Lease/Option Predicament


I just read about a couple that had a lease/option agreement on a property that they lived in. Unbeknownst to the couple, the property owner failed to pay property tax on the property and the house sold at a tax sale. The couple was never notified. They finally heard about the sale of the property and were unable to contact the former owner. They found a new apartment to live in and begin removing the furniture from their home . . . and were arrested by the new property owner - for theft.
Has anyone ever heard of such a thing? What recourse does the couple have in recouping their personal property . . . not to mention their reputation - their mug shots appeared in their local newspaper as thieves.