Atlanta husband and wife arrested for scheme to sell “squatter rights ” system www.privateofficer.com
Edgar Lee Rodgers and Diane Rowe are accused of filing false adverse possession documents – essentially claiming squatters’ rights – to homes that were vacant, likely due to foreclosure.
Rodgers and Rowe are being held in the Fulton County jail awaiting bond hearings on racketeering and multiple theft-by-deception charges.
Police say the couple ascribe to the sovereign citizen philosophy that they are subject to the rule of common law – that is, legal precedent established by judges – and are immune to federal, state and local laws.
“The irony of it is that while they were out convincing people to buy homes using adverse possession, they both paid a regular mortgage,” said Sgt. Paul Cooper, head of the Atlanta Police Department fraud unit.
Rodgers called himself Immanuel Hood and went around recruiting people to take over homes using adverse possession, police said.
He was charging upwards of nearly $9,000 to walk people through his process for adverse possession, promising them they could own homes in as little as two weeks for sums as low as $2,000.
“He was literally hosting tours of homes,” Cooper said.
At least 19 homes across Atlanta were targeted.
Georgia’s adverse possession laws allow for a person living in a home for 20 years or more — with the owner’s knowledge and express permission — to take possession of the home.
Rodgers’ method fell far short of the state’s requirements, authorities said.
Police began investigating Rogers after a property owner notified them that he had discovered somebody living in one of his vacant homes, Cooper said.
In one case, according to a police incident report, Rodgers offered to show a man how to own his own home in northeast Atlanta for only $5,000.
The victim, Melvin Morton, eventually settled on a price of $4,500, and he went with Rodgers in March to the Fulton County courthouse to file the paperwork, police said.
When Morton gave Rodgers the money outside the courthouse after filing the paperwork, Rodgers went to his car claiming to retrieve a receipt and allegedly sped away. Morton then learned that police were investigating Rodgers for selling homes he didn’t own.
In another case, An Van Than agreed to pay Rodgers $4,000 for a home on Metropolitan Avenue.
Police say Rodgers helped Than complete the adverse possession paperwork, again walking him through the process at the courthouse, then accompanied Than to a bank to have the documents notarized.
Than paid Rodgers $1,000, promising to pay the balance when he received the warranty deed for the property. But the deed never came, police said.
When Than returned to the courthouse looking for the deed, he was told he was not entitled to one. He called police.
Cooper acknowledged that victims could be held partially responsible for their parts in the scams, if only small parts.
“There may be some level of culpability,” he said. “But at this point, we’re not charging any of them.”
Cooper said he believes there may be more victims, and the investigation is continuing.