Obtaining a mortgage solely in your name, if you don’t falsify income or assets, and qualify, is no criminal offense. If you weren’t on title for the last home, the short sale is irrelevant to you. As far as buying it, then signing yourself off the deed even though the loan is in your name, not going to work. Your lender would be notified of the title change, and the “due on sale” clause in your mortgage could be invoked, meaning you would have to pay it off immediately or risk foreclosure. If you really have concerns over pending legal issues, I’d suggest that purchasing a home may not be in your best interests at this point.