‘Professional squatter’: Woman arrested after allegedly moving into half-million dollar home

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – A New Mexico woman is behind bars, accused of stealing a half-million-dollar home in Albuquerque after the homeowners died.

Neighbors claim that when 35-year-old Lucia Ruiz moved in, crime and suspicious activity followed. Neighbors call Ruiz and the others living in the home “professional squatters.”

“There’s definitely people who do not belong in there,” said a neighbor who wants to remain anonymous for safety purposes. “Presenting false documents, whatever they could to stay inside that house or to throw people off.”

“They definitely seem to be dotting their I’s and crossing their T’s,” said another anonymous neighbor.

Neighbors said people have been in and out of the house for months after the owners died. Documents said Ruiz, a convicted felon, even listed the home as her address for probation. When she violated her probation about a week ago, officers paid her a visit and that’s when neighbors told police Ruiz and the others inside were not allowed to be there.

Documents said Ruiz showed officers a “lease agreement” which said she was renting the property from the former owners’ daughter, whose signature appeared to be on the paper. She also pulled out a quitclaim deed transferring ownership of the house to Ruiz. Investigators found that Ruiz filed that deed with the county, and they said it showed the house had been signed over to Ruiz for just one dollar.

However, the daughter of the former owners told investigators that none of those documents are real. She did not sign any rental or deed agreement with anyone, she said, and no one had permission to live inside the home.

Nearby residents said this is just the start of what’s been going on at the home.

A neighbor’s surveillance video captured someone screaming for help on the night of July 31, while running out of the house. “I can’t breathe,” said one person on the surveillance video. “I understand that bro,” said another. It’s unclear who is speaking in the video, but that next morning, neighbors found 34-year-old Samuel Hernandez’s body just a hundred feet from the home.

“This is not just a homeless element, but there is definitely a criminal element that’s going on, it’s palpable,” said a neighbor. “You can sense what’s going on over there is not kosher at all.”

Neighbors are now looking into hiring their own private security to patrol the area.

Ruiz, who also goes by Lucia Candelaria and Lucia Martinez, has a criminal history that includes car theft and shoplifting. She is charged with forgery and fraud in this case. Police are still investigating Hernandez’s death.

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