New home buyers trapped by bogus lien

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CASS COUNTY, Mo. -- The boxes are packed at Eric and Elisha Hesterberg's home. The new buyers are supposed to close and take possession on Friday.

But now the sale is in jeopardy after a title search by the buyer's mortgage company revealed a $25,000 lien filed against the home last year.

The Hesterbergs have learned that they are one of dozens of property owners in the tiny community of Pleasant Hill in Cass County, Missouri, that had liens filed against them last year by the same man, Raymond Ford.

Ford claims to be filing the liens on behalf of the now defunct Artic Dairy Company for a debt incurred in 1929.

"You can tell it's bogus," said Eric Hesterberg. "Mr. Ford is 81. He wasn't even around in 1929."

The liens are part of a battle he has launched with the city, trying to prove that much of Pleasant Hill was illegally annexed decades ago and it actually belongs to him.

It's a fight that so far has cost Mr. Ford thousands of dollars in court judgments as outraged property owners have successfully sued him for filing bogus liens. Ford has even been charged criminally for removing and selling scrap railroad track from property he claims to own. The criminal complaint alleges that the property actually belongs to the power company Ameren.

"It's sad it's so easy to get a lien and so hard to get it taken off," said Eric Hesterberg.

In Missouri, as in most states, all it takes to file a lien is a visit to the Recorder of Deeds Office. There's no requirement to provide evidence that the lien your filing is valid.

Hoping to help the Hesterbergs, FOX 4 paid a visit to Ford. He told us he has nothing against the Hesterbergs, although he believes their property is one of many that was illegally annexed. At our urging, however, Ford agreed to sign a lien release so that the Hesterbergs can sell their property this Friday.

The next day, true to his word, Mr Ford met Elisha Hesterberg at the Cass County Recordeer of Deeds Offfice and filed the paperwork, abolishing the lien and solving the Hesterberg's problem.

Mr. Ford, who is due in court next month for the criminal charges, said he doesn't believe he'll be found guilty once a judge hears his side.