A businessman is under fire for buying tiny parcels of land so he can sell or lease them for inflated prices to people who thought they owned them.
In one case, Guthrie businessman Ron Edwards is demanding four Edmond condominium owners pay him $80,000 for a shared driveway he bought for $1,584 at a county auction.
"I thought I made a decent offer,” Edwards said.
The owners haven't paid, so Edwards blocked their driveway with concrete highway barriers last month.
"I was just livid,” said Hedi Lunday, 77, one of the condo owners at Timberdale Estates in Edmond. "It's extortion.”
Many Timberdale Estates residents are elderly; some barely can walk, Lunday said.
Edmond officials ordered the barriers removed for public safety reasons, and an Oklahoma County judge has issued an injunction temporarily barring Edwards from blocking the driveway.
RJS Properties LLC, which Edwards said is owned by his wife, bought the driveway, unbeknownst to the condo owners, at a 2008 county auction for delinquent tax properties.
Edwards, 61, whose family also operates a Guthrie funeral business, said RJS Properties buys delinquent tax properties to sell or lease them to make money. The goal is to make a 10 percent profit, he said.
"It's just a business adventure trying to pick up a few bucks just like any other business,” Edwards said. "I wasn't wanting to cause anybody grief, but sometimes it just works out that way.”
Edwards said his company "offers to correct” errors by title and abstract companies that often cause properties to go to auction without owners knowing.
Neighbors didn't know of sales
Companies run by Edwards and family members have bought at least nine properties in Oklahoma County in the past two years, property records show.
The properties were for sale because of delinquent tax payments.
One is part of the parking lot at Chelino's Mexican Restaurant in Edmond, which RJS Properties bought for $683 in 2008.
Edwards said the parking lot was there when his company bought the property, which the company since has leased to the restaurant in a "fair deal for everyone.