Denver Pastor Charged In Flipping Scam; Used Two Unwitting Churchmembers As Straw Buyers On 8 Homes Ultimately Ending In Foreclosure, Say Authorities
In Denver, Colorado, KMGH-TV Channel 8 reports:
- A Denver pastor, indicted for alleged mortgage fraud, turned himself into authorities late Thursday. The indictment alleges that Harold Joe Hicks used surrogates to purchase property and then falsified mortgage applications to get lower interest rates.
- "He would bring nearly completed mortgage applications... and (would) have the surrogate buyer simply sign off without reading it," said Lynn Kimbrough of the Denver District Attorney's office.
- Pastor Harold Joe Hicks, 64, of Mount Carmel Community Baptist Church was formally charged, Thursday, with eight counts of theft and eight counts of forgery.(1) The two surrogates listed in the indictment attended Mt. Carmel. According to court documents, Hicks told both Richard Martin and Sherri Wrightsil that he would rent the properties, pay the mortgages, taxes, insurance and other expenses.
For more, see Grand Jury Indicts Pastor In Alleged Mortgage Fraud Scheme (Eight Properties Purchased Through Surrogates End Up In Foreclosure).
- Criminal Indictment: People v. Harold Joe Hicks,
- Rocky Mountain News: Minister indicted on 16 counts (Harold Hicks accused of stealing $80,000 in mortgage scheme) - "It is one of the most heinous examples of real estate fraud I've ever seen," said Jim Spray, a mortgage fraud expert familiar with details of the Hicks case. "To use his level of trust and abuse it severely, and hurt people so deeply that it shatters their faith . . . heinous doesn't even describe it."
- Rocky Mountain News (July 7, 2007): Signing on faith (Ex-church members say pastor misused trust to conduct shady real estate deals).
(1) It should be noted that the forgery charges relate to the signatures appearing on the allegedly fraudulent mortgage applications used to obtain the loans. According to the indictment, the signatures are alleged to be the authentic signatures of the unwitting straw buyers; Pastor Harold Joe Hicks, while accused of filling out the mortgage applications with fraudulent information, has not been accused of actually signing these documents. Notwithstanding, he is facing the forgery charges in connection with those signatures.
Regardless of whether forgery convictions are obtained against Hicks, this case should serve as a reminder that, in Colorado as well as in some other states, the act of forgery need not be done by the hand of the person being charged; fraudulently procuring the signature of another to an instrument which the signer either has no intention of, or is otherwise tricked into, signing constitutes forgery on the part of the procurer in some states. It is sufficient that the forgerer caused or procured it to be done. See also:
- May 27, 2008 post (1): New York Court Decisions A Reminder That Viable Forgery Claim May Arise When Homeowner Is Tricked Into Signing Deed; and
- May 27, 2008 post (2): California Appeals Court Says Genuine Homeowner Signature On Instruments In Foreclosure Rescue Scheme Not A Bar To Scammer's Forgery Conviction.
By the way, in the State of Ohio, the crime of tricking someone into signing any writing that either conveys an interest in property, or creates a monetary obligation, is called "Securing Writings by Deception" - see Sec. 2913.43, Ohio Rev. Code) ForgeryGenuineSignatureKappa