Terry told Joe that he had met Mark before moving in, briefly.

"So what did he tell you?" the detective asked.

"Well, Mark told me that the way this thing works is that there are hundreds of houses out there that were just abandoned, and the banks have them," said Terry. "He said he works with the bank. He rents the properties out, gets them fixed up, and he says he's going to have them for seven years."

"Uh-huh."

"And after seven years, you know, we'll be able to buy it from him."

Joe explained that Mark didn't own the property, and that all he had done was send a notice to the county, pay the water bill, and walk through the door. Terry and Melesia began to understand what "adverse possession" really meant. Joe finished the interview after 13 minutes. He handed Terry a business card emblazoned with the Great Seal of the State of Florida. In God We Trust.

Terry had a bad feeling, like he was close to a truth he couldn't stand to face. His voice filled with uncertainty, he asked the detective, "Does the bank know that we're in this house?"

Joe said he was just gathering information and didn't know the answer. He said he had a feeling that something criminal could be going on. He recommended that Terry get a lawyer. Then he drove off, feeling vaguely sorry for these people who didn't have a clue what was happening to them.

"Oh my God," Melesia said to Terry behind the closed door. "We're living in somebody else's fucking house."


While Terry and Melesia were being evicted this January, Mark was a few blocks away in North Lauderdale, explaining the process he used to find foreclosed homes to rent. He stood on the lawn outside a small, tidy house. There were no curtains on the windows. You could see into the empty living room. There was a hallway in the back that led to a kitchen full of dormant appliances, ready to be turned on. The walls held no pictures and the floors were broom-clean. In fact, there was only one sign that the house wasn't ready for occupancy right away, and it was taped to the inside of the windowpane. "No trespassing," it said.

"And that," said Mark, "is our only problem."

The white Hummer, paid for by the now-defunct mortgage company that Mark said earned him $30,000 a month before the housing crash, idled in the driveway. He crunched across the thick grass to survey the rest of the house. "This is definitely a house I'd look at if I were still doing adverse possession," he said. "If only that sign weren't there."

He got back in the air-conditioned Hummer and pulled into the street, retracing the path he took in late 2009 when he decided to make North Lauderdale his own personal Monopoly board. Armed with a list of recent foreclosures, he explained, he and his partner, Mark Laird, cased every block in the city. He said they were looking for bright orange placards stuck to doors and windows: notices from the city declaring abandoned buildings a public nuisance. An orange sign on a house meant nobody had lived there for a while. Real estate and "no trespassing" signs were dealbreakers: They meant somebody still had interest in the house.

"I developed an eye for this," said Mark, peering though the windshield. Indeed, upon closer observation, the orange signs are a common sight: here a small cottage, marooned in untrimmed grass; there a fanciful stucco facade pocked by boarded-up windows. Foreclosures ravaged all classes of Florida neighborhoods, but the modest single-family homes — the first rung of comfortable home ownership — saw the most cleanly broken dreams.

Mark filed over a hundred notices of adverse possession in Broward County, but most of the homes he rented were here in North Lauderdale. At the peak of his business, Mark said, he was renting 17 houses for varying amounts of rent. Most of his tenants paid him about $1,200 per month, plus a $200 deposit for the water bill.

Mark said that much of the rent money went toward maintenance and business costs. Still, in the eyes of the state, he seemed to be profiting on others' misfortune. A Coral Springs police detective noticed Mark checking out some houses, and in late 2009, he notified the State Attorney's Office. Alesh Guttmann and T. Don Tenbrook, two professorial economic-crimes prosecutors, took on the case. They sent Joe Roubicek to gather information. Over a period of two months, the detective visited six homes and got six taped statements. All of them would be used as evidence against Mark in court.

Later that year, Mark sat down twice with the prosecutors, once with his lawyer and once without. Mark handed over all the information they requested, including copies of leases and the addendum his tenants signed, stating that they were aware that the properties were under adverse possession.

"If I'm breaking a law, tell me which one," he remembers asking the prosecutors.

The state never arrested or charged Mark for trespassing. But they did argue that he had "no legal interest" in the properties. "When it got illegal," said Guttmann, "is when he started charging rent."

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17 comments
SHINDIG
SHINDIG

MARK SAID THAT HE HAD TO MAKE A LIVING AND IF IT HURT ANYONE " I REALLY DO NOT CARE" U CALL THAT ' A LIVING"????? HE SITS IN A FORECLOSED HOME,HAS A CONDO AND YES SIRRY BOB" HE  DRIVES AROUND IN A HUMMER LOOKING FOR MORE VICTIMS!!!! ONLY IN FLORIDA!!!!! HE SHOULD BE HANG BY HIS BALLS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

SHINDIG
SHINDIG

JUST WHO DOES MARK THINK HE IS,GOD??????????????????????? HE SHOULD BE IN A DARK,COLD CELL,TODAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

SHINDIG
SHINDIG

HE STANDS PROUDLY,HANDS ON HIPS ,DARK SUNGLASSES,READY TO PRAY ON INNOCENT PEOPLE,JUST LIKE HIS SISTER OR  SHOULD I SAY :SWINDLER" HE SHOULD BE IN JAIL,WHO DID HE PAY OFF??????????????????????????????????

SHINDIG
SHINDIG

MARK IS A THIEF,LIAR,SWINDLER AND GOES TO CHURCH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!11

Steve Dibert
Steve Dibert like.author.displayName 1 Like

If anyone gets a sales pitch where the salesman talks about finding God after doing drugs or alcohol for decades, run, run fast and far. Most of the clients I get who are victims of foreclosure ripoff schemes tell me they get the same pitch.

haihei
haihei

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Sam
Sam

Sadly, there is enough blame to go around, the banks, the developers, the complicit planning boards, the home owners, the mortgage companies, the squatters. All play their part.

gills007
gills007

fantastic

SHINDIG
SHINDIG

U MUST BE HIS PAL,DICKHEAD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

SHINDIG
SHINDIG

007 U AIN'T!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

EndAdversePossession
EndAdversePossession like.author.displayName 1 Like

Adverse possession needs to be abolished. It is an outdated, arcane, unnecessary and unjust law that needs to end. People like Mark Guerette pervert it as an effort to take something for nothing. This is why it is called "legalized land theft." Legislators should be ashamed for not doing anything about this horrible law.

Chsnttb
Chsnttb like.author.displayName 1 Like

Guerette made $30,000 a month working for some shady mortgage company before the bust... he should be investigated for mortgage fraud, which is more offensive than his more recent activities.

SHINDIG
SHINDIG

MARK IS STILL AT IT AND SO AIN'T THE SWINDLER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! WHO IS BIG ENUOGH TO STOP HIM,CERTAINLY, NOT THE COPS,AFTER ALL,THEY PROTECT SCUMBAGS LIKE THIS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Tostupid
Tostupid like.author.displayName 1 Like

Before you throw stones maybe you should find out the truth. This story is incorrectly written and leaves out many pertinent facts. Mr. Guerette help the Smiths out with a place to live after Mr. Smith keep getting turned down due to his poor credit and his criminal record of drug dealing. If what Mr. Guerette was doing was so criminally wrong, why did Mr. Smith stay living on the property, why didn't he pack up and leave. Mr. Smith and his family were warned that a day would come when they would have to move. So they decided to stay anyways for over 12 months which they aid no rent to any body. He claims he spent 10 grand on living there which is odd due to the fact that he sided with the state to accuse Mr. Guerette of wrong doing then he stays in the house and spends 10 grand to fix it? Mr. Smith show the receipts...What did you do with all the money you saved by living rent free off the back of Mr. Guerette?

SHINDIG
SHINDIG

FUCKING LIAR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

guest
guest

How typical.... the family lives rent free for 6 months and is offered thousands to move out and they are still complaining that they have nowhere to go....

SHINDIG
SHINDIG

THIS MUST BE MARK TALKING ABOUT HIMSELF,IF NOT,IT MUST BE HIS SWINDLER SISTER OR HIS WIFE,MARLENE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

 
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