Housing Nonprofit Director Zina Thomas Busted Stealing 30 Properties In Detroit And Wayne County

Housing Nonprofit Director The director of a Detroit housing nonprofit was arrested last week. Federal prosecutors accused Zina Thomas of conspiring with others to steal more than 30 properties across Wayne County, Michigan. Prosecutors say the scheme targeted low-income people facing potential tax foreclosure in Detroit.

Authorities say Thomas lives in one of the properties involved in the scheme.

The complaint lists three other unnamed people. The first being a a property tax prevention counselor at the nonprofit who is a public notary. The second being an employee at the Wayne County Treasurer’s Office. In addition, a third person who has been identified as recording deeds but who was not an employee of the nonprofit.

Thomas made an initial appearance in federal court on charges of wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud. In addition, prosecutors charged her with money laundering and aggravated identity theft. She was released on a $10,000 unsecured bond. A preliminary exam is set for March 20, 2024.

The court appointed a lawyer to Thomas. However, the judge order her to make $200 payments monthly toward her representation. Among her bond conditions is that she must refrain from acting as a real estate agent or a notary. She also must not buy or sell property and must not record deeds.

Court records state she can reside at an address on Mansfield in Detroit for two weeks. Afterwards, she must move elsewhere. The residence on Mansfield is a property that prosecutors allege was fraudulently transferred.

How the Alleged Scheme Of Housing Nonprofit Director Zina Thomas Stole People’s Homes

Housing Nonprofit The criminal complaint alleges Thomas and others filed multiple fraudulent quitclaim deeds. The fraudsters allegedly transferring the properties from the victim-owners to fictitious “interim owners.” 

The “interim owners” would then ultimately sell the properties to unwitting third parties.

The fraudulent deeds were falsely notarized by Thomas or another person. The notary stamps made the documents appear legitimate. Thus, this enabled them to be filed with the Register of Deeds.

The complaint also alleges Thomas also emailed fake driver’s licenses and other documents to the Wayne County Treasurer’s Office. The documents were then uploaded into the treasurer’s property tax administration system. Thus, this would halt the pending foreclosures.

The complaint also states Thomas received payment for at least some of the properties via wire transfer to her realty company. She then transferred proceeds from that account to her personal bank account.

Authorities Learn Of The Scheme

mortgage fraud expert witnessThe 28-page criminal complaint states the alleged crimes have been ongoing since April 2022. The complaint also indicates Thomas also is known as Zina Morgan.

An affidavit filed with the criminal complaint states the register of deeds’ fraud unit contacted the FBI in November. The fraud unit reported it discovered a deed fraud scheme involving multiple people and victims in the Detroit area.

The victims reported that the ownership interest in their homes was transferred to unknown persons and without their authority,

In one example in the complaint, one victim on the day of an eviction hearing indicated Thomas and one of the other unnamed people in the complaint met him outside a courtroom. It appears the hearing was then dismissed. A new deed was recorded. The new deed shows conveyance from the person who appeared with Thomas to the victim’s wife. She told investigators she acquired the property in 2012 and said she never signed a deed to transfer it.

Balaya said prosecutors are unaware if the victims have been removed from the houses in question.

Thomas joined the nonprofit in 2021 as a tax-foreclosure prevention counselor according to her biography on the nonprofit’s website. It states that she has more than 25 years of housing experience as a real estate agent, housing inspector and mortgage broker.

Nonprofit had a city contract

The nonprofit states on its website that it has worked to keep people in their homes and to secure affordable housing for those in need since 1973.

The city of Detroit announced in November 2022 that it was planning to enter a contract with United Community Housing Coalition to manage attaining eviction defense lawyers for qualified city residents.

Contracting with the nonprofit was to be the first major step the city was taking to establish the Office of Eviction Defense as required under a Right To Counsel ordinance approved by Detroit City Council in May 2022.

Read More About Deed Fraud And Real Estate Fraudsters On MFI-Miami

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