Friday, July 25, 2014

Jew Joe Real Estate Transaction 1901

My late father was a real estate appraiser working for LA County and at one time looked at historic grant deeds archived in the LA county recorder office and saw multiple deeds with the name Jew Joe dating from the time before Jew Joe went back to China in 1902. (Jew Joe  used Jew instead of Jue as the English spelling of our surname at  that time ). My father told me that Jew Joe had told my grandfather,San Tong,that Otto Brant, Title Insurance Company co owner, had Jew Joe sign real estate deeds for him.  I asked my Auntie Soo Yin  about this and she confirmed this and had the following comments:

1.  Squatters and color of title:  My father San Tong told me that in the 1890s title insurance to real property in SoCal was not yet a tradition practiced by landowners; most folks were a bit skeptical about the need to insure.  But Otto Brant was very deep thinking, and seeing far ahead of the curve, he knew that landowners would soon find themselves in great need of insuring their ownerships and clearing color of title.  "During this period of time," said San Tong, landowners were having so much trouble with "squatters" moving onto their property and claiming title.  This is why Otto had his friend Thompson, who was a saloon bouncer and who was a big, rough-looking guy, remove squatters off disputed lands by physical force if necessary."  (Later, Thompson became a partner with Jue Joe in the saloon located at 2nd and Broadway.)  At once landowners made a beeline for Otto's Title Insurance and Trust Co. and his business grew by leaps, as he knew it would.  Otto had the last laugh.   

2.  Straw man:  San Tong had said that Jue Joe's name was used on many of Otto's deeds, but he did not say that Jue Joe had any direct involvement in negotiating the transactions.  Otto handled all the details of land transactions, and it was a win-win situation for both Otto and Jue Joe. Otto Brant and Jue Joe were like equal friends, according to Ah Gung.  I do know that Otto used to ask Jue Joe for loans in order to finance his real estate ventures and to be his "straw man" whenever needed, and Jue Joe was always glad to oblige.  Also, Jue Joe told Ah Gung that everything he knew about American business he had learned from Otto; this good friend was Jue Joe's mentor.  I can see why the two men got along so well, they were both modest men.  (Jue Joe had met Thompson, his partner in the Saloon, through Otto Brant, too).

My son Robert who is in the real estate business had this theory of how Otto Brant used Jew Joe in his real estate transactions.  Robert has a theory that at the time Otto formed the Title insurance company , there were many properties in Los Angeles that had contested title with several  "owners" claiming to have the right to sell the property . Let us say his company was involved in providing potential buyers of the property with title insurance . One of the primary functions of the Title insurance company would be to search records and establish title before sales and  Otto would have found  quite a few of these properties.   The various owners claiming title would not be able to sell the property outright . They could of course sue each other and try to establish who had real title  and be able to sell but perhaps  Otto could offer a much simpler  solution .  These owners rather then fighting about who really owned the property  could all agree to sell out their  title to  one man each  at a percentage of the total  price of the sale .Since Otto would have researched these properties  thoroughly he could  then be sure that he had all the  real possible property owners in the deal . He could then broker a deal , and provide  title insurance to the single new buyer who had clear title .  That new buyer " straw man "  would not be involved in negotiating the deal at all and just  appear in person  to sign documents  and the entire deal could be arranged by  Otto ,  In fact the "straw man " could in fact loan or put up his own money for the deal with the agreement that once the deal was completed  and clear title was established that land could then be sold at a substantial profit to a new buyer  waiting in the wings who wanted to buy the property in the first place . The sale of the land  from the straw owner to the new owner would , promptly by arranged  by Otto  and then the loan would be repaid with interest to the "straw man " quickly ... Such an arrangement would require a "straw man " with whom  Otto had extreme confidence in and  the agreement especially if a verbal one would  really need to be  one of trust and mutual  benefit .

What evidence is there that this arrangement between Otto Brant and Jew Joe actually occurred ?

Rancho Portero de Felipe Lugo was one of the  large Mexican land grants that was located in the current city of El Monte near Los Angeles. The history of this Rancho and it's subsequent sale and subdivision and owners can be found here.   The Rancho was originally subdivided in the Los Angeles land boom of  the late 1880s. Here is an ad of the original subdivision by E. J. Baldwin in 1887 .

Here is  page 14 of the Los Angeles Herald , on Thursday Morning , August 1, 1901 .
At the time family oral history has Jew Joe farming potatoes in Chatsworth on leased land. There is no family oral history that he owned land at this time . Yet on this date on the list of real estate transfers in the paper, Jew Joe is listed as selling land to Sophronia A. Bliss , in particular -Part Lot 2, blk F, of sub. of Ro. Potrero de Felipe Lugo .

Did Jew Joe buy and accept title to this land some time before and then sell and transfer the title to a new owner to help his friend, Otto Brant ? By the way the 10.00 noted after the property is the amount of "consideration"for the property paid by the buyer to the seller and is noted in the official grant deeds. When the number is low such as 10 dollars in this case, this does not actually reflect the sale price of the property which does not have always have to be included in the newly recorded grant deed. "

A deed must include a recital of consideration. In most instances, a recital of nominal consideration (for example, Ten Dollars) is sufficient. The actual consideration paid for the real property must be disclosed to local and /or state tax departments for tax purposes. Real property may be conveyed as a gift, in which case no actual monetary consideration is being exchanged for the real property. There are special circumstances in which the actual sales price must be inserted, as in the case of a deed in which the grantor is acting in a fiduciary capacity on behalf of the owner of the real property"

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