The Chula Vista City Council discussed the growing problem of home rental scams during a Tuesday night meeting.
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The debate was sparked by the recent arrest of Chula Vista businesswoman Dianne "Harmony" Brown, who is charged with 61 felony counts of burglary and filing fraudulent documents.
In January, Brown told 10News the company she and her husband operated, Prudent Constituents Association (PCA), was legitimate and above board.
However, according to the San Diego County District Attorney's Office, the 45-year-old Brown would file false deeds to claim 31 foreclosed homes in Chula Vista. Brown would then rent the homes out and pocket the money.
In the January interview, Brown insisted she was helping previous homeowners by using the rent money to fund lawsuits against banking institutions on their behalf.
"When the case gets settled that's when PCA will split the award with the owners. If we can't find the former owners, then the money will go into a trust with the state," she told 10News in the January interview.
Some local real estate agents were left without homes to sell and national banks rarely knew they were missing a property.
"A lot of neighbors are very upset about it and I'm a neighbor, too, and this is something we just got to resolve," said real estate agent Steve Lemack.
Lemack helped inform 10News and local authorities of the alleged scam. He said the problem starts at the county level, where the fake documents are accepted.
"You just can't walk in to an office and record a property that's not yours and take it over," he said.
Chula Vista Police Chief David Bejarano said local law enforcement does not know the paperwork is fake and acknowledged safeguards need to be in place to help.
"Can there be a database where law enforcement can have access to records immediately?" he asked.
"If we can give law enforcement a chance to do their job, this probably wouldn't have happened," said Lemack.
Brown's husband, Dexter, has not been charged with any crime.
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