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60-year-old Detroit women charged for stealing 30 houses

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(The Center Square) – A 60-year-old Detroit woman was charged with conspiring to steal 30 houses from low-income people facing potential tax foreclosure.

Zina Thomas was charged in a criminal complaint filed in the United States District Court for her role in a fraud scheme that stole houses from dozens of Detroiters.

The complaint charges Thomas with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, money laundering and aggravated identity theft.

Thomas was arrested Wednesday.

Court records say that while Thomas served as director of homeownership programs for the United Community Housing Coalition, a nonprofit that provides housing assistance to Detroit’s low-income residents, Thomas conspired with other individuals to steal over 30 properties across Wayne County, predominately in Detroit.

The nonprofit cooperated with the investigation.

The complaint claims Thomas and others tried to defraud people by filing multiple fraudulent quitclaim deeds to transfer the target properties from the victim-owners to non-existent “interim owners” before selling the properties to unwitting third parties.

Those fraudulent deeds were allegedly notarized, which made them appear legitimate and thus enabled them to be filed with the Register of Deeds.

The complaint also alleges Thomas emailed a Wayne County Treasurer’s Office employee fake driver’s licenses and other documents, which were then uploaded into the Treasurer’s Property Tax Administration system to halt pending foreclosures.

Court documents say Thomas received payment for at least some of the properties via wire transfer into her realty company’s bank account company. Thomas then transferred proceeds from that account to her personal bank account.

Thomas allegedly resides in one of the properties involved in the scheme.

United States Attorney Dawn Ison said the scheme targeted Detroit’s “most financially vulnerable citizens.”

“This scheme targeted some of our most financially vulnerable citizens and was perpetrated by an individual whose job it was to help those very people avoid losing their homes to foreclosure,” Ison said in a statement. “This arrest is the result of a multi-agency, cooperative investigation involving both federal and state law enforcement, and is reflective of our ongoing efforts to identify and disrupt fraud schemes like this as quickly as possible.”

Detroit Police Chief James E. White welcomed the charges.

“I want to thank U.S. Attorney Dawn N. Ison for her continued collaboration to ensure that those who victimize Detroit residents face the fullest consequences of the law,” White said in a statement. “The DPD remains committed to addressing all aspects of crime and working with our partners across law enforcement to keep Detroiters safe.”

Assistant United States Attorney Ryan A. Particka is prosecuting the case.

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