In the picturesque town of Visalia, CA, Ronnie Osburn’s house fits right in with its beautiful flowers and statues.
The Osburns could soon lose it forever, and they blame Leighton Ward, the man who once claimed he was trying to help them be mortgage free.
“Put it this way: I want to see him go away for 50, 60, 70 years, whatever it takes. The damage he has caused to my household alone, basically I’m losing everything I’ve got,” Obsburn said.
Swept into the chaos is the Qualls family from Nolensville, who said Ward first approached them with a bizarre claim: that they were trespassing in their own home and he had the paperwork to prove it.
Ward claims the Qualls’ home was wrongfully sold to them and that their title was fraudulent.
When Ward kept driving by their house, the Qualls got a restraining order.
“I'm in fear not of what he could do to me, but to my family,” Brad Qualls testified in court.
More than 2,000 miles away from Nolensville, the Osburns were also caught up in Ward’s web.
Like the Qualls, Ward told the Osburns that they had a fraudulent mortgage, and once again Ward claimed to have paperwork to back it up.
But unlike the Qualls, the Osburns believed him, and under Ward’s guidance, they stopped paying their mortgage.
Now, the Osburns are in default of their loans.
“He (Ward) needs to pay for what he has done because if he doesn't pay for what he's done - he's going to do this until the day he dies,” Osburn said.
Investigators from across the country are trying to understand why Ward would try to convince people they had fraudulent mortgages.
The I-Team has spoken with investigators and victims in Tennessee, California and in Mohave County AZ, where the district attorney’s office is pressing criminal charges against him.
“He (Ward) claims that he provides a service where people don't have to pay their mortgage,” said Steve Auld, an investigator with the Mohave County District Attorney’s Office.
Auld said it’s hard to characterize Ward; is he someone who charges people for a service that’s proven to be useless, or is he a sovereign citizen, someone who doesn’t believe in the government and think the very language that is used to write mortgages if incorrect, therefore, the mortgages are fraudulent as well.
“Do you think Leighton Ward is a scam artist, or do you think he believes in something that just isn't real?” the I-Team asked.
“I think both. I think he uses both to his advantage. I think he is one of the best scam artists in this day and age,” Osburn said.
Ward is now in jail in Sonoma County, CA, awaiting extradition back to Arizona to face charges of fraud and illegal business practices.
The I-Team has repeatedly requested to interview Ward through the jail, and he has not responded to our requests.
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