Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Criminal, Civil Charges Brought In Vacant Home Hijacking Scam; NC AG: Phony Deeds, Bogus Liens "Filled With Gibberish ... A Fraud On The Whole System"

In Raleigh, North Carolina, WRAL-TV reports:

  • The state Attorney General’s office is investigating a Wake County property deed scam ring(1) after authorities arrested a Raleigh man Tuesday who they say squatted at a foreclosed home [...] for more than a month. Shawn Adrian Pendergraft, 39, [...] faces breaking and entering, obtaining property by false pretenses and second-degree trespassing charges. He is being held in the Wake County jail under a $170,000 bond.

  • No one else has been charged, but Attorney General Roy Cooper says Pendergraft and five others(2) filed fraudulent paperwork to transfer foreclosed homes into their names and then set up bogus land trusts to place more than $1 million in property liens on the homes.

  • It’s a very bizarre occurrence,” Cooper said. “These people go in and file bogus liens on properties. They file bogus deeds to themselves.”

  • The liens, Cooper said in a news release, were “filled with phony legal language lifted from the Internet and designed to intimidate the true property owners and potential buyers into thinking that the property couldn’t be sold without paying the phony lien.”

For more, see One charged, five investigated in Wake County squatting scheme.

For the North Carolina AG press release, see AG unravels bogus property deed scam in Wake County (Scammers used fraudulent deeds, liens to try to claim foreclosed homes):

  • Pretending that you can own a home just by filing phony paperwork filled with gibberish is an insult to honest homeowners and a fraud on the whole system,” Cooper said.

(1) In addition to the criminal charges, the North Carolina AG has filed a civil lawsuit against this racket. See State of North Carolina v. Pendergraft, et al.:

(2) According to the story, at Cooper’s request, Wake County Superior Court Judge Henry W. Hight Jr. granted a temporary restraining order against the following allegedly phony land trusts:

  • Natural International Land Trust, ONCE International Land Trust and Nu Vision International Trust,

and the individuals believed to be behind them:

  • Shawn Adrian Pendergraft, Nathaniel John Church, Don Cornelius McCullers, Malandie Terrell Winston, Montreal Lee White and Lawrence Christopher White.

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