Four people are charged with creating bogus paperwork and pretending to own abandoned homes so they could cash in on them by targeting unsuspecting buyers.
The scam spanned from Oak Park to Ireland and investigators say almost 24 people lost money.
Wayne County Prosecutor Kim Worthy explained that the scammers would acquire property through a fraudulent mortgage and property deed scam.
"Their process was a shortcut to obtaining foreclosed homes without going through the process," Worthy said.
James Webb, Geneva Edwards, Zarvelar Weems-Jones, and Trini El-Bey are all accused in the scam. According to Worthy, it started in January 2016 and went through March of 2017. Officials said Webb, Weems-Jones, and Edwards would charge up to $5,000 to get their clients into unoccupied homes in Detroit through what they called 'Acceleration Tax Lien Foreclosure Process'.
"They also provided these victims with a false or forged affidavit or a fake quit claim deed that was an unlawfully record with the Wayne County Registrar of Deeds. This was all done without the consent of the lawful property owner," Worthy said.
Officials say sometimes the shakedown for money would go even further when they were caught by homeowners.
"Mr. Webb would go even further allegedly to contact the lawful owner once he or she found out someone was in their home and tell them he had taken possession of their homes and he would only give it back if they gave him money," Worthy said.
Some of the homes were located in neighborhoods like Detroit's University District where officials say the accused targeted homes that were either behind in taxes or were unoccupied
The group is accused of targeting 19 properties and stealing $21,000 from 23 victims. Webb is facing 34 felony counts that include extortion and conducting a criminal enterprise. Edwards and Weems-Jones are both facing 8 felony counts that include conducting a criminal enterprise, and El-Bey is facing 3 felony counts which include notary public violation involving real property.
After cracking down on this scam officials don't want it to happen again and they're asking any residence to go to waynecountylandrecords.com to sign up for fraud notification.