After finding someone living in their property a police department clerk asked a colleague to investigate. They had vacated their Cheltenham house in order to modify their mortgage and found the squatters during a weekly check.
The discovery launched a 2 year investigation that revealed a country wide property scam.
The scam was led by a former realtor with 2 other Prince George’s females. The women would forge property records to confer ownership or point to foreclosure. The properties would then be posted on Craigslist for rental. The females would also reside in the properties or in one case realised a profit of @ $200,000 following the sale of one property.
All told, property records confirm the scam took in 8 properties. The former realtor also had a further 20 or so properties in her sights before she was caught. The former realtor (Shannon A Lee) pleaded guilty in respect of forgery. The sentence is expected to be 2 years for charges from forgery to burglary. Charges in relation to her 2 accomplices are pending.
After closer scrutiny the depth of the scam seemed unusual. In the case of foreclosed property squatters appear for a short period of time then disappear when found out. Alternatively the properties may be rented to unsuspecting tenants. However it was unheard of in the county for someone to be profiting from, essentially, a business.
Once a warrant was executed Lee appeared determined to secure the properties. Lee took advantage of numerous foreclosures detailed in property records and encouraged by her realtor background. Properties in Cheltenham and Upper Marlboro that were abandoned were photographed and kept on Lee’s laptop. The deeds were then forged to confirm ownership to herself or her associates. They then secured access and rigged the electricity and changed locks. The schemes included purportedly a tax sale and an inheritance from a dead uncle.
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