SANDY SPRINGS, Ga. - With an asking price of about $2 million, you might say a foreclosed upon Sandy Springs mansion is a steal. But neighbors believe a family has literally stolen the Cross Gate Drive home.
"They're in there illegally," said neighbor Laura Edwards. "If they're in there illegally, what else are they doing?"
Records show the property is owned by Bank of America. According to a police report obtained by Channel 2's Mike Petchenik, when a realtor went to show the property last month, she was surprised to find the lockbox missing and a family moved into the home.
The realtor called Sandy Springs police, and the report said an officer confronted a female occupant, who told officers she was leasing the home from someone named "Bryan" and that she had paid $15,000 up front to move in. When officers asked for a copy of the lease, the woman said it was with her lawyer. As of Friday, police told Petchenik they still had not seen a copy of the lease. But, they said they can't remove the family from the home.
"It's very frightening to me," said neighbor Carol Beerman. "The fact that someone is there that shouldn't be there it's a scary thing to me, absolutely."
Beerman and her neighbors said they're frustrated with Bank of America for not moving more quickly to evict the alleged squatters.
"The bank needs to take responsibility for it and do whatever is necessary to get these people out of the house," she said.
Petchenik reached out to the home's occupant listed on the police report by phone, text and in person.
Someone claiming to be the woman's sibling texted back for Petchenik and his photographer to get off the property. Then, they called the Channel 2 Action News newsroom threatening to call the police. The person texted back that their sister was at work but that they would get Petchenik a copy of the lease.
Sandy Springs police said the woman had promised to get them a copy of the lease next week, but so far, had not done so. Police were investigating whether the occupant was scammed into thinking she was renting the property.
Channel 2's Mike Petchenik received this statement from Rick Simon in media relations for Bank of America regarding this situation:
"Bank of America is taking all steps it legally can to have unauthorized occupants removed from this property.
The occupancy came to our attention in mid-October through legal filings, including a filing of wrongful foreclosure, believed filed by the occupant in the name of the former owner. These legal actions have temporarily restrained the bank and real estate agent from moving forward with marketing of the property, which had begun in September.
The bank has confirmed with the former owner that he personally has not filed any wrongful foreclosure action against the bank, and legal counsel has been engaged to refute and seek dismissal of the wrongful foreclosure allegations and restraining orders.
While we have no knowledge of how the unauthorized occupant came to enter and move into the property or if an unknown and unauthorized third party falsely led to her to believe she had a bona fide lease, we are confident that the property had been properly secured. Counsel is pursuing action to have the unauthorized occupant declared as an intruder under the processes described in Georgia law. We regret any inconvenience on the neighboring community while the necessary legal processes are underway."