I-Team: Alleged Squatter Sees Day in Court - 8 News NOW

I-Team: Alleged Squatter Sees Day in Court

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LAS VEGAS -- Victims say Eric Alpert never met a house he didn't like. The state says Eric Alpert never met a house he couldn't steal. Almost.

In the first day of a multi-part preliminary hearing, Eric Alpert defended himself from multiple felony counts of theft, burglary, forgery and filing false records. Investigators believe Alpert identified vacant homes going into foreclosure and then broke in, changed the locks and rented them out.

One of the witnesses, Richard Knox, had been fighting with a bank for new loan payments. When he returned to the home, he discovered renters inside and also other messy problems. "Trash, dirty diapers, dog feces, dog urine," he said from the witness stand.

Alpert's defense team believes a law called adverse possession allows people to seize vacant homes. Typically, that law allows for ownership if the person lived continually in the abandoned property for five years -- paying bills and upkeep the entire time.

Instead, the state says Alpert simply put up homemade notices claiming adverse possession. Then after two weeks time, the out-of-area or out-of-state owners would not respond and Alpert would take control of the property and rent it out. He would also file liens of abandonment, trying to "cloud the title" and make it appear as if he had a true financial interest in the property.

Camille Acoymo traveled back and forth between California with her husband Jose during most of the last 18 months. The $2,400 a month mortgage payments had become too unbearable on Shining Elm Avenue.

They had a new baby and Jose had a new job. Nearly every other week, the Acoymos came back to Las Vegas to check up on the property. On one trip, Camille found Patrick Edgar answering the door in his shorts.

"I took a look at everything that was still left in the house. A lot of our property was missing, including all the major appliances," Acoymo said.

Edgar has moved in just a few weeks earlier. Alpert told him all the Acoymo's personal items were up for grabs.

"We wanted to lease that house, but there was still stuff in there and he told us to put it in the garage and give it a couple weeks and if they don't get it, you can throw it in the trash," Edgar said in court.

Alpert's defense tried to make the point that foreclosures become abandoned property and the homeowners essentially gave up on them.

The hearing was continued until a later date.

If convicted of all charges, Alpert could face more than $200,000 in fines and 147 years in prison.

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