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ID theft hits home in Canada

Property scams create legal chaos

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Identity thieves posed as home owners in order to sell the rental property of an elderly Canadian immigrant.

Paul Reviczky, 89, who fled Hungary for Canada in 1957 in order to escape communism, has become the latest in a string of victims of property title fraud in Canada, the Toronto Star reports.

Reviczky's bungalow in the North York area was sold without his knowledge, leaving him hundreds of thousands of dollars out of pocket.

Reviczky is unable to recover his property because local laws favour purchasers over victims of fraud. The crime has left the property in a state of legal limbo with the purchaser unable to live there and Reviczky legally unable to even to enter the premises. "I was shocked to learn that this could be the law in Canada," Reviczky told the Toronto Star. "I fled Hungary to escape lawlessness like this and now my sense of security in Canada is gone."

Ontario minister of government services Gerry Phillips pledged to change the land registry system in order to guard against title fraud.

Reviczky purchased the bungalow for C$67,500 in 1980. The retired tobacco farmer used rental income from the property to pay for the education of relatives back in Hungary. Reviczky, whose wife died in February 2005, lives in a nearby house. He only learned that the bungalow had been sold second hand when a local estate agent congratulated him a month after the sale had been completed.

Investigators reckon that con-men forged the power of attorney necessary to complete the sale in the name of fictitious grandson of Reviczky. Posing as Aaron Paul Reviczky, a fraudster sold the property for C$450,000 back in May. Former tenants of the property are the most likely perpetrators of the scam, police reckon. The purchaser, Pegman Meleknia, took out a mortgage of C$337,500 to complete the sale.

Reviczky, who hasn't seen a cent of the proceeds, is more interested in recovering his home than the profits from its sale. However, Ontario law recognises a purchase as valid in cases, like this, where a purchaser is not in on a scam.

The case has several local precedents. Local widow Susan Lawrence faces the loss of a home she's lived in for 30 years after crooks used publically available information to pose as her and sell her home out from under her feet.

In another case, an actress lost her home to ID thieves who sold her property to an accomplice, who disappeared after securing a bogus $250,000 mortgage in her name. ®

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