A Littleton, Colo., couple who spent a few months away from home were shocked by what they found in their house
when they got back. Another family had moved in, claiming that they bought the house for $5,000.
Because of an unscrupulous real estate agent who claimed that their house was abandoned -- and then sold it -- Troy and Dayna Donovan (pictured above), along with their two children, were forced to move into a relative's basement during eight months of court battles, CBS 4 reported
. A judge has finally given the Donovans permission to reclaim their property from the squatters, but it's an ordeal they won't soon forget.
The Donovans had owned their home (pictured at left) on Mabre Court in the Denver suburb of Littleton for 12 years. But Troy got a job in Indiana and moved out east in March 2011. Dayna and the children stayed behind, trying to sell the house. But when no one snapped it up, they winterized the property, turned off the utilities and left for Indiana in August 2011.
Troy and Dayna told CBS 4 that they always planned to return, but while they were gone, their neighbor told them that new people had moved into the Donovans' home.
Those people were Veronica Fernandez-Beleta and Jose Rafael Levya-Caraveo (pictured below). They claimed that a man named Alfonso Carillo offered them a deed of "adverse possession" –- which allows people to take over abandoned property –- on the Donovans' house in return for $5,000.
Carillo, however, is a former Realtor whose license has been revoked, according to CBS 4, and he also faces criminal charges in connection to other homes where squatters have lived.
When the Donovans returned to Littleton, they confronted Fernandez-Beleta and Levya-Caraveo.
"We show up at the house, and we say, 'Look, I'm Troy Donovan. This is my wife, Dayna, and we own this home," Troy Donovan told CBS 4.
"I told [Fernandez-Beleta], 'What you're doing is wrong -– it's illegal. I would really like you to move out of the home, or we will take legal action against you,'" Dayna Donovan added.
The squatters refused to budge, forcing the Donovans to spark the legal war that is only now ending.
After the judge's order that she and her family leave the Donovans' house, Fernandez-Beleta told CBS 4: "I am sad and confused and distressed."
But for the Donovans, it's relief.
"We get to get out of the basement, get a full home to live in," Dayna Donovan told CBS 4, referring to her family's distressed living arrangement during the court wrangling. "A home we created and worked very hard in as well."
This isn't by any measure the first instance of squatting. A couple's house on Long Island, which went into foreclosure, became the home of squatters
once they moved out. A $2.7 million mansion
in Fort Worth, Texas, was taken over by squatters last year. And a homeless man recently used a vacant home
in Orlando, Fla., to run a Craigslist rental scam.
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