Sunday, September 16, 2012

Alleged Scammer Charged w/ Peddling Phony Real Estate Adverse Possession Claims, Rent-To-Own Ripoffs Pinched Again On Income Tax Refund Fraud Charges

In Land O' Lakes, Florida, the Tampa Bay Times reports:

  • A 37-year-old Land O'Lakes man faces several fraud charges after, authorities say, he cashed fraudulent tax refund checks worth $58,732. Demetrius Antonio Lewis was booked into the Pasco County Jail on one count of organized fraud and eight counts of criminal use of personal identification, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
  • FDLE Commissioner Gerald Bailey said in a statement the agency is pursuing similar cases. Tax refund fraud is a billion-dollar national problem, and the Tampa area is at the forefront. Last year, Tampa thieves stole $468 million from the IRS, according to a federal watchdog.(1) Authorities often take months to investigate and build a case.

    Last November, Lewis was charged with organized fraud in a different crime, authorities say. He ran a business named Help is Here Foreclosure Prevention and Credit Repair. Under that business name, he would gather the addresses of vacant homes and for $1,000 teach anyone how to occupy them using an obscure loophole called "adverse possession," according to the FDLE.
  • In th[e real estate] scam, the FDLE said that between December 2008 and May 2011, Lewis and a codefendant found properties listed for sale, in default or in foreclosure.

    Without the knowledge or consent of the property owners, the two entered the vacant houses, changed the locks and rented the properties to tenants who paid the defendants and thought they were participating in a "lease to own" program, officials said.

(1) See U.S. Treasury Department Inspector General Report: There Are Billions of Dollars in Undetected Tax Refund Fraud Resulting From Identity Theft (July 19, 2012).

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