Alleged Squatter Stakes Claim to Seattle Homes, Says She Is 'Sticking It' to Banks

As if the nation's real estate market did not already have enough problems -- declining sales, credit crunch and the home appraisal nightmare -- now squatters are moving into vacant and foreclosed homes and staking ownership claims.

A Seattle woman who plopped herself into a vacant $3.3 million suburban Seattle mansion with her two kids -- claiming she was squatting in empty foreclosed mansions as a means of "sticking it" to the banks -- now tells the judge she "meant no harm."

Jill Lane, an attractive blonde and co-owner of an online debt recovery business that also claims to help make mortgages vanish, says she made a mistake and is seeking legal counsel.

In previous statements, Lane insinuated she was part of a rebellion that may grow into a national movement. And she told a Seattle Times reporter that she's going to keep staking her claim to the waterfront house at 435 Eighth Avenue where she squatted for almost a month, because no one owns it. Even more, she says she is staking claims to 10 other houses in the Seattle area that have gone into foreclosure and been passed from bank to bank.

And she's doing it all, she insists, not to make money but to make a statement.

Lane told The Seattle Times by phone from Disneyland, where she was vacationing after being released by the Kirkland, Ore., police, that "banks do whatever they want and nobody holds them accountable." She went on to say: "It makes me ill to see what the banks are doing. They aren't using their bailout money to help anyone. So I'm standing up for the people who are being brutalized by banks every day."

"This is a national movement," seconded Jim McClung, a former Bothell real estate agent and owner of NW Note Elimination, a company he runs with Lane that counsels people in how to "eliminate mortgages" as well as take over empty, foreclosed houses.

NW Note Elimination has advertised on Craig's List. The website now says that due "to the wild misrepresentations and slander of the certain new media, namely the Seattle Times and Komo 4, we are restructuring to be accessible only to pre-screened individuals who truly desire to be educated in the fraud that is committed by the banking system as a whole and are interested in empowering themselves with the knowledge to make changes in their personal lives and situations."

Lane moved into the vacant suburban Seattle mansion with her cats, TV, and even her own bed. A man named James Grenz also moved in with Lane and her children, 9 and 7. She treated the property well, according to news reports, and was kind enough to allow the home-stagers to come inside the mansion to rearrange the $80,000 worth of staging furniture to make the house more appealing to buyers.

Talk about plush living: The brand-new home is equipped with an elevator and wine cellar, fitness room, home office, and boasts city and mountain views. It has 7,680-square-feet, six bedrooms, nine baths, a formal dining room, and living room and dens. The holder of the note, First Citizens Bank, says the family showed up, took down the "for sale" signs and even changed the locks on the doors. Lane replaced the "for sale" sign with a "no trespassing" signs.

Ironically, Kirkland police arrested Jill E. Lane, 30, June 22 for criminal trespass after neighbors saw the signs that Lane put up. Before that, they just thought the house had been sold and they had new neighbors.

Currently the home is owned by First Citizens Bank. The Seattle Times also reported that after Lane moved in, she tried to buy the mansion for full price, but her offer was rejected by the bank because she was going to pay for the home using a "bonded promissory note." When police first showed up at the home to remove her, she produced a "legal document" called a UCC financing statement that allegedly showed ownership of the mansion had been transferred to a religious charity she had incorporated only two weeks ago, "Priority Rose Children's Outreach."

The bank hired security and notified police, and now have an attorney fighting to keep the bank as the home's rightful owner.

Squatting is apparently on the rise, a symptom of the nation's foreclosure crisis. The Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel claims home squatting has become a big problem in foreclosure-laden Florida, calling it the "latest fraud in the housing crisis." There were more than 200 cases in Broward and Palm Beach counties alone in recent months, many of them in vacation homes which are not fully occupied by their owners. A bill in the Florida Legislature last spring would have helped cut back on squatter abuses and better protect Florida property owners, but it failed to pass.

See more homes for sale in Seattle, Wash. at AOL real estate.


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