Deeds Investigation Leads to ‘Forgery Factory’ Convictions
News For Public
The Wayne County Register of Deeds office does more than simply
file and preserve
Bernard J. Youngblood
documents filed in Bernard J. Youngblood’s
office. Last month, an investigation by Youngblood's Document
Fraud Task Force led to the sentencing of a Detroit man who used
the Register’s records to create a virtual forgery factory.
A Register of Deeds’ office, which is charged with recording
documents such as deeds, titles, mortgages, oil and gas leases and
death certificates, is not typically known as a place for
undercover crime investigations, but Youngblood says it is his job
to protect the integrity of his office and the documents he is
charged with recording, and that if that means getting creative in
tactics, he’ll do it.
Youngblood's creative tactics paid off on June 28,2007 when
Russell Jenkins Daniels, 61, of Detroit, was sentenced by Judge
Vera Massey Jones in connection with a deed fraud scheme that was
first discovered by personnel at the Register of Deeds office.
Prosecutors said Daniels, 61, of
Detroit, would target mostly unoccupied homes, research their
title history at the Wayne County Register of Deeds office and
then create phony paperwork, including mortgage releases and quit
claim deeds to sell the properties to legitimate buyers.
When personnel at the Register of Deeds office became suspicious
of Daniels activities, his title searches were monitored. Using a
private investigator posing as a worker with Hart InterCivic, a
government contractor, Youngblood set-up a covert undercover
operation. Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy agreed to support
When Wayne County Sheriff’s Department joined the investigation
that began in June 2005 it was discovered that Daniels was
operating a virtual deed forgery factory from his home. On
February 8, 2007 Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy charged Mr.
Daniels. Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Abed Hammoud prosecuted
Daniels pleaded guilty to Uttering & Publishing, a felony
punishable by up to 14 years in prison; Forgery, a felony
punishable by up to 14 years in prison; False Pretenses over
$1,000, a felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison; and as a
Habitual 4th Offender, which upon conviction can carry a sentence
of up to life in prison.
Instead, Daniels received a sentence of 3 years to 20 years in
the Michigan Department of Corrections and was ordered to pay
restitution. Prior to the sentencing Daniels signed 52 affidavits
of fraud and 9 quit claim deeds, involving 43 properties.
“We had the defendant sign the affidavits and the quit claim
deeds to assist the true owners of the property.” said Assistant
Prosecutor Abed Hammoud, who prosecuted the case. “ Without this
important step the victims would not have clear title to their
Wayne County Prosecutor Worthy praised
the efforts of Register of Deeds Bernard Youngblood and Sheriff
Warren Evans for recognizing deed and mortgage fraud and
committing the time and resources to curb the problem.
“Register Youngblood and Sheriff Evans are making great strides
to stop deed fraud and mortgage fraud in Wayne County by
committing significant time and resources to attack this problem.
We want to make sure that people who commit this crime know that
they will be charged and convicted,” said Prosecutor Worthy.
In 2005, Youngblood founded and funded the first in the nation
Document Fraud Task Force within his office. Currently, four
sheriff deputies and two prosecuting attorneys are joined with
specific members of his staff and located within the Registers
Youngblood’s investigations have also uncovered a large,
property tax payment scam involving over 300 homes and
investigations that led to criminal convictions against
former county employees who were caught back-dating documents to
aid in mortgage scams.
For more on the Document Fraud Task Force please read
Register of Deeds Go
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