Couple charged with squatting in Newport home

When Tim Robinson was a process server handing legal documents to various parties, he said he encountered an unusual couple as he left a Newport Coast home.

Robinson recalled a man driving a black Mercedes who pulled up to him as he was walking back to his car. Robinson said the man asked what he was doing in the neighborhood, then said he might have some business for him and that he should pass along his card.

The man turned out to be Chris Duncan.

Duncan's wife, Robin, was in the passenger seat, Robinson said.

Robinson said he got a call from Duncan a few months later. He then got invited to the family home at 10 Hidden Pass in a gated area of Newport Coast.

"I saw his house, and right off the bat it seemed really shady to me," Robinson said. "It was almost empty."

According to prosecutors, that's because the Duncans didn't legally live there. They were squatters who targeted foreclosed homes throughout Orange County and lived inside them, authorities said.

The pair asked Robinson to scout homes that were foreclosed, or on the brink of foreclosure, in the county. Robinson said the Duncans had a list of some 500 homes, and they just wanted him to see if the homes were empty.

Chris Duncan told Robinson that through some legal loophole, they were helping families displaced by foreclosures rent in vacant homes.

"I looked at six or seven homes, walked up and saw it was occupied, and let him know," Robinson said. "I never did anything else after that. I text [messaged] him, saying I want nothing to do with you. I don't feel comfortable with what's going on. You've been vague."

"It just didn't feel right," he added.

Prosecutors agree. It apparently wasn't right.

The home where Robinson visited on Hidden Pass is now at the center of the criminal case. Prosecutors claim that with the help of Newport Beach attorney Kelly Scott Johnson, they managed to live in the multi-million dollar home for months. They're accused of forging a lease for the home and lying to utility companies about renting there so they could get basic services turned on.

When the property owner sent an appraiser to the property, the Duncans turned him away, prosecutors claim. The couple even had the locks changed, authorities said.

That's when the police were called. Newport Beach police served an arrest warrant to the couple Wednesday.

They're charged with second-degree burglary, conspiracy to commit second-degree burglary and unauthorized entry of a dwelling. Each faces up to three years in prison and the two are being held in lieu of $25,000 bail.

Both are scheduled to be arraigned Friday at the Central Jail Court in Santa Ana.

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