HOUSTON, TX – June 1, 2009 – (RealEstateRama) — Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has charged O’Connor & Associates, which purports to be the state’s largest property tax consultant, with violating the Texas Property Tax Code and the Deceptive Trade Practices Act. According to the state’s enforcement action, the Houston-based defendant filed tax protests without taxpayers’ consent, failed to appear at clients’ tax protest hearings, and submitted fraudulently notarized documents, among other legal violations.
“The defendant is charged with failing to appear at tax protest hearings or otherwise take action for its customers,” said Attorney General Abbott. “But the defendant is also charged with falsely representing thousands of taxpayers who never actually consented to its representation. Put simply, O’Connor & Associates took action it was never authorized to take, but failed to do the work it was actually hired to perform.”
Court documents submitted by the Office of the Attorney General indicate that O’Connor filed tax protests without taxpayers’ knowledge or consent. Under Texas law, an appointment of agent form – which memorializes the taxpayers’ consent to representation – must be on file with the appraisal district before the date of the property tax protest hearing. However, Harris County Appraisal District records indicate that O’Connor failed to submit the legally required authorization forms in more than 11,000 cases.
According to investigators with the Office of the Attorney General, multiple taxpayers complained that O’Connor filed protests on their behalf even after the taxpayers specifically declined to hire the firm. In cases where the unauthorized protest involved taxpayers who received refunds, the defendant sent invoices and filed lawsuits against taxpayers who refused to pay for O’Connor’s services, despite the fact those services were unwanted and unauthorized.
The state’s enforcement action indicates that, in cases where O’Connor was actually hired to represent taxpayers, there were multiple instances where the defendant failed to deliver the services for which it was hired. For example, court documents indicate that O’Connor failed to take action in more than 9,000 Harris County cases last year. As a result, taxpayers were not notified about hearing dates and did not have the opportunity to appeal adverse rulings by appraisal review boards.
Texas law prohibits notaries public from notarizing their own signatures. However, multiple documents submitted by the defendant were both signed and notarized by the same management-level O’Connor employee. As a result, the state’s enforcement action indicates those documents — which purported to memorialize “verbal” appointment of agent authorizations – were fraudulent.
Texans who believe they have been deceived by similar fraudulent business practices may call the Office of the Attorney General’s toll-free complaint line at (800) 252-8011 or file a complaint online at www.texasattorneygeneral.gov.