution.
Two others have been convicted in related cases in Douglas County.