Linda Willis found a crane operator poised to tear down her home—then learned it wasn’t hers anymore

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Apparently, Linda Willis was the victim of the kind of fraud real estate attorney Rick Alembik told the news station there’s been an increase of, especially in highly desirable gentrifying neighborhoods. “A lot of ways these fraudulent deeds are done, is by people who steal,” Alembik told Channel 2. “The extent in which it’s reported is probably under-reported, but we’re seeing it, we’re seeing more of it.”

Alembik said it’s easiest when the property has been paid off and isn’t “incumbent by a mortgage.” He also said boarded-up properties are targets. Linda’s home fell into both categories, but she said it was only boarded up as a result of minor fire damage. 

Linda Willis told Channel 2 it’s a sad day for her. “After 30 years of paying a mortgage, it has become dangerous to be a senior and own gentrified urban property,” she said.

Real estate scams have been reported recently across the nation from Daytona Beach, Florida, to Philadelphia and Brooklyn. 

“The people who want to buy your property, they don’t just stop at no,” Alembik said.

In Daytona Beach, Javon Walden is accused of defrauding more than $50,000 and in one case having the deed of a home notarized a week after the homeowner’s death, The Daytona Beach News-Journal reported.

“The defendant created and filed fraudulent deeds in an attempt to obtain properties from folks he grew up with,” officials from State Attorney R.J. Larizza’s office said in a news release. “He used his knowledge of these folks and their particular vulnerabilities to feed his greed. The State Attorney’s Office looks forward to holding him accountable for his conduct.”

In Brooklyn, James Effiwatt was arraigned earlier this month after being accused of transferring the deed to a three-story house he once lived in to a trust even though he doesn’t own the deed, the real estate news site Brownstoner reported. “This defendant allegedly filed a fake deed in an unlawful attempt to take ownership of his landlord’s property,” Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez said in a statement. “Title theft is a serious crime that deprives hard-working people of the single most important asset any American can hope to own.”

Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner announced earlier this month that seven people were arrested and authorities were looking for an eighth person accused of stealing real estate and leaving property owners with a cost of more than $900,000. Krasner called for Wahid Redmond, the accused leader of the scam who also goes by Matthew Victor Black, to turn himself in.

Those charged include Dominic Tisdale, Khalif Hines, Muadh Abdur-Rahmaan, Cameron Holmes, Racquel Daniels, Tiffany Newkirk, and Jevanna Robinson, according to ABC-affiliated WPVI.

Assistant District Attorney Kimberly Esack told The Philadelphia Inquirer both living and late home owners were targeted, and that their properties and lots were taken “using forged paperwork, stolen identities, fake names, as well as licenses.” 

“When someone steals a property, they aren’t just stealing an item, they’re stealing a person’s security,” Esack said. “They’re taking away a person’s past, present, and future.”

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Alembik said to ward off criminals from targeting your home, install a doorbell camera, register your property with a local fraud registry or municipality, and consider a reverse mortgage.

The Federal Trade Commission reported on this type of lending:

“If you’re 62 or older – and want money to pay off your mortgage, supplement your income, or pay for healthcare expenses – you may consider a reverse mortgage. It allows you to convert part of the equity in your home into cash without having to sell your home or pay additional monthly bills. But take your time: a reverse mortgage can be complicated and might not be right for you. A reverse mortgage can use up the equity in your home, which means fewer assets for you and your heirs. If you do decide to look for one, review the different types of reverse mortgages, and comparison shop before you decide on a particular company.”

It is a despicable moment in time in which we have to share resources to protect one another’s property from being stolen from under us. 





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