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Squatters part of national movement descend upon Greenville

A real estate headache that has swamped high-foreclosure areas in the U.S. has surfaced in Greenville.

The Sovereign Citizens Movement, a group of people who don’t pay taxes and don’t recognize state or federal law or their court systems, has become a nightmare in areas like Atlanta, Florida and the West Coast where forecloses jumped and entire neighborhoods of empty houses were left unattended.

What happens is SCM members file bogus quit-claim deeds in local court systems – the same systems they claim not to recognize – and begin to homestead in empty houses. That’s exactly what’s happened in Greenville, said Realtor Betsy Alexander.

Alexander has been trying to sell a home on Bayou Road in Greenville since the owners moved out of state. She got word over the weekend that the previously empty home became occupied over the Labor Day holiday, and not by its rightful owners.

But the unwanted occupation, and all the fringe elements like animal waste and general filth that come along with it, aren’t the biggest problem.

“This is essentially paper terrorism,” Alexander said in an interview last week with the Mississippi Business Journal. “Let’s say I got an offer on the house today. The sale process could be held up for who knows how long because these people have filed a bogus deed, and unraveling that would be a nightmare. People think getting identity theft straightened out is bad. That’s nothing compared to this. Once you file a deed with a court, it’s extremely difficult to un-file it. And it affects people up and down the line, the insurance, the banks, the title, in this case the homeowners, and me, the Realtor. It’s awful.”

“What these people do generally is focus on foreclosed homes,” Alexander continued. “They don’t think banks should own houses so they file these fake quit claim deeds and just move in. They claim ownership of everything in the house – furniture, toiletries, everything. This is the first instance of this that I know of in Greenville.”

Alexander said the SCM members who took over her client’s home have been arrested, and had their initial court appearances last week. Each of the four members is charged with burglary and grand theft. As of Thursday afternoon, each remained in jail.

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