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Stolen Tarrant County properties being auctioned off


The following ran in the March 17, 2012, edition of the Fort Worth Star Telegram. Law Professor Jeffrey Bellin provided expertise for this story.

March 23, 2012

By Dave Lieber

Norris Fisher stole so many Tarrant County properties that authorities weren't exactly sure of the number. When he was sent to prison for 20 years, the reported total was 140. Now, officials say the biggest real estate crook in Tarrant County history stole 170.

Officials also acknowledge that there's been a change of plans about how many of the victims will get their properties back.

They won't.

Fisher created fake identities, addresses and companies to conceal his grab of vacant lots and older homes, many of them abandoned. He then tried to sell the properties for a profit.

The Watchdog reported last year that government officials were seeking volunteer lawyers to help clean up the property title and deed mess.

After I put out a call for volunteers, one contacted me and explained that he had answered the call but that no one had gotten back to him. When I checked, I learned the change in strategy....

Jeff Bellin, assistant law professor at Southern Methodist University's Dedman School of Law, says the legal question is whether the county can take ownership of the properties to collect back taxes or deal with blight or dangerous conditions....

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