ELK GROVE, Calif. - A local water district has shut off service to a family of five that got caught in a Craigslist real estate scam, forcing them to flush the toilets with bottled water.
Maria and Roy, who asked that their last names not be used because they both work in sensitive jobs, paid $6,000 upfront in September for a lease on the five-bedroom home in Elk Grove's Bishop Ranch community.
Because the lease came with an option to buy, the couple invested another $8,000 in home improvements.
After establishing SMUD, PG&E and city utilities in their name, the family came home in late November and discovered the water had been shut off.
The water is billed separately by the Elk Grove Water District, which the couple said examined the lease and determined it to be bogus.
"They said there were a lot of squatters in this area and that we were squatters," Maria explained.
Not only did the water district shut off service at the meter-- on the day after Thanksgiving, workers dug up the front yard and physically severed the connection to the house.
For the past month, the family has used bottled water to brush their teeth and flush the toilets. They eat all their meals out and shower at Maria's mother's house.
Maria said their boys, ages 7, 10 and 11, have become accustomed to the routine.
"I try to keep life normal for them," Maria said.
A wreath on the front door and a snowman on a front window hide two bright red notices declaring the home is unsafe to occupy because of a lack of running water.
"It's embarrassing," Maria said.
Property records show the house has been owned since May 2011 by Aurora Loan Services, which appears to have taken no action to sell the house or evict the family now living there.
The couple has hired attorney John Latini to negotiate a purchase directly with the bank and to seek an emergency court order restoring water service in the meantime.
"I'm hoping the court will look at this and decide it's not (the water district general manager's) call to get them out of there," Latini said.
Elk Grove Water District general manager Mark Madison did not return a call seeking comment Thursday.
News10 contacted the previous owner of the house who lost it to the bank and whose name appears on the lease.
The woman, who asked not to be identified, said she'd been contacted by the water district to verify the authenticity of the lease.
"It was a forgery," said the former owner. "It bugs me that they used my name."
The woman expressed sympathy for the family now living in her former home that got conned.
"I feel bad these people have been dragged into this," she said.
by George Warren, GWarren@news10.net