The #PhillyFiasco has put the city in disarray, as three suspects have fled the United States, along with their profits.
To catch you up if you are out of the loop, at least 21 elderly and deceased home owners had their houses stolen from underneath them, in a brazen scheme targeting homes in neighborhoods that have seen the highest increase of values for homes.
Our previous article on the Philly Fiasco.
Update: The Philly Fiasco Follow Up – First Step to Stop Fraud
The Philly Fiasco started when fraudsters started forging and filing phony deeds transferring ownership of properties to themselves. They then tried to flip the property quickly before the family members of the victim found out.
Beyond that, investigators are looking at another set of sales, where the deeds were transferred between several names in quick succession.
It is thought that this ploy was used to both cover up the original crime, as well as fool title companies.
As of this time, investigators have uncovered 21 homes stolen, and are looking into more transactions.
Notaries Not All in the Clear
The Philly prosecutors office has essentially stated that no charges are expected to be levied against notaries in the state of Pennsylvania.
In all but one of the transactions, the prosecutor’s office has said fake signatures and stamps were used to enable the transactions.
As a check on fraud, signatures on deeds must be verified by notaries. But prosecutors said that the notary signature and stamps were also forged.Philly.com
But, prosecutors are looking at a notary for possible crimes. The kicker is they work at a US Embassy in Israel, and the signing may have been done after the accused fled the country.
This particular signing is said to have been an electronic signing. Even this late in the game, the fraudster knew how to perfectly use the system against victims.
They used the opportunity to exploit security weaknesses inherent in electronic signings, avoiding having to ever have a proper photograph taken, as well as avoiding background checks.
So What Tropical Beach Are they Kicking Back at Now?
Investigators have not uncovered where the three foreign national have fled.
The accused are one Israeli and two Lithuanians who have stayed one step ahead of the system since April 2017.
For the prosecutors who filed the arrest warrants, they said they hope this prevents the suspects from ever returning to the country, and allow them to be arrested if they do.
In all, the alleged face over 200 criminal charges.
A fourth potential suspect is based in Germany. Investigators said this person may have transferred money between the three accused suspects.
The #PhillyFiasco is painfully unfolding, fortunately exonerating any notaries stateside.
But, it raises some important questions that need to be answered.
From gaping holes in the system, to inherent security risks, to signings that occur overseas, it is something that needs to be addressed in a meaningful way.