FOUNTAIN VALLEY — A Huntington Beach man who allegedly defrauded desperate homeowners who believed he was helping them cure mortgage defaults by renting out their homes has been arrested for allegedly pocketing the money he received from the renters and the homeowners.
Thomas Franklin Tarbutton, 38, who also uses the name Tanner Stevens, was arrested Sunday on charges of grand theft after a homeowner and the renter occupying the house complained to Fountain Valley police, Sgt. Jim Perry said.
Tarbutton, who could not be reached for comment, was released Monday on $10,000 bail.
He reportedly contacted people who had defaulted on their mortgages and offered to make up their back payments in return for a fee equal to 1% of the amount due. He then obtained the keys to the properties, Perry said, and rented the vacant homes to people who thought they were renting from the legitimate owner.
Tarbutton, police said, pocketed the rent checks and never made the mortgage payments for the owners.
Tarbutton told people he represented companies called Liberty Trust and California Pacific Property. Fountain Valley police have traced one of the businesses to a rented mailbox in Costa Mesa and have not been able to locate the other one, Perry said.
"We've seen [several] cases where someone has rented out vacant homes without the owners' permission," Perry said, "but this is the first time I've seen one where the guy also collected money from the owners."
Perry said that detectives in Fountain Valley so far have identified five properties that were involved in Tarbutton's alleged scam.
Perry said detectives will be contacting other area police agencies to determine whether other complaints have surfaced against Tarbutton or the companies he said he represented.