One of the Washington state homes in which Jessica Carde allegedly squatted. (King County prosecutor's office)
A Seattle woman faces felony charges alleging she played the role of a wealthy identity-theft victim and squatted in multi-million dollar luxury homes for five years.
The online newspaper Seattle PI reports that 58-year-old Jessica Carde is still at large while facing 12 felony counts from the King County prosecutor’s office.
How, exactly, did her alleged scheme work? According to Seattle PI, "Carde presented herself as a well-to-do business owner with a significant line of credit who was interested in buying a home. ... But when the time came to make a down payment, Carde claimed to have had her identity stolen before pushing toward a lease-purchase agreement.
"Lease-purchase agreements—also known as rent-to-buy plans—allow a would-be buyer to make payments to the homeowner over time," the site continued. "After the agreed amount of money is paid, the home is signed over to the tenant."
Court documents describe Carde as engaging in "deceptive retaliatory acts against the homeowner to prevent or delay eviction."
A 2010 investigation by MSNBC found that “mansion squatters” have become a significant issue in many major U.S. cities, including Seattle. The problem is that with so many homes in foreclosure thanks to the economic downturn, property managers are often unable to closely monitor the homes under their jurisdiction.
Carde, who reportedly presented falsified paperwork showing she was prequalified for a mortgage, had fake business cards that contained a mouthful of supposed expertise. She described her professional duties as “international speaker, trainer and consultant, personal/professional/executive life coach, neurobiofeedback technician/brain wave specialist, mediation specialist, health educator and instructor.”
A Seattle Weekly profile of Carde dating back to May 2011 makes the story all the more shocking.
The weekly reported that, according to Department of Financial Institutions investigator Steven Sherman, Carde supposedly convinced some private lenders to give her large sums of money that she used to “support her lifestyle and … maintain the illusion that she was wealthy."
In some cases, Carde made installment payments with the homeowners, but did so while planning to balk on the actual amount owed.
And she got even more malicious: When the rightful homeowners attempted to evict Carde, she allegedly made false claims against them, filing police reports that accused them of threatening her life.
Worst of all, Carde may have risked the health of one of her victims. In 2010, she presented herself as a “brain wave specialist” to one of her creditors, saying she could provide medical assistance to the man, who had suffered a stroke.
“She said she could cure (him) with ‘brain wires’ and convinced his wife … to let her try,” Sherman told the court when charges were filed on March 11. “Carde placed electrodes on (his) head to ‘blast the clot’ away.”
Carde is accused of presenting false credit lines, squatting and then ducking out on her debts after being evicted more than half a dozen times. Prosecutors hope to place her on a $150,000 bond, but they have to bring the elusive would-be-homeowner in to authorities first.
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