Here's how the Director of a Non-Profit Allegedly Stole Homes Meant for Low-Income Residents

Here's how the Director of a Non-Profit Allegedly Stole Homes Meant for Low-Income Residents
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The rising property prices as well as rent across the US during a cost of living crisis has made it difficult for a lot of people to find affordable accommodation. But even amidst the efforts to make housing accessible for people in need, scammers have found ways to deceive them. Zina Thomas, 60, of Detroit, was arrested after working as the director of a nonprofit group that helped low-income residents acquire homes. She is currently being prosecuted for her alleged role in a fraud operation that resulted in the theft of numerous Detroit homeowners' homes.

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According to the complaint, Zina Thomas, the director of homeownership initiatives at the United Community Housing Coalition (UCHC), conspired with others to illegally acquire over 30 properties in Wayne County, the majority of which were located in Detroit.

They targeted low-income people who were at risk of losing their houses due to unpaid taxes. Interestingly, the complaint states that Thomas presently lives in one of these houses.

Image Source: Photo by Sora Shimazaki: https://www.pexels.com/photo/crop-cyber-spy-hacking-system-while-typing-on-laptop-5935794/
Image Source: Photo by Sora Shimazaki: https://www.pexels.com/photo/crop-cyber-spy-hacking-system-while-typing-on-laptop-5935794/

 

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Cheyvoryea Gibson, the FBI's Michigan director, expressed concern about how Thomas allegedly exploited those in financial need while seeking to help them. Thomas and her coworkers allegedly filed multiple phony quitclaim documents, transferring ownership of the targeted properties from the legitimate owners to fictitious "interim owners" who did not exist. They then sold the properties to naive clients. Thomas or someone else fraudulently notarized these fake deeds, giving them the appearance of validity and permitting them to be recorded with the county's Register of Deeds.

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According to the complaint, Thomas emailed false driver's licenses and other documents to an employee at the Wayne County Treasurer's Office. These documents were then uploaded into the treasurer's Property Tax Administration system, thus halting any pending foreclosures of these properties. 

Thomas received payment for some of these properties via wire transfers to a bank account in the name of her real estate company. She transferred the profits from that account to her bank account.

Image Source: Photo by energepic.com | Pexels
Image Source: Photo by energepic.com | Pexels

 

UCHC Executive Director Ted Phillips expressed concern but also stated that these charges do not jeopardize the credibility of UCHC's programs.

"We're taking this matter very seriously. The individuals mentioned in the complaint have been suspended, and we're fully cooperating with the investigation. Additionally, we're conducting our own internal review," Phillips emphasized. "In the meantime, the United Community Housing Coalition will continue its important work advocating for Detroit residents, just as we've been doing for the past 50 years," Ison stated that Thomas' arrest followed a thorough investigation by numerous federal and state law enforcement authorities. She emphasized that finding and combating fraud schemes like this one is a critical priority for law enforcement.

"This scheme targeted some of the most financially vulnerable members of our community and was carried out by someone who was supposed to help them avoid losing their homes," Ison said.

Bernard J. Youngblood, Wayne County Register of Deeds, noted that multiple complaints to the Deed Fraud Task Force triggered a thorough investigation, which resulted in Wednesday's statement.

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