Youngstown Man Indicted For $1 Million Fraud Involving Distressed Homes
A federal grand jury returned a 59-count indictment charging a Youngstown fraudulently obtaining ownership of more than two dozen distressed properties in Mahoning County and resold them for about $1 million, said Steven M. Dettelbach, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio, and Stephen D. Anthony, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Cleveland office.
Ondrea Shabazz, 47, faces multiple counts of real estate fraud, identity fraud and mail fraud.
“This defendant is accused of taking advantage of blight and distress in Youngstown neighborhoods as a way to enrich himself,” Dettelbach said.
“This defendant willfully decided that greed beat out any sense of decency when he forged signatures to fraudulently obtain ownership of distressed, soon-to-be-demolished homes and sold them to his clients for a profit,” Anthony said.
Counts 1 through 29 of the indictment charge that beginning in or about October 2011, through June 2013, Shabazz knowingly devised a scheme to defraud real estate owners and unsuspecting third parties in order to obtain money and property by means of false and fraudulent pretenses, representations, and promises. The manner and means used to accomplish the objectives of the scheme included the following, according to the indictment:
a. Shabazz and others known and unknown operated Real Estate Investment Connection, LLC, a company that fraudulently obtained and resold distressed properties in the Youngstown, Ohio, area.
b. Shabazz identified distressed properties that were foreclosed and/or targeted for demolition. After identifying these properties, Shabazz created fraudulent quit claim deeds that contained forged signatures of the real estate owners and, in some instances, the forged signature of a Notary Public. The deeds purported to transfer the property to Ondrea Shabazz, Real Estate Investment Connection, LLC, or others associated with Shabazz.
c. Shabazz and others working at his direction then filed the fraudulent quit claim deeds with the Recorder’s Office or the Auditor’s Office in Mahoning County. Once the filing fee was paid and the deed was recorded, the recorded deed was mailed to Ondrea Shabazz, Real Estate Investment Connection, LLC, or others associated with Shabazz.
d. After receiving the recorded deed in the mail, Shabazz resold the property to individuals and companies under the false pretense that the property was legally owned by Shabazz, Real Estate Investment Connection, LLC, or others associated with Shabazz.
e. In other instances, Shabazz fraudulently acted as an intermediary who had the authority to broker real estate transactions between the real estate owners and an unsuspecting third party. Shabazz prepared quit claim deeds with forged signatures of the property owners and/or of a notary public. Shabazz then gave the deeds to the unsuspecting third party and instructed them to record the deeds with the Recorder’s Office or the Auditor’s Office in Mahoning County. Once the filing fee was paid and the deed was recorded, the recorded deed was mailed to the unsuspecting third-party.
f. As a result of this activity, Shabazz defrauded property owners and unsuspecting third parties out of money and property valued over $1 million.
g. Shabazz, for the purpose of executing such scheme and artifice, placed and caused to be placed in any post office and any authorized depository for mail matter, any matter or thing, to-wit: 29 fraudulent quit claim deeds to be delivered by the United States Postal Service to Shabazz, Real Estate Investment Connection, LLC, or others associated with Shabazz.
Counts 30-59 of the indictment charge that from October 2011 through June 2013, Shabazz did knowingly possess and use, without lawful authority, a means of identification of another person during and in relation to mail fraud.
If convicted, the defendant’s sentence will be determined by the court after review of factors unique to this case, including the defendant’s prior criminal record, if any, the defendant’s role in the offense and the characteristics of the violations. In all cases, the sentence will not exceed the statutory maximum and, in most cases, it will be less than the maximum.
The investigation preceding the indictment was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The matter is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney David M. Toepfer.
An indictment in only a charge and is not evidence of guilt. A defendant is entitled to a fair trial in which it will be the government’s burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.