The Arizona Attorney General’s Tucson office has agreed to return a house seized in a drug investigation to Habitat for Humanity.
The former owner of the house, Oscar Soza Beltran, was arrested in 2013 and charged with seven drug-related counts.
Beltran and his wife bought the house in 2004 from Habitat for Humanity by participating in a home-purchasing assistance program.
Prosecutors say Beltran was involved in methamphetamine sales and transportation and agreed to transport or sell more than a pound of the drug. His wife was not charged with any crimes.
In March, Beltran pleaded guilty to attempted sale or transfer of a dangerous drug and conspiracy to sell or transport a dangerous drug.
As part of the plea deal, Beltran agreed to forfeit his interest in the house in the 300 block of East 25th Street.
“Habitat for Humanity wanted it back to find a more deserving family,” said Assistant Attorney General Joshua Moser.
Beltran did not show up for a sentencing hearing scheduled for Monday before Pima County Superior Court Judge Howard Fell. He faced as many as five years in prison. A warrant was issued for his arrest.
Because the legal transfer of the property has not yet been finalized, Habitat for Humanity officials did not want to speak on the specifics of Beltran, who has a long criminal history, qualifying for Habitat assistance, or the home being returned.
“It would not be appropriate to comment,” Interim Executive Director Gordon Yarrington said.
Habitat’s home program requires participants to invest at least 200 hours in the organization, which includes helping to build or refurbish homes, often the ones they later will live in.
Beltran and his wife put in the requisite hours, then bought the home with Habitat’s assistance through a nonprofit, no-interest loan for $74,500 with monthly payments of $310.
As the lender on its properties, Habitat for Humanity retains a claim on the houses until they are paid off.
A brochure on the Habitat for Humanity website says applicants for homes must be first-time homebuyers and have a demonstrated need in order to be eligible for one of the organization’s houses.
They also must be able to prove a reliable source of income to pay the no-interest mortgage.
Potential homebuyers also must be legal residents of the United States and be willing to submit to a criminal background check.
Yarrington said the organization’s background process is “as or more strenuous” than that of any conventional loan.
However, Beltran has a long history of drug related and arrests going back nearly 20 years, well before he was selected to receive Habitat for Humanity assistance.
In 1996, he was convicted of drug possession in San Diego and sentenced to two years in prison.
His criminal history in Arizona appears to have begun in 2000, with a DUI conviction in South Tucson Municipal Court.
Beltran had three shoplifting conviction in Tucson Municipal Court between 2001 and 2003.
In 2008, he was convicted on drug paraphernalia charges in Cochise County and attempted possession charges in Pima County. He was sentenced to 1½ years in state prison for the convictions.
Yarrington said he could not comment on the specifics of the case or about any background checks that may have been conducted before selling the home to Beltran.
Yarrington said Habitat for Humanity has placed 388 families in homes in the Tucson area.
A check of court records did not show other situations where the organization has retaken ownership of one of its homes as result of a resident’s criminal activity.