Families lose thousands of dollars in property investment for land never on sale

Former SABOR chairwoman offers advice when buying property

By Tiffany Huertas - Video Journalist

ATASCOSA, Texas - Two families said they lost thousands of dollars investing in a property that was apparently never for sale by the owner.

After a month-long investigation by the KSAT Defenders, the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office is now investigating.

Daniel Sanchez and his brother said they invested in land that was advertised and posted on Facebook by a woman using the name Amanda Ruiz, who was later known to also go by Amanda Manzo.

“We feel bad because we had a lot of plans and dreams. We thought it was a good opportunity,” Daniel Sanchez said.

Sanchez said the deal was $20,000 for two acres.

Ruiz asked for $1,500 for a down payment and the brothers would finance the rest. They said after several conversations via text, online messenger, phone calls and blank money orders handed to Ruiz, they decided to drive by the land on Shepherd Road in Atascosa.

The family said a person claiming to be the landowner told them the property was not for sale. KSAT caught up with the owner, Rosario Valadez, who was listed on the contract.

“I’m 100 percent the owner of the property and never sold that property or put it on sale,” Valadez said.

Valadez said she doesn’t know Ruiz and she has never seen the contract before. She said the signature on the contract does not match hers.

KSAT received a message online by a woman named Amanda Ruiz, who said, “As of last night client have been contacted for reimbursement, you have spoken to my associate Frank and he has verified he's made personal contact with clients to coordinate reimbursements.”

The Texas Real Estate Commission said Ruiz is not licensed. KSAT also checked with the San Antonio Board of Realtors and Ruiz is not in their system.

The former chairwoman of the San Antonio Board of Realtors, Yvette Allen, said before giving any money, people should do their research about any property they wish to invest in.

“You can also cross-reference it with the Sabor.com website or you can even go to Realtor.com, put in the address and if they give an MLS number, put in that MLS number,” Allen said.

The San Antonio Board of Realtors also has a list of everyone who is a realtor on its website.

“Call two or three realtors, because even though we say every realtor is a good realtor and has your interest at heart, it just may not be a match,” Allen said. “Make sure you feel comfortable. Make sure they are answering all the questions you are asking.”

Allen said when an individual writes out a check, it should never be to a realtor, but always to the title company. She said buyers should make sure the paperwork is correct.

“When someone is filling a contract, whether they are buying a home or getting an offer on a home, keep in mind these are Texas forms written by the Texas Real Estate Commission or Texas Association of Realtors, so you will see that written out,” Allen said. 

The Bexar County Sheriff’s Office said there are other victims, and they want to hear from them. Anyone with information is asked to contact them.

Here’s what the Defenders did during their investigation:

KSAT called the same number the brothers had been calling. The person who answered said we had the wrong person.

We continued looking into the contract and found several red flags. Everything from the broker’s license number, owner’s address, phone number and email were incorrect.

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