Photo at right: Raymond Tate (on right), convicted house thief, appearing in court with attorney Steve LeBerge, in 2009. (Shmuel Thaler/Sentinel)
SANTA CRUZ – A Santa Cruz man convicted in 2010 of stealing a Ben Lomond home will have to pay $1,895 in restitution to the rightful owners, a judge ruled Friday.
Raymond Tate sentenced in May 2010 to five months in County Jail and three years’ probation for felony charges of filing false property records and conspiracy. According to court records, Tate was able to use a typographical error on the deed for a Hubbard Gulch Road to pose as the owner of the house and file false documents with the county recorder to support his case.
While the rightful owners were on vacation in 2009, Tate sold the home to someone else. When the owners returned, they found their belongings moved to the garage, the locks changed and a stranger living in their house. The occupant, Daniel Judd, said he bought the house from Tate and later admitted he was part of the plot to take the home. Judd is currently on probation in Santa Clara County.
Burbed will take a hard-hitting stand in opposition to house theft, whether or not in the Real Bay Area. However, we are obligated to point out the advantages of owning an RBA house, should you be so unfortunate as to find it stolen. There is absolutely no way that someone guilty of grand theft housing (as opposed to this petty larceny) would be given such a slap on the wrist. Read further into this story, and you will discover that the legal owners of the house claimed $5,700 in actual damages. The reduced amount awarded no doubt reflects the non-RBA discount applied to all homes that are not Special enough.
This is the house in question, in case you have any concerns about its worthiness. It’s a 3 bedroom, 1.5 bath red-tag special, for which the proper owners paid $50,000 for in 2007. It was also sliding down a hill. Perhaps it was not sliding when the previous owners paid $130,000 for it just two years earlier.
The disputed house on Hubbard Gulch Road (Shmuel Thaler/Sentinel)
You won’t learn this in the article above, which is woefully deficient in what is otherwise a fascinating story. But The Sentinel does list several of its previous articles covering all the house wrangling. Click on through for a twisty little maze of real estate fraud.
It seems Ray Tate noticed a little problem with the title to a Ben Lomand house while its owners, Tom Decker and Maria McArthur of Pleasanton, were not living there. Decker and McArthur purchased the property as a second home and were making repairs to it. Decker mistakenly failed to transfer the title to his Nevada corporation, but instead to a nonexistent company of the same name in California.
Maria McArthur and Tom Decker, victims of home theft, and not by a bank. (Bill Lovejoy/Sentinel)
Tate figured with no clear title existing, he would make up a fake California company with the same name, and the house would then be his. He did so, then sold it to Dan Judd for $14,000 in April 2009. Judd “needed a place to stay.”
A Streetview peek at the house shows No Trespassing signs plus a notice from a security company.
When Decker and McArthur returned to the house after a vacation, they found the locks changed and their property piled in the garage. Judd claimed the house was his, and the Sheriff let him stay when he produced a deed of sale. Eventually, both parties were ordered to stay out of the house while the issue was investigated. Four weeks later, the rightful owners were allowed to move back. Within another few weeks, both Tate and Judd were arrested.
More fun: Ray Tate had the local franchise for AstroLawn, a product that no doubt has high demand in a sylvan locale such as Ben Lomand.
Tate poses with what might be the product he sells. (Dan Coyro/Sentinel)
Tate claims that he thought the property was abandoned, and besides, his grandmother owned it and had deeded it to him. Or at least she meant to. Property records indicate she had sold the house and that Tate’s pants were quite on fire. Tate says this photo shows his pants are not combusting and that he didn’t know his grandmother sold the house, and besides, he had no way of contacting whoever mistakenly registered a nonexistent company to the wrong address, so Finders Keepers.
It took almost a year after the original complaint for Tate’s case to reach trial. His attorney claimed that Tate did nothing wrong because he “relied on the integrity of public records,” no doubt so he could create some convincing duplicates. A jury found Ray Tate guilty of filing false property records and conspiracy in April, 2010.
Ray Tate III’s wife leaves court with her father-in-law, Ray Tate, Jr. after the jury reached their verdict of guilty. (Dan Coyro/Sentinel)
In May 2010, Tate was sentenced to 150 days in County Jail and three years’ probation. The judge could have sentenced him to two years in state prison, but demurred due to Tate having a wife and three kids and never, ever having been caught stealing houses before this one time.
Ready for another incongruous bit to this tale which is chock full of them? Daniel Judd, the purported purchaser, used to live in Saratoga, supposedly part of the RBA. It appears he moved to Los Gatos after being removed from the disputed home, but by July 2009 when he appeared in court, he was living with “an associate” in Campbell. He also appeared incapable of answering basic questions such as who he was.
Judd’s computer was examined by a DA’s Inspector, and the mystery home’s full property records were found there. This included documentation that Decker and McArthur were the legal owners, and a copy of the disputed deed. Another little cherry on this sundae of suckage were documents obliging Judd to return the property to Tate if he didn’t make monthly payments to him.
Daniel Judd, in court. At right, the judge orders him to sit his butt down after determining he cannot represent his own interests. (Dan Coyro/Sentinel)
Judd’s original not guilty plea claimed Tate had tricked him into buying a hot house. Changing his plea led to two other fraud charges being dropped, and Judd was sentenced to three months in jail in June of 2010. His sentence was eased due to being old and writing an apology to the home’s rightful owners. Judd was also ordered to pay $5,745 restitution and return the title to Decker and McArthur, who were not amused at all.
The Tate restitution ruling earlier this month should bring this saga to an end. Tate has served his sentence and is now out on probation. But in another moment of tactical brilliance, the attorney for a convicted conspirator and property records offender objected to the victims’ request for restitution because “there was insufficient documentation of the costs.”