PLATTE CITY, Mo. — Kathy McKay lives on a modest income and planned on using the sale of her home to help finance her retirement. Instead, she’s been in a costly three-year battle with a former neighbor who laid claim to her home by filing what officials say are fake documents with the county recorder’s office.

It’s a bizarre tale, but an all-too-common problem that most homeowners don’t realize could happen to them.

“This has been a nightmare, just a horrible nightmare,” said McKay.

In Missouri, as in most states, you can file a lien on someone’s property without producing any proof that you are owed money. That’s what happened to McKay, and it has happened dozens of times before to homeowners across the metro.

Hundreds of pages of court documents detail how McKay sued the neighbor who filed the fake lien.

She won. The neighbor appealed. McKay went back to court and won again.

Thinking her problems were behind her, she sold the house where she had lived for 25 years to a new family and moved. But the day before that sale was to close, the same neighbor filed another fake lien.

“The whole thing is costing me at the very minimum $20,000 between my attorney, tax payments on the house, insurance on the house and it’s been sitting there empty for three years,” said McKay.

As soon as Platte County Recorder Christopher Wright learned about the latest fake lien, he had it invalidated. He also reported the man who filed it to the Platte County Sheriff’s Department.

Platte County’s prosecutor charged Gary Michael Peloza with felony fraud for filing false documents. But Peloza never showed up in court. There’s now a warrant out for his arrest.

McKay still can’t sell her house because no title company will touch it until Peloza is found and convicted.

McKay had tried asking Missouri’s Attorney General for help but was told there was nothing he could do. Problem Solvers discovered this is a common refrain told to victims of fraud across the state. That’s why McKay called FOX4 Problem Solvers.

We paid a visit to Peloza’s last known address – right next door to the house McKay’s been trying to sell.  A woman who identified herself as Peloza’s ex-girlfriend was not happy to see us. She told us that Peloza was innocent and had moved to Georgia, but she wouldn’t tell us the address.

McKay’s wasn’t the first house Peloza has been accused of trying to steal. According to court records, he was successfully sued another time for falsely laying claim to a property.

Peloza, who always acts as his own attorney, considers himself to be a sovereign citizen. In his mind, he doesn’t have to abide by local, state or federal law.

Wright said sovereign citizens wreak havoc in county recorders’ offices by filing fake documents against everyone from homeowners to governors. Since Wright took office last year, he’s made changes to try and stop them.

“If you come into our office and you are not known to us, we’ll ask for your ID,” Wright said.

Often, that’s enough to deter a sovereign citizen, he said. But Wright acknowledged there’s only so much his office can do.

“I’m not a prosecuting agency. I’m not law enforcement.” Wright said Missouri laws need to be stricter to prevent people like Peloza from ruining the lives of people like McKay.

Wright said Missouri laws need to be stricter to prevent people like Peloza from ruining the lives of people like McKay.

Want to see if there’s a lien on your home?

  • In Missouri: To search for a lien, access and/or contact your county Recorder of Deeds office.
  • In Kansas: Check with your county’s Register of Deeds Office as well as any county court records.