MORGAN PARK — Squatters are secretly moving into vacant homes in Beverly and Morgan Park — and the ward's alderman says there appears to be a pseudo-landlord in charge of filling up the homes.
Some of the squatters cut the grass, plant flowers and even sign up for utilities at the homes where they're not supposed to be living.
It's a problem many residents may not be aware of, Ald. Matt O'Shea (19th) said Thursday evening.
O'Shea said police are close to moving in on a group of 13 squatters living in homes within 1½ miles of the Chicago Police Department's Morgan Park station at 1900 W. Monterey Ave.
Many of these illegal tenants have taken up residence within formerly vacant properties.
"These are nice, brick homes, and they blend in," O'Shea said.
In the Beverly neighborhood, there appears to be a ringleader of the scam who serves as a pseudo-landlord to properties that have been illegally snatched up, O'Shea said.
It's unclear whether the tenants involved are aware that they are paying rent to a scammer or are conspiring with the mastermind to perpetuate the plot, said O'Shea, stopping short of offering more details until the investigation is complete and arrests are made.
The alderman spoke about the problem at a town hall meeting at the police station. About 40 residents of Morgan Park gathered for the update, and to pepper O'Shea and other city service providers with questions about garbage pickup, traffic problems and more.
As for the squatters, O'Shea said the problem surfaced around last September. In response, the alderman's office worked with the Cook County Recorder of Deeds, Karen Yarbrough, and urged constituents to sign up for a fraud alert on their homes' deeds.
Alerts are meant to counter the acts of these bold squatters, who mostly target homes in legal limbo after a foreclosure. The unlawful tenants typically lay further claim to the building by filing a deed with county officials claiming possession of the previously empty house.
Regardless, police are working with the Recorder of Deeds Office, the Cook County state's attorney and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to resolve the situation, O'Shea said.
Empty homes are typically targeted in the scam, but all homes are susceptible to a con artist filing a false deed. Concerned homeowners are encouraged sign up for a free fraud alert service to counter such acts.
For more information, visit the website for the Cook Country Recorder of Deeds.
For more neighborhood news, listen to DNAinfo Radio here: