Things just keep getting worse for both families caught up in the Mabre Court real-estate scandal, with one indicted on criminal charges and the other still homeless.
On Aug. 2, a Denver grand jury indicted Jose Caraveo, 39, and Veronica Fernandez-Beleta, 40, of first-degree criminal trespass and second-degree burglary, both felonies. The grand jury found there is enough evidence to charge the couple with knowingly breaking into the home of Troy and Dayna Donovan and living there illegally. Denver DA spokesperson Lynn Kimbrough said an arrest warrant was issued, and police will go to the home if they don’t turn themselves in.
Also indicted were Alfonso Carrillo, 50, and Rudy Breda, 53, who each face racketeering charges on top of multiple counts of theft, burglary and criminal trespass, all felonies. Carrillo is charged with 18 separate counts; Breda with 10.
Fernandez-Beleta says Carrillo offered to help her family obtain the house for $5,000, and she believed he was legitimate. On July 23, Fernandez-Beleta’s daughter Caren said her mom doesn’t know what to believe now.
“If it turns out Alfonso did defraud us, then she’ll cooperate with the investigation so they can stop him from doing it to anyone else,” said Caren. “But if it turns out it’s not really the Donovans’, we’re going to fight to keep the house.”
According to a press release, the indictment alleges Carrillo and Breda found homeowners facing foreclosure and convinced them to relinquish their properties for a nominal fee, misrepresenting it as a way to avoid foreclosure, then “selling” the homes using phony documents. They’re also accused breaking into empty homes and taking thousands of dollars in payments from unsuspecting “buyers” – often Spanish-speaking people who were undocumented and fearful of law enforcement. The “buyers” were forced out when mortgage lenders or the actual property owners discovered them.
The trouble for these two families all started last year, when the Donovans ran into financial dire straits. Troy Donovan finally got a job with a race team in Indiana, and his wife says she winterized the house and joined him there in August.
In the meantime, Caraveo, a landscaper, and Fernandez-Beleta, a housecleaner, met Carrillo, who told them he could help them get a home. They paid him $5,000 to help with paperwork to obtain the house, they say, not as rent or a down payment. He helped them record adverse-possession paperwork with the county clerk, which they believed entitled them to the house.
“She believed him instantly, because everybody else closes the door on you,” said Fernandez-Beleta’s daughter Caren, interpreting for her mom on July 23. “So when he came saying he was going to help us, of course we believed him.”
Colorado’s adverse-possession law says a person can claim an abandoned piece of property after 18 years, or seven if they’ve been paying the taxes.
The Donovans, of course, believe the other family knew full well what they were doing. They called the Littleton Police Department right away, but the police ruled it a civil matter.
“We’re the victims,” wrote Dayna Donovan in an e-mail. “We won a judgment fair and square. Now we’re homeless and unable to find jobs until we can get our home back.” The Donovans and their two daughters have been staying with family in Greeley.
Troy and Dayna Donovan were expecting to get their home back after a judge ruled on July 12 it was legally theirs and gave the other family 48 hours to leave. But Fernandez-Beleta filed bankruptcy, blocking the eviction that was set for July 25.
“We cannot describe the disappointment we have in our judicial system,” wrote the Donovans on their website, www.stealyourhouse.com.
Dayna Donovan was a bit more specific in her email to the Littleton Independent.
“Who in the hell files bankruptcy on something that was never theirs?” she asked. “It was decided on by a judge that we own the home. … Boo hoo for the criminals in that house. We paid the mortgage for 12 years and made it the nicest house on the street. … (I’m) sick to my stomach that the city of Littleton is so scared of their reputation that they’ll sell out the true victims. They should’ve been arrested when we first contacted Littleton PD.”
Arrest warrants have been issued for Carrillo and Breda; bond has been set at $750,000 for Carrillo and $20,000 for Breda. Kimbrough said they are negotiating their surrender, but had not turned themselves in by 2:30 p.m. Aug. 3. Their next court date has not yet been set.
Caraveo and Fernandez-Beleta’s bonds are set at $1,000 each, but a court date won’t be set until they are arrested. Doug Romero has been named in other media as their lawyer, but he says he’s not and never has been; rather, he was briefly assigned to represent Carillo and 78 others, including Caraveo and Fernandez-Beleta, in a class-action suit against mortgage lenders.
“We’re trying to distance ourselves from Mr. Carrillo,” said Romero. “We didn’t realize all the shenanigans he was involved in.”
That suit was dismissed.
A knock on the Mabre Court house Aug. 6 drew no response, not even from the two poodles that were there with Fernandez-Beleta and her family three weeks ago.