Iowa AG announces agreement with sound-alike government records company

By Bryan Cohen | Mar 27, 2013

DES MOINES, Iowa (Legal Newsline) - Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller announced an agreement Monday with a California company that allegedly marketed real estate documents to Iowans under the guise of an official government agency.

LA Investor Inc., doing business as Local Records Office, and Juan Roberto Romero Ascencio, the company's owner, agreed to an assurance of voluntary compliance to cease marketing property deeds and real estate titles in Iowa and to stop collecting money. The company allegedly charged Iowans for property documents that are typically available for free or a small charge.

"If you really need property records, you should contact your county recorder's office and find out what's available," Miller said. "The records may be available online, or you may need to go through the county office. Either way, the records may be free or cost you a very small amount. They certainly won't cost you $89."

Miller received a complaint in October from a man who received an official-looking mailing from Local Records Office. The mailing lists an $89 service fee for a property profile as an official government invoice with a response deadline. While the mailing lists a Des Moines return address, the address is a mail drop that forwards responses and payments to California.

Local Records Office has no government affiliation or authority. Homeowners can typically obtain certified copies of their deeds from their county record's office for a fee of approximately $5 or online for free.

"It's no accident that some Iowans who received this may think it's some sort of official government invoice for their property records," Miller said. "That's why we wanted to put an immediate stop to it."

Upon learning of the scheme, Miller's Consumer Protection Division issued a consumer fraud subpoena and intercepted more than 50 forms, including checks, from Iowans responding to the misleading mailings. The CPD will return the checks with letters of explanation to the senders.

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