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Unlawful occupants squat in Parkrose neighborhood


Earl Eggleson and the people living at 3728 N.E. 115th Ave. have no legal right to be there, say neighbors and police; however, since the owner is deceased and his heirs gave the property back to the bank-and they haven't foreclosed yet-only the owner can evict the occupants.
Mid-county Memo photo/Tim Curran
Multiple felon John Joseph Skaggs, convicted of possessing and selling heroin recently, was squatting in a home in Parkrose for a long period, according to neighbors and police.
Part of the signed rental agreement that shows occupancy of 3728 N.E. 115th Ave. was taken in good faith, according to the people living there.
Mid-county Memo photo/Tim Curran
Since early July, squatters have been illegally occupying 3728 N.E. 115th Ave. in Parkrose, according to neighbors and police. Neighbors want police to evict them, claiming the unlawful occupants are selling illegal drugs; however, until the bank puts the house into foreclosure, police say their hands are tied. What's more, in a strange twist, the squatters are themselves victims of a fraud, they claim.

“The problem that we have as law enforcement is the owner is deceased and the bank has not yet taken the property back,” said Portland Police Officer Joshua Buller.

The previous owner of the house on Northeast 115th Avenue, Steven Doggett, died in September 2011. Since then, Buller said, the house has been in legal limbo; moreover, without an owner, the police cannot evict the squatters.

“If we don't have a person in charge that can give us lawful authority we would be essentially trespassing onto that property,” said Buller.

Who is legally responsible for the house is a little mysterious.

According to Buller and Parkrose neighbors, following Doggett's death, his parents, Sinclair and Joan Doggett, handed the property over to Wells Fargo, which holds the house's mortgage. However, the bank has not put the home into foreclosure.

Sinclair and Joan Doggett could not be reached for comment.

Wells Fargo spokesperson Tom Unger confirmed the house was not in foreclosure, but added the process is going ahead. In the meantime, he said Wells Fargo could not legally evict the squatters.

“The current owner is responsible for the property, so we are limited in our ability to do much here,” said Unger.

Citing client confidentially, Unger declined to name the house's current legal owner. City records still list the deceased Steven Doggett as owner.

The house on Northeast 115th Avenue is not the only abandoned Parkrose property occupied by squatters.

Buller told the Memo Parkrose has two other abandoned houses with squatters. Buller boarded up one property and was in the processes of boarding up the second.

“I've seen these houses go on for three years plus,” said Buller. “I don't know why the banks drag their feet on it. I'm sure it has something to do with money.”

The police are not the only ones noticing Parkrose's vacant properties.

Buller is currently working to track down a woman suspected of defrauding potential tenants by posing as the property owner or property manager of deserted Portland homes.

Buller said the woman in question posted ads on Craigslist listing abandoned properties for rent. She then met her would-be tenants at the properties pretending to be either the homes' owner or bank representative. She made her victims sign fake rental agreements and fork over thousands of dollars for first and last month's rent, said Buller. This is what happened to the current squatters on Northeast 115th Avenue.

“We kind of got stuck here,” Eggleson told the Memo's Tim Curran. “We plan on getting out of here ourselves. Everyone in the neighborhood thinks all this weird [expletive] is going on.”

Eggleson said a woman calling herself Anna rented the house to his girlfriend, Tessie Johnson, and her mother.

Eggleson showed the Memo the fraudulent rental agreement Johnson signed with Anna (her last name is illegible on the document). The phone number she listed is out of service. The address she gave is a triplex on East Burnside Street. That property's owner is unlisted and could not be reached for comment.

Buller said he informed Johnson and her mother they have been scammed and they have no legal right to be in the house. Buller also gave this bad piece of news to another set of Anna's victims at a separate Parkrose address. These would-be renters vacated the property, which has subsequently been boarded up.

Victims or not, neighbors allege the squatters sell drugs.

Buller confirmed he has received multiple reports of possible drug activity at 3728 N.E. 115th Ave., but has made no arrests.

The house's purported illegal activity was an agenda item at a Parkrose Neighborhood Association meeting Oct. 15 as neighbors attempted to enlist the group's help.

PNA treasurer Annette Stanhope said she couldn't speak to the issue of drug sales at the house, but said others at the meeting did. “I've heard people expressing concerns of odd comings and goings at odd hours,” said Stanhope.

One neighbor, who asked that the Memo not use his name, said he has witnessed drug use on numerous occasions.

“I have seen people come out [of the house] and get out their needle and heroin and shoot up,” said the neighbor. “I've seen them at the school. They will sit next to the soccer field down by Parkrose High School and they'll shoot up.”

The Memo attempted several times to get a comment from Eggleson on any alleged drug sales or use at the house. Eggleson does not have a working phone and can only receive text messages.

To date, any evidence against Eggleson and Johnson is only anecdotal. Neither Eggleson nor Johnson is listed as having drug convictions or charges in Multnomah County.

However, the house at 3728 N.E. 115th Ave. is tied to an earlier unrelated drug arrest.

Multnomah County Sheriff's Office spokesperson Lt. Steve Alexander said John Joseph Skaggs, a 53-year-old multiple felon, had been squatting in the house last year.

In fall 2012, Multnomah County Sheriff deputies arrested Skaggs after they trailed him from the house to a Subway at Northeast 122nd Avenue. At the Subway, officers observed Skaggs selling $20 of heroin to another man.

Skaggs was convicted and given a three-year sentence for possessing and selling heroin this fall. He received a lengthy sentence because he violated Oregon law by selling the drug within 1,000 feet of a school [Portland Christian Jr/Sr High School].

Alexander said Skaggs and his crimes do not appear to be connected to current residents.

As to who is to blame for the house's reported illegal activity, one anonymous neighbor said it's Wells Fargo's fault.

“Wells Fargo doesn't give a rip about this house,” he said. “The only way that the Portland Police Bureau or the county sheriff is going to do anything is if they, Wells Fargo, goes to the county and declares that house for foreclosure.”

Unger said Wells Fargo is looking into legal options that would allow it to take possession of the house and evict its current occupants before foreclosure starts.
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