I-TEAM: County recorders given option to not file ‘fraudulent’ liens from companies like MV Realty

DAYTON — The I-Team’s months-long and ongoing investigation into MV Realty has now caught the attention of the Ohio Recorder’s Association.

As the I-Team previously reported, MV Realty files 40-year liens on customer properties with county recorder offices to ensure their decades-long exclusive right to sell customer homes as a part of their “Homeowner Benefit Program.”

Montgomery County Recorder Brandon McClain told the I-Team’s John Bedell Tuesday that the I-Team’s ongoing reporting on MV Realty’s business practices has been “the subject on several information and advice chains that have occurred throughout” the Ohio Recorder’s Association.

>> ORIGINAL REPORT: I-TEAM: Real estate racket? Company offers homeowners quick cash in exchange for 40-year lien

Now, a new opinion from Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost released publicly on February 6 is giving county recorders guidance that tells them they have the authority to stop MV Realty from recording any new contracts in their respective counties. The opinion says county recorders have the discretion to challenge and refuse to record liens if they’re deemed to be “materially false or fraudulent.”

The document shows Butler County Prosecuting Attorney Mike Gmoser filed a formal request with the Ohio AG’s Office for Yost’s opinion on the matter. When speaking to the I-Team Tuesday about the opinion’s publication, Gmoser said he filed his paperwork “about six weeks earlier.”

“It came as a result of a request from our county recorder,” Gmoser said.

In Butler County, where public records reviewed by the I-Team show there are at least 80 existing MV Realty customers, the recorder’s office told the I-Team they’re now refusing to record any new MV deals until further notice.

>> PREVIOUS COVERAGE: I-TEAM: Ohio attorney general ‘reviewing’ allegations against MV Realty

Gmoser said after he became aware of the I-Team’s reporting on MV Realty, he started his own independent review of the company before then filing the formal request with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office for Yost’s opinion. Gmoser said he has some “real reservations about whether or not property should be permitted to be tied up for a small amount of money that down the road this person is locked in on something that might be a major lien on … the ability to transfer property. So my decision on this is to make sure that this problem is solved, but that my recorder here in Butler County doesn’t become an ally of something that could really have sour and possibly fraudulent consequences for the citizens.”

Gmoser added, “The point was when it landed on my desk, I needed to look at this because I could see that citizens in Butler County could be affected by this.”

The I-Team dug through county records and has not found any new deals that MV Realty has filed with customers in Ohio counties since we first exposed their business practices in November.

>> RELATED: I-Team: MV Realty, accused of “swindling” homeowners, apparently hasn’t filed any new contracts

“At the end of the day, we want the people of Ohio protected against deceptive business practices by any company,” McClain said.

McClain told News Center 7 that the Ohio Recorder’s Association’s legislative committee will be discussing Yost’s new opinion on Wednesday.

County records reviewed by the I-Team show at least 39 existing MV Realty customers in Montgomery County. When asked Tuesday what would happen if MV Realty filed a new contract with a customer to be recorded through his office now, McClain said, “To me, the answer is very simple. When it comes to different processes that affect our residents, that affect our community, either you side on the interests of the public, of the people, or you side on the interests of a practice that potentially could disenfranchise individuals of rights that they have and hold dear. And when it comes to those type of situations, I’m going to err on the side of caution and I’m going to side with the people.”

In other words,” the I-Team’s lead investigative reporter, John Bedell, asked McClain, “It’s going to get a healthy dose of scrutiny and you might reject it? And not file it?”

“That’s correct,” McClain said.

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