Friday, January 18, 2013

Philly Cops Bag Four In Alleged Home Title Hijacking Racket That Swiped Deeds To 22 City Houses

In Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, WPVI-TV Channel 6 reports:

  • Four men, including the son of a former Philadelphia police commissioner, have been arrested for forging the deeds of 22 properties in Philadelphia, enabling them to effectively steal the houses.

    "All too often, people who are unsuspecting were buying properties and the people selling them had no right to be selling them," Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams said.

    A lengthy investigation by the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office revealed that the deeds of 22 uninhabited properties across the city were forged and recorded, transferring the properties from the true owners to the codefendants or fictitious persons.

    Officials say, in many instances, the signature of the Notary Public on the deed was forged and a counterfeit stamp used. "As with everything, people find ways to lie, cheat and steal and these four defendants were caught," Williams said.

    Authorities allege the following four men were the orchestrators of the home theft ring: 55-year-old Zachary Stokes, 42-year-old Oscar Ketter, 48-year-old Elhadi Ibrahim and 49-year-old Steven Johnson, a son of former Philadelphia Police Commissioner Sylvester Johnson:

    "I have a lot of respect for Commissioner Johnson. I have three children. He has one son that is a former FBI agent, but this son is allegedly involved with this crime," Williams said.

    The properties were being sold to innocent buyers, and in some cases, the purchase price was just $1.

    "If criminals were rational, I'd be out of business. I hope one day to be out of business, but people do stupid things for a lot of stupid reasons," Williams said.

    The men face a number of charges including Criminal Conspiracy, Theft, Forgery and Tampering with Public Records.

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