Five members of the sovereign citizen movement, a group based on anti-government ideology were arrested and charged with mortgage fraud, theft and various RICO crimes. The five people arrested were allegedly involved in a conspiracy to appropriate upscale homes now bank-owned after foreclosure. The group was linked to 17 seized properties which had a net worth of approximately $10 million.
The group would file fraudulent quit-claim deeds in the county court and feign ownership of the properties by displaying the false deed in windows of the homes they commandeered. The group went as far as fraudulently obtaining a strip mall which they subsequently rented to the public.
Mark Potok, director of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Project provided a reason for the group’s behavior. He said, “It’s a new trend that we’ve seen in just the last couple of years. It seems to be catching on, more or less like wildfire. The economy, I think, is very clearly driving a large number of people who are desperate into this movement who are looking for answers.”
The DeKalb Deputy Chief Assistant District Attorney John Melvin showed no remorse for the arrested group. “It’s amazing that these groups of citizens who like to proclaim they’re Robin Hood only choose million-dollar homes,” he accused. “Shocking.” Potok acknowledged that some people are just greedy, but said that many people have a reached a point of economic desperation where they are simply looking for a way out.
An investigation into the incident uncovered one couple who were allegedly involved in a similar scam concerning the same house they used to call a home. Melvin failed to confirm whether or not this couple acted alone or was associated with the sovereign citizen movement group.
Source: ABC News “Anti-Government Sovereign Citizens Taking Foreclosed Homes Using Phony Deeds, Authorities Say” Sarah Netter 8/23/10