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CBS Atlanta News exposes alleged squatter's tricks

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DEKALB COUNTY, GA (CBS46) -

A two-month long CBS Atlanta investigation has exposed an alleged squatter's techniques that have allowed her to live in a home without paying rent. 

Valister Wilson has been trying for more than three months to evict Daquisha Barber and her family from his home on Outlook Road, in Ellenwood. Wilson said Barber has abused the court system to stay in his home for free.   

The ordeal began in February when Wilson, who had placed the vacant home on the market in February, said he noticed someone living in it. Inside the five bedroom, five bathroom home, he found Barber and her five children. 

"Somehow they got into the lockbox the real estate agent was using, and opened the door and took the lockbox," said Wilson. 

Wilson contacted police who refused to kick Barber and her family out because she showed a lease purchase agreement she had signed days earlier. 

In DeKalb County court, Wilson testified that his signature had been forged and he had not leased the home.

Barber testified that she had worked with a broker named Catherine Smith to secure the home and had paid her $7,800.

But Barber's story began unraveling when the county deputy marshals could not locate a broker named Catherine Smith.

Judge Gary LaShaw ordered Barber and her family out of the home within seven days, but Barber responded by filing an appeal and later bankruptcy which delayed the eviction. 

"She knows the system very well. She knows the system better than my attorneys do," said Wilson. 

A CBS Atlanta investigation found Barber has a five-year history of living in homes where she's not wanted. Court documents uncovered by CBS Atlanta News found she and other tenants of homes in Ellenwood and Lithonia repeatedly filed documents to delay eviction. One case dragged out for two years. 

"You can get away with a lot for a long period of time if you work the system properly," said real estate attorney Ned Blumenthal.

Blumenthal isn't involved with the case but said squatters abuse a clogged court system and the appeal process to live for free. 

"Depending on the appeal process, it could be years trying to get rid of somebody meanwhile you're not in the house, you don't know what they're doing in the house, you're not getting rent from them and presumably if there's a mortgage on the house, you've got to pay that," said Blumenthal. 

Barber did not answer the door when CBS Atlanta News arrived for a scheduled interview.  Through text messages to reporter Jeff Chirico, Barber denied she is squatting in the home.

This month, Barber won another delay by filing bankruptcy, which stayed the eviction.

Wilson, who said Barber has cost him more than $10,000 so far, now has to take his fight to federal bankruptcy court. 

"I do believe this is a criminal enterprise," said Wilson. "People have gone to jail for less. This isn't a victimless crime. I am a victim."

A DeKalb County police detective said there is an open and ongoing investigation into this case.

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