Man Files Deed Transfer, Claiming Ownership of Petco Park, Causing Headaches for San Diego

County officials required to record all grant deed forms.


ben pollard/flickr

A California man walked into the San Diego County Recorder's Office and filed a deed transfer form claiming ownership of Petco Park, as reported by the San Diego Union-Tribune:

Because no actual sale or transaction took place, government officials and real estate experts say there's essentially no chance of [Derris] McQuaig taking control of the property, which was recently appraised at $539 million and is slated to host its first All-Star game in July.

But McQuaig has created a legal and bureaucratic nightmare that could be perpetrated on any property owner if someone decides to target them by casting doubt on their title in this way.

Jeff Olson, chief of assessment services for the San Diego County Assessor's Office, said county officials are required to record all properly submitted documents and make them part of the public record even when they are obviously bogus.

County officials noticed McQuaig studying the process of deed transfers, so as soon as he filed the form they forwarded his case to the district attorney's office. But a judge threw the case out, finding McQuaig mentally incompetent to stand trial—he was committed to a state hospital, where he is being forced by "psychiatric security personnel" to take anti-psychotic medication.

Olson called McQuaig's claim a "wild deed," and a titles company official told the Union-Tribune such claims can cause problems for homeowners. The Union-Tribune reports:

[Tracy] Leonard said there's been talk in Sacramento of state legislation that would make it easier to void fraudulent title transfers, but nothing has come forward yet.

"For now it's the same as identity theft," she said. "It causes you nightmares, but you are still you and your property is still yours."

As the Union-Tribune notes, McQuaig's deed hasn't caused the city, which owns 70 percent of the stadium, significant problems yet. Earlier this month a judge permitted the city to refinance $125 million in construction debt—the stadium cost $450 million to build, and $225 was financed through municipal bonds. The city is seeking a "quiet title action" to nullify McQuaig's claim.

Check out Reason TV's interview with Joel Kotkin, a professor of urban studies, on why sports stadiums are bad investments for cities:

h/t Walter Olson's Facebook feed