When a loan is secured by real property in California, a deed of trust is recorded, acting as a lien on the property. This reduces the equity in the property. If the owner defaults on the loan, the beneficiary (lender) may then conduct a trustee’s sale. But what if the beneficiary does not exist? A scam to hide equity from creditors would be to record a fictitious deed of trust so that a judgment would not attach to the property. If the creditor discovers the scam, they could take legal action to have the deed of trust determined to be void. However, in a recent decision, the owner of the property recorded a false deed of trust shortly after acquiring the property. The creditors did not discover the fraud until years later, after the statute of limitations for Fraudulent Transfer had expired. The scam worked.
In PGA West Residential Association Inc. v. Hulven International Inc., defendant Mork bought a condo in La Quinta for cash. It was valued between $5 & $6 hundred thousand dollars. He then recorded a deed of trust against the property naming Hulven Inc. as the beneficiary. There was no such corporation. The deed of trust purported to secure a Note for $450,000, but Mork never made any payments.
Nine months after it was named as the beneficiary on the deed of trust, Hulven was incorporated in Montana. Just over two years later, Hulven was involuntarily dissolved. At all times, Mork was Hulven’s sole officer, director, and shareholder.