COOK COUNTY CRIMINAL COURTHOUSE — Four men accused of moving into single-family homes in Beverly and Morgan Park and renting them out were charged Wednesday with burglary, theft and financial-institution fraud.
Torrez Moore, 55, and David Farr, 45, were charged with illegally occupying more than a dozen single-family homes, according to prosecutors and Ald. Matt O'Shea (19th). Police are still searching for Raymond Trimble, 52, and his son, Arshad Thomas, 26, who authorities said were also part of the scheme.
"As of this morning, we are happy to report that all of these properties are now vacant and secure," O'Shea said in an email to constituents on Wednesday.
Prosecutors in court Wednesday said Moore and Farr consider themselves Sovereigns or Moors, people who don't recognize the U.S. government and feel "entitled to special privileges and immunities from federal and state law."
The men believe they are the rightful owners of the properties they squatted in and rented, and that banks aren't allowed to own property, prosecutors said.
Moore and Farr stand accused of burglarizing dozens of Chicago area homes — changing locks, posting "No Trespassing" signs, filing fraudulent property documents and charging rent to fellow squatters.
Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez on Wednesday said most of the renters knew they were living in these homes illegally. Many refused to leave when police asked them to, prosecutors said.
O'Shea said the investigation was prompted by complaints from area residents who noticed suspicious activities in the houses, many of which were unoccupied after going into foreclosure.
"Today's charges represent the largest prosecution of this type of crime to date in Cook County. The investigation succeeded in large part because of the cooperation of several local residents, proving once again what can be accomplished when communities work in partnership with law enforcement," O'Shea said.
On Wednesday, Moore was charged with fraud, theft and burglary involving five Chicago properties since 2012:
• 10821 S. Wood St., owned by Fannie Mae (Moore personally lived here, prosecutors said. The home is valued at more than $175,000.)
• 10929 S. Esmond St., owned by Fannie Mae
• 4200 W. Rosemont Ave., owned by U.S. Bank
• 9022 S. Indiana Ave., owned by Fannie Mae
• 9147 S. Greenwood Ave., owned by Fannie Mae.
Farr (who also goes by Fahim Ali, Jalani Ali and Sekou Ali) was charged with fraud, theft and burglary involving eight Chicago properties with a total value of $1.3 million, court records show. These include:
• 9757 S. Damen Ave., owned by Fannie Mae
• 1635 W. 106th St., owned by Wells Fargo
• 11220 S. Longwood Drive, owned by a private citizen
• 10329 S. Prospect Ave., owned by HUD
• 10941 S. Wood St., owned by Bank of America (Farr personally lived here; the home is worth $130,000, prosecutors said.)
• 11025 S. Esmond St., owned by Green Tree Servicing LLC
• 1334 N. Waller Ave., owned by Wells Fargo Bank
• 10350 S. Union Ave., owned by HSBC Bank.
Cook County Judge James Brown on Wednesday ordered Moore and Farr released on their own recognizance. The judge requested electronic monitoring from the Cook County Sheriff's Office.
She said she worried the brazen pair would simply return to the homes they are accused of illegally squatting in, or leave town altogether.
"This is a huge setback," Holland said. "These guys are scary guys. We feel really let down."
She said her association logged hundreds of hours pursuing this case on behalf of residents. Holland said she worried that those once willing to speak up about these types of issues will be more reluctant to do so as a result of the bond ruling.
"All this work for naught," Holland said.
Reports of squatters moving into 19th Ward surfaced in 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.
Last month, O'Shea said some of the squatters had become adept at blending into the neighborhood. Many of them mow the grass, plant flowers and even sign up for utilities at the homes where they're not supposed to be living.
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 County Recorder of Deeds.
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