AVONDALE, AZ (3TV) - A 3 On Your Side investigation uncovers something very bizarre and unexpected happening to an Avondale family after a "mysterious" woman filed court paperwork to take possession of their Avondale home.

3 On Your Side went to the eviction court hearing to try and get some answers.

[WATCH: Judge hears case of fight over Avondale home]

When 3 On Your Side caught up with this "mystery" woman in court, she maintained she was Hortencia Cruz, and according to her, she rightfully owns the Avondale home that Cruz family has lived in and paid the mortgage on for 18 years.

"How are you? I'm Gary Harper with 3 On Your Side. Tell me about this house on Alvarado street. You say it's your house?" asked Gary Harper.

"Yes, that's my house," the woman responded.

"How is that your house?" asked Harper.

"I'm the beneficiary of my parents. They passed away, and they left me as the beneficiary," she said.

She may claim to be the beneficiary, but the Cruz family says something sinister is going on, and they want answers. Husband and wife, Hortencia and Jesus Cruz, purchased the home 18 years ago when the home was being built. They raised their children in the house and made every mortgage payment until they paid the home off in full.

[PART 1: Avondale family says stranger is trying to 'steal' their home]

But according to the Cruz family, this "mysterious woman," who apparently shares the exact same name of Hortencia Cruz, is demanding the family exit the home. This woman is saying her father, Jesus, owned it at one time and passed it on to her when he died in 2003.

This gets confusing because there are two women, both apparently with the same name of Hortencia Cruz. One is married to Jesus Cruz. The other "mystery" woman says her deceased dad is named Jesus Cruz.

Four people. All the same name.

The homeowners, husband and wife Hortencia and Jesus Cruz, showed us government-issued IDs indicating they really are Hortencia and Jesus Cruz. They also provided us the home's deed and many other documents containing both of their names and showing them as joint owners of the house and listing them as "husband and wife" on those documents.

Yet, the other Hortencia maintains the house was left to her following her dad's death.

She even shuffled through paperwork that she said proved the house was hers.

However, 3 On Your Side was unable to verify what some of the documents were and if the documents were legitimate.

And, when we asked the woman if her name was really Hortencia Cruz, she showed us her driver's license indicating that it was her name.

"So your father, you're telling me, left this house to you?" 3 On Your Side's Gary Harper asked her.

"Yes, correct," she said.

"But how could that be because that house doesn't belong to you or your father. It belongs to another family; they built it and paid for it," asked Harper.

"No," she replied. "My dad's the one that bought the lot, and he built it," she said.

She is so convinced she legally owns this home that she sent the family numerous notices for them to vacate.

In fact, some of the process servers were captured on the family's security cameras dropping off those notices.

The woman even went as far as asking for an eviction hearing which is where 3 On Your Side was able to sit and talk with her to try and get some answers on that day, but the more we tried clearing up the situation, the "foggier" things got.

"You still feel in your head that this house belongs to you?" asked Harper.

"Correct," she replied.

"There's no forged documents or anything that's fabricated that would make this not a real deal?" asked Harper.

"I don't think so," she responded.

The Cruz family had to hire an attorney and although they are baffled as to how and why this is happening, they say they're eager to sort it out in front of a judge who handles evictions, hoping it will finally come to a stop and they can live their lives in peace.

But on the court day, the hearing ended shortly after it started.

That's because the judge determined the unusual and complicated case needed to be transferred to a higher court.

From the bench, the judge said, "I cannot make any determination or any decisions that have to do with ownership or real property… I'm not going to get involved with it. I'm just going to transfer this case to the Superior Court."

Regardless, the woman who asked for this eviction hearing says she will keep fighting to gain possession of the home.

"Something fishy is going on here, something strange," Harper told her.

She responded by saying, "I think they stole my identity."

But the Cruz family says that's ridiculous and they say they think that woman is the one trying to steal what doesn't belong to her. They say they can't believe they have to fight so hard for something they paid for and own. Regardless, they say they have all the proof and every piece of documentation to show the house is legally and rightfully theirs. But they say they're frustrated that it's turning into such a long ordeal to prove.

"This has been very stressful for all of us, my husband, my daughter, all of us. It's been very stressful," says wife and mom Hortencia Cruz.

This case should be on the Superior Court's docket in the next few months, so, unfortunately, everything appears to remain up in the air. The 3 On Your Side team will continue to follow this situation and give an update once a judge decides what is going on.


Copyright 2019 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.



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(48) comments


Just as an aside, most states have inheritance taxes on properties and I know the federal government has it and Heritance filings, so the claimant should have those documents available. Moreover if she doesn’t, she is possibly looking at Huge fines and penalties as As well as jail time for failure to file IRS regulations and or state regulations.


do you hear that all of you vultures?? Monday I call a lawyer and I will make you stop to call me and ask me to sell my house !!!!!!!!!!!


As much as this may very well be an attempt at a scam, the judge in the eviction hearing ruled correctly! This court has no jurisdiction in determining legal ownership, which is exactly why the case was transferred to Superior court. Not too difficult to understand. As for the legal expenses incurred by the occupying family in the home, if ruled in favor, can always seek damages/attorney fees from claimant. It is better/wiser to sort this out correctly in the right courtroom. Judge Judy doesn't hear murder cases, does she?


Wrong! The scammer file a lawsuit to compel eviction of the rightful owners. That worthless judge could have ruled on the merits of that case and ended this, but she was incompetent. I hope the voters send her a clear message that they don't like what she did here. In essence, I could find your house, find your name, change my name to your name and then say, hey you stole my house, and file an eviction proceding against you


So you clearly are more knowledgeable than a judge, wow! Again, she could not rule on the eviction since Superior court will have to determine ownership, what is so difficult to understand here???


What law school did you graduate from, Matlock?


I am very disappointed in the judge. She should have dismissed her case with prejudice, and this would all likely be over. I hope voters remember her next time she comes up for election and vote her out of office. In essence, she allowed someone with absolutely no proof that she owns that house to try to evict the rightful owners of the house from their own home. Rather than ruling on the case, she passed it on to the next level of the court system costing the innocent homeowners undue stress and more court costs and legal fees. She should have been able to clearly see that this woman has no legal basis for what she is trying to do. And she should have stopped her in her tracks immediately. Now the innocent couple have to spend the next few months worrying about this and then paying more court costs and attorney fees. I am confident they will win easily in a real court with a real judge. Justices of the Peace are often not "real" judges. I knew one who wasn't even a lawyer, but I am certain he would have had enough knowledge and common sense to dismiss this case with prejudice right away.


Baloney! "the judge determined the "unusual and complicated case needed to be transferred to a higher court." So attorneys in the case can make $350 an hour and suck this family's savings dry or maybe take a 2nd mortgage to pay the attorneys. That's collusion at it's worst. Make justice Great Again #MJGA


This is silly there are many ways to prove ownership. 1) The house in question has title insurance by Fidelity National Title, a very reputable company, and these situations are part of what they are insuring you for. 2) When a Warranty deed is signed, everyone has to not only prove their name via driver's license or passport, the driver's license or passport number is recorded in the notary book, unfortunately notary records only have to be retained for 5 years so these may not be available 3) And if above isn't sufficient, the court will then look at the totality of the evidence including things like, who can prove possession for the last 18 years through: utility bills, address on tax returns, address on driver's license during this period, who took out and paid the loan (lenders are quite careful to know who they are giving money to), possession of annual tax documents from lender, who paid property taxes, signatures on related real estate documents, photographis, etc. It's a nuisance case and the rightful owner can be awarded attorney's fees and damages from the defeated party, but it's unlikely the defeated party will have any money. It's too bad this judge didn't want to deal with it, this should have been resolved fairly easily once all the evidence was presented from both parties.


Great points. Re: #2, the county recorder probably has the notary recording with signature on file. I looked back at a real estate transaction by a family member in the early 70s and the notary details are shown. They digitized this stuff a while back....


Zeric, totally agree with you. Only thing I can say is... Shame on the judge who let this get past her. Maybe 3 on your side should be investigating HER.


Do what King Solomon did: 22 “No!” the other woman shouted. “He was your son. My baby is alive!” “The dead baby is yours,” the first woman yelled. “Mine is alive!” They argued back and forth in front of Solomon, 23 until finally he said, “Both of you say this live baby is yours. 24 Someone bring me a sword.” A sword was brought, and Solomon ordered, 25 “Cut the baby in half! That way each of you can have half of him.” If judge and even Gary Harper cannot solve this simple case of fraud, So then, cut the house in two and give each half. Problem solved.


This poor couple. So infuriating that this can't be taken care of quickly. The couple bought the house brand new so no former ownership except the builder. They have all the paperwork (never throw legal documents regarding your home out, folks) and lived there for 18 years. Their lives are on hold, they're spending money on attorneys and their stress level is through the roof. They don't deserve any of this and that lady is either a scammer just hoping for a break or is mentally incapacitated.


Down the road they can seek charges for attempted fraud from the DA. The claimant will likely disappear when it's clear this case isn't going anywhere. In the mean time it's got to be frustrating as this should have been quickly resolved by the totality of the evidence (who took out the loan and paid it, tax records, etc).


Just give the house to the black shoplifting family, they deserve a bigger home to store their loot! Problem solved.


I laughed so hard I blew coffee out of my nose. Thank you.


This gals deceased father supposedly left this to her. Never said a word to her or anything, while he was alive. And now she was just cleaning and going to things and found these papers. Yeah right.


If the occupying owner purchased it through proper escrow/title insurance the tile report/insurance should protect their ownership. Someone should check the documents first to verify it went through proper/legi purchase and title transfer. If there is/was a mortgage the lender has to ensure a clean title in order to protect themselves before funding the loan and close the purchase.


It's not going to be hard to prove ownership, there is plenty of evidence and unlike what the reporter said, this is not a complicated case. Since this was an eviction hearing, the judge didn't want to try to determine ownership, however they could have just ruled on the eviction and denied it based on insufficient evidence of ownership. This is different than determining ownership. That would have ended this case, requiring the claimant to start over again with a new ownership case. They may have then just decided to drop it on their own, or hire an attorney that would advise them they have no case. It may have ended, but instead the judge refused to rule on the eviction thus dragging this out. The defendants may end up filing a countersuit, they have basis at this point. It's all so unnecessary and a waste of time, money, and emotional turmoil.


I agree with Zeric 6-21-19 10:46am post. Makes the most sense.


Even if this imposter wins, the home residents (as not homeowners if they lose) can claim that they paid the balance so the lady should have to reimburse them all payments from 2002 on.


This type of scam has been going on for years, keep your important papers close to you its been done. Scammers are slick


So where has this lady been for the past 18 years? I am guessing the current residents can get bank statements and canceled checks proving they have been making payments. Also if there is some strange mix up, title insurance should kick in, if the home was wrongfully titled. I am 99% sure this is just a scam, you don't sit around for 18 years not even visiting a house you rightfully were inherited. Plus wouldn't squatters rights kick in by now if it was indeed this woman's house? If it is a scam, which it likely is, I'd go after this lady in court once it is exposed.


There are plenty of Hortencia Cruz's around. Again, a proper title search can clear this up.


This lady is trying to take advantage of an old couple. Shame on her. She saw a old weak couple and saw somewhere that their house is paid for, now she wants it. Some peoples kids. She needs to learn to work for what she wants and respect the elderly.


The scammer woman is older than the couple. Pay attention.


A scam by any other name is still a scam. This woman is either nuts or a liar.


Lots of people have the same name. Only way to determine the true Identity is with the social security number.


I have to wonder too why Gary Harper wasn't more aggressive with this stupid fraud woman. He's usually that way with scam artists and contractors who do shoddy work and rip people off. He was unusually pleasant with this woman who is clearly in the wrong and a fraudster. I would have told her that she has no credentials, and to back off with the harassment or she would be permanently blacklisted. She belongs in jail. Lock her up!


You might be correct but unfortunately that's not how our legal system works. Maybe he wasn't more aggressive as you demanded because he is not going to jump to conclusions with out having all the information needed, unlike some commenting on here.

JF Conlon

Blacklisted from what? Gary Harper has no superpowers!


How do you know? Both Clark Kent and Peter Parker are reporters with superpowers. Maybe Gary Harper is Big Mac Man.


You're too funny.


Sooooo, now you're judge and jury? Thought we had a judicial system to sort things out. Opinions are like a$$holes, everybody's got one. Why don't we leave it up to the professionals, not bored housewives?


The house belongs to the family who owned it for the last 18 years, not the stupid woman who is insisting it belongs to her. It's a waste of time and money to have a court case over this. We clearly know who the rightful owner is. Jesus! Some people have nothing more to do than cause trouble and drama for others.


Unfortunately, that's NOT necessarily true; especially if there was ID theft involved anywhere along the way. And that is a very real possibility. They'd have to delve deeply into the people claiming those names' histories and find the truth that way. But without that evidence, a driver's license and an ID card really don't establish the person is who he/she claims to be. The very nature of ID theft is such as to negate those as "proof".


In they eyes of the law, we clearly don’t know squat.


This is exactly why we have a judicial system to sort these things out, not public opinion. May very well be a scam and then again, stranger things have happened. Without seeing all the evidence, which the public has not seen since the courts haven't, you cannot and do not know true ownership. Stick to just playing Monday morning quarterback, we have enough lawyers as it is. Thanks!!!


Judge sounds like a goffy oddball to, or linked to mexican mafia fraud lady.[scared]


Why? Because she filed under the landlord tenant act and he recognized it's an issue of ownership which is not covered by small claims court? Or are you just stupid?


Actually the Judge Is a Woman! So I could just go to someone's house with the same name as mine and claim they Stole my Home? Wow this is Awful for this Family having to go through all this I hope when all is said and done the Nutcase claiming her father left it to her 16 YRS Ago and she's Just now Laying Claim to IT? Hope they make her pay the Attorney fees for this Family that rightfully Owns It..I'm Betting this other lady did not know this family actually bought their home while it was being built.. OOPS


This is what is so ridiculous about the judges decision. In her mind, anyone with the same name could just find a house owned by someone with their name and file a motion for eviction against them without any proof that they own the house. Just because they have the same name. She should have dismissed this case immediately. When you take someone to court, you had better have evidence or be prepared to have your case dismissed right away.


No, because of morons like you and bullxhit laws by vullxshit people like you. [beam]


Actually the judge is absolutely correct. If what you said was true he would have said the invader could take the house with no additional rulings. Any mexican mafia connections is th illegal invader trying to steal the house.


Yup,she does!


This seems to be a case of mistaken identity. First of all why has this woman never set foot in the home if her father owned it? Who signed the original deed? Do a signature comparison. What id's were used with the original deed? If it was a driver's license what license number is on the original deed and do either of the ladies have that in their possession? Can the new lady verify her father's will verifying that the address in the will is the house she is trying to take? Could the wrong house number or street name for the house left to her have been put in the will by accident? I hope these ideas are checked out before the next court date to truly prove who owns the particular home.


All of that would be requested via document requests, interrogatories and depositions in the litigation prep for the Superior Court case. The older woman doesn’t even appear to be represented by counsel and didn’t even know not to try to proceed with an eviction proceeding on a property where ownership is in question. The worst part of this is that the family who built and own the house will have to continue to incur legal fees and aggravation until the Superior Court presumably grants their Motion to Dismiss, which the older lady could then appeal, depending on her perseverance/degree of craziness. She might be a scammer, she might be confused, she might be nuts - but it doesn’t seem like she has any ownership interest in the property.



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