Foreclosure squatters, a growing problem

FRESNO, Calif.

Foreclosed homes are being occupied by unwelcome guests and investigators say its an ongoing trend that seems to be getting worse.

A vacant Northwest Fresno home was a flurry of activity on Wednesday evening. Next door neighbor John Huelskamp thought people were finally moving in when he saw a U-Haul truck pull up. "We were happy that somebody was moving in, to clean up the mess over there. They had a pile of junk for 2 months or so."

But it's that so-called pile of junk that attracted squatters in the first place. Some unwelcome guests moved in to the empty home.

"There was a family member who came by here, saw there was somebody inside the house. She started finding out from other family members there shouldn't have been. They called it in," said Chris Curtice, Fresno County Sheriff's Office.

Fresno County Sheriff's Deputies knocked on the house Thursday morning to see who had moved in. "We contacted a female at the door, who said they were actually renting the property. She could not give a name of who she was renting the property from. It turns out they were basically squatting."

Once inside, deputies discovered hundreds of items, many they say were stolen, and some used for identity fraud. Investigators say the home had recently been foreclosed upon and did not have a lockbox.

Both investigators and realtors say it's becoming a common problem.

"I started doing foreclosures in 2008 and I remember it happening back then. It seems to be getting worst with people either moving in or staying the night," said Lisa Fazio-Satterberg, realtor.

And it's a lesson for neighbors who say they will pay closer attention to what's going on along their street.

Deputies did detain the woman inside the home for questioning, but they are also looking for another suspect. They could be charged with trespassing and possessing stolen property.

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