Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Suspected Seattle-Area Crackpot Faces Criminal Charges For Allegedly Fleecing Thousand$ From Unwitting Wannabe Homeowners By Peddling Program Purporting To Allow Squatters To Record Legitimate Real Estate Documents To Hijack Legal Ownership Of Vacant Homes

In Seattle, Washington, seattlepi.com reports:
  • Call him Naziyr Yishmael.

    Or James Allen Keith. Or Ruwack Yishmael. Or Ahmad Abdullah-Muhammad.

    Investigators say the Des Moines man who has gone by all those names was hawking a bogus homestead scheme purported to allow squatters to seize legal ownership of abandoned houses.

    Yishmael, 46, is alleged to have swindled desperate people out of thousands of dollars each, selling the dream that home ownership could be achieved through a legal loophole. He has been charged with first-degree theft and five related counts but has not been jailed.

    Prosecutors claim Yishmael marketed his bogus system as a legitimate way for people to own houses facing foreclosure. According to charging papers, Yishmael sent out lists of homes ripe for seizure and helped his clients file bogus paperwork meant to legitimize the takings.

    Investigators claim to have identified at least 11 homes occupied by members of Yishmael’s club. Some members managed to hang on to the houses for months before being evicted by police.

    The criminal action comes as Yishmael pursues a lawsuit against a mortgage lender in which he claims he was wrongly foreclosed upon. Yishmael, who is acting as his own attorney in the matter, has claimed he lost the deed to the property for four years before finding and filing the paperwork 10 days before the Des Moines home was slated to go up for auction. Despite all the litigation, Yishmael’s legal name wasn’t entirely clear.

    Prosecutors now list James Keith as his true name, though the people he is alleged to have swindled knew him as Yishmael. He was known as Yishmael in 2001 when he was prosecuted federally for bank fraud after stealing $85,000 from his employer, Boeing Employees Credit Union.

    In October 2014, King County prosecutors filed burglary and title fraud charges against five people accused of taking over Seattle-area homes. The charges were dismissed a year ago as investigators came to believe those people were the victims of a fraud, not the perpetrators.

    Writing in court papers, a special agent with the Federal Housing Finance Agency’s investigative arm said those four women and five men paid Yishmael thousands of dollars to become part of the Association of Autonomous People, also known as the People’s Autonomous Society.

    Leading group meetings, Yishmael claimed Washington’s homestead law allowed people to claim vacant homes as their own, the special agent said in charging papers. Yishmael and his wife then sent out emails alerting members of properties “available” for squatting.

    Many of the homes involved had been abandoned in the face of foreclosure. The squatters often weren’t discovered immediately, and the debtors had little interest in removing them from homes their lenders were trying to claim.

    Yishmael then helped members file false paperwork at the King County Recorder’s Office in an effort to legitimize the squatting, the special agent continued. A member of the group changed the locks on the homes.

    “Even after the arrest of several of the members, Yishmael continued to tell the group that what they had done was legal and he would sue the government for their wrongful prosecutions,” the federal agent said in court papers.

    Members of Yishmael’s group each paid him more than $7,000 for the guidance that saw them face felony charges, according to charging papers. Several of those members were already in dire financial straits when they turned to Yishmael.

    One woman told investigators she and her daughter were being evicted from her home when she learned of Yishmael’s “adverse possession” scheme. Because the woman was a friend, the special agent said, Yishmael allowed her to make payments on the $7,500 membership fee.

    Yishmael, the agent said, “told her that the program is to help ‘folks that are doing what they can to make it.’”

    Yishmael held classes at South King County libraries and community centers outlining a complex, and specious, system through which he claimed members could seize possession of vacant homes, the special agent continued. He is alleged to have assured them it was legal to move into the abandoned homes.
Source: Charges: Squatter guru bilked Seattle-area followers (Des Moines man took in thousands selling scheme to ‘homestead’ in abandoned, foreclosed homes, investigators claim).

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