March 23, 2024

Critics say the Land Bank — which owns over 64,000 empty lots and 13,000 houses, making it the city’s largest property owner — bears some of the blame for the pervasiveness of the fake landlord scam for failing to keep tabs on its properties.  

The authority acknowledges that it isn’t always able to make contact with people living in the estimated 2,400 occupied houses it owns, allowing scammers to break into the houses, then credibly pose as landlords. 

“We are certainly limited by size, scope and budget,” Alyssa Strickland, a spokeswoman, said, adding that the authority is “working diligently every day to connect with people living in Land Bank-owned houses.” 

The Land Bank created a one-person Real Property Integrity Unit early last year to investigate reported scams and has since referred 10 cases to police, Strickland said.

Some of those cases are now part of a deed fraud investigation that the police are pursuing, department officials say. 

“We’re doing everything we can to hold these individuals accountable,” said police Capt. Gerry Johnson Jr., adding that the department is aware of the prevalence of the scam but says these cases are “very complex” and often involve people using fake names and IDs. 

Mayor Mike Duggan’s office referred questions to Lawrence Garcia, the city’s top lawyer, who said he’d “tripped across” anecdotal examples of the scam when he was in private practice but hadn’t put much thought into the problem…

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