2 local men charged with renting stolen vacant homes strike again


by KMOV.com staff


Posted on September 16, 2013 at 6:53 PM

Updated Tuesday, Sep 17 at 7:01 AM

 (KMOV) -- Two men who were charged with breaking into a foreclosed home then renting it to unsuspecting victims have struck again, according to police.

 Winston Clay and Todd Edwards are accused to taking over a vacant home and forging documents to say they own the property. Clay is currently in custody at the St. Louis County Jail. Edwards is out on the run.

Clarence and Gwen Carter were shopping for a new home when they found a home in Spanish Lake.

Clay and Edwards pulled the same trick again. Police say they broke in, changed the locks and then forged document which they allegedly filed at the county courthouse. The documents stated that the house which was actually purchased by Bank of America had been transferred to them.

“They just move in as squatters and then go from squatters to ficticous homeowners,” Carter said.

Police say Edwards was living there, neighbors say he wasn't shy and threw big barbecue parties but is currently on the run.

 His alleged partner Clay was caught; both face charges of forgery and receiving stolen property. It's not known if they had planned to rent this one out too.

Neighbors say when renting a house, the safest step is to go through a realtor. And beware anyone who asks you to send a deposit and promises to mail the keys -- when it's legit, the process is more involved.

“It's usually more than one step, you meet them and then you take the application and then the application is processed, the lease is drawn up, you go back to the property and do a walk through,” said Robin Halterman of Boutique Reality.

Its recommended people check the county assessor's office to see who owns the property and talk to neighbors to see if the owner they describe matches the person claiming to be the owner. If not, steer clear and notify the police.